Point Defiance Boathouse

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Most everyone has heard the saying … “there’s nothing like messing around in boats”.  As much as I like adventuring on land, in the forests and mountains, and around lakes and rivers, I do also love boats!

So on this grey October day, the big white truck carried me around the southern and western shores of Commencement Bay and then to the Point Defiance Boathouse on the shores of Puget Sound.

The photo below shows the public boat launch area at the foot of the street on my way to Point Defiance.  Immediately across the water from the boat launch docks is the clubhouse of the Tacoma Yacht Club on the end of their peninsula, with a few of their boathouses on the right.  The bridge under construction is a foot-bridge.  And off in the distance are Vashon Island and Maury Island.  I turned left at the bottom of this street and then parked in a large parking lot at the Point Defiance Boathouse.

The building above is the new-ish bait/tackle shop, public restrooms, small restaurant/deli, and offices.

Right next to that building, on the concrete walkway and deck that surrounds the building, is a fuel pump up on land used for filling portable fuel cans if you are here by car or your small boat is stored inside the adjacent building.

There is also a floating fuel dock here for small boats … ethanol-free gasoline and non-potable water.  And a bit of floating debris tied to the dock.

Out on the far corner of that floating fuel dock was this Bonaparte’s Gull.  The Bonaparte’s Gull is the only gull that regularly nests in trees.

Lots of small, personal (not commercial) fishing boats are stored in the buildings (you’ll see them below) at the Pt. Defiance Boathouse facilities.  Here (above) are some of them out fishing.  The land in the background is the south end of Vashon Island and is about two miles away.  The seagulls hang around the fisher-folk waiting for old baitfish to be tossed overboard.

This boater was heading back to the shed, hopefully with a cooler full of fish for supper.  In the upper left corner of the photo above, you can see just a snippet of the Olympic Mountains.  I wish I’d taken a wider photograph, since it’s really beautiful out here with the mountains so close.

Next to that new-ish Boathouse bait/tackle/restaurant building is this elevator that allows small boats to be launched from storage and then retrieved from the water.  There are two elevators and two floors of storage.  You can see the two floors of storage in the photo above.

And you can see the two elevator bays (side by side) in this photo above.  For this photo, I’m standing up on the second floor, just outside the storage building, facing Vashon and Maury Islands.

Notice the wheeled dolly leaning up against the chain link fence in between the two gates to the two elevators.  That dolly will come in handy here in just a moment.

So, when a boater wants to come off the water after fishing and bring the boat back to the storage facility, she slowly approaches the elevators and either radios or waves at someone in the deli/restaurant/bait/tackle building who then uses push-buttons from inside the building to remotely lower one of the elevators down into the water.

The photo above is one of the elevators positioned on the first floor of storage, before it has been lowered into the water.

Above, the elevator has been lowered into the water, the boater pulls the boat in by hand, positions the boat appropriately, then steps out of the boat onto the side walkway tho still inside the elevator.

With a wave from the boater, the person in the building next door then raises the elevator to the desired floor (1st or 2nd floor).  I suspect the person in the building gets to know all the boaters and knows which floor their boat is stored on, but hand signals are used too.  Notice the water dripping off the boat and off the elevator into the water underneath the boat.

This boat was raised to the second floor.  Then the large electric motor/winch below was started.

The hook on a cable attached to that large red winch was hooked to the front of the boat, and the bow of the boat was lifted quite a bit.

The owner of the boat grabs a dolly (remember the dolly above?) and crawls under the bow of the boat with the dolly (above) ….

…. and slides the dolly under the boat.  Then the bow of the boat is lowered so the boat is level once again and so the full weight of the boat is resting on that dolly, which has wheels under it.

The doors of the elevator are opened and the owner of the boat then simply pulls the boat (which is resting on that wheeled dolly) out of the elevator.

The owner turns the boat around … uses a hose that’s right there to wash salt water off the boat … then pushes the boat stern-first into the storage shed.

Here’s the storage shed above with the drain in the lower left corner of the photo for washing boats.

These photos show only a small portion of just this one floor of storage.  There were two floors full of small boats of all sorts and sizes.

Above … the exterior of the storage building (built in 1988) that we’ve just been inside.  Below is the original boathouse built somewhere between 1919 and 1925 that is still in use today.

Those stick things in the air behind this old building are new and are “art”.  No one I know of knows what they are supposed to represent.  I like the old boathouse a whole lot more!

The opening above is a new, wider, and more solid access to this old boathouse than the original access was, which was an old wood dock that had rotted away.

Inside, the old boathouse shows its age with cracking concrete and uneven floors, but it enjoys a whole lot more activity than the new building does.  Rental boats are lined up above.

Rent me!  No, rent ME!  No no, rent ME!!  Notice the small yellow dolly under each boat that allows each boat to be handled by just one person.

A room off to one side housed the rental 9.9-horse Mercury outboards … and the bright orange foam-core life jackets.

Here’s one of the rental boats ready to be rolled into the hoist area and put into the water.  Be sure to look in the background of the photo above and notice the folks lining the edge of the dock outside.

Always hopeful, these men and women were socializing as much as they were fishing.

This fellow in the photo above had just brought his small boat up off the water using the small hoist inside this old boathouse.  He put it on his own dolly and rolled the boat back into the bowels of the boathouse where he washed the saltwater off the boat, including connecting the hose to the outboard in order to run fresh water through the engine so no saltwater was left in the engine.

He was a loquacious gent.  We chatted amicably while he took care of his boat.  He said that he’d been fishing here since around 1945, when his dad first took him fishing in his small boat.

After washing off the boat and the engine, he always let the boat “drip dry” for awhile and then he would push the boat on its dolly stern first into its storage unit (below).  Crab traps on the wall, fuel cans on the floor, an old canvas bimini in the corner, scraps of 2x4s and other sizes of wood, tackle boxes and storage bins, and all manner of stuff stuck in all sorts of corners proved him to be a long-time boater and fisherman.

The whole day here at the Point Defiance Boathouse had been a fun day exploring and learning and talking with nice folks.

And in the end, here’s the real quote about messing around in boats mentioned at the beginning of this post, from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame.  We pick up this story right out of “The Wind in the Willows” just before Mole steps into Rat’s boat for the very first time …..

The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole’s whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet fully understand its uses.

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his fore-paw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. “Lean on that!” he said. “Now then, step lively!” and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

“This has been a wonderful day!” said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. “Do you know, I’ve never been in a boat before in all my life.”

“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a—you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?”

“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing—about—in—boats; messing—”

“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

“—about in boats—or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not. Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?”

The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with a sigh of full contentment, and leant back blissfully into the soft cushions. “What a day I’m having!” he said. “Let us start at once!”

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