Posted: April 18, 2011 | | Tweet
Opening Day of Boating – The Largest Event of its Kind in the United States
Not long after the last banners and flags are reeled in from the January boat show, a quiet whisper begins circulating among Puget Sound area boaters. “Opening Day is coming. What will you be doing for Opening Day?” As winter gives way to spring, (sometimes more reluctantly than we would prefer), the whisper evolves into a murmur, a statement, and finally an enthusiastic shout. “Opening Day is coming!” On the first Saturday of May each year, “Opening Day is here!” Tens of thousands of boaters and shore side spectators will gather for the largest regatta and organized marine parade in the United States.
Some boaters suggest that “Opening Day” should be written with an asterisk. Nothing really opens on Opening Day. With celebrations and parties scheduled from Wednesday – Sunday, Opening Day is really more of an Opening Week.
Unlike portions of the country where the waterways are literally frozen over during winter months, our regional boating season never
really closes. With a reasonable source of heat aboard, it’s possible to enjoy a weekend excursion in any month of the year. If the boating season never really closes, why then do we annually select a day on which we announce it opens?
There are two reasons for declaring an Opening Day. First, it’s a fabulous reason to throw a party. Boating is all about making friends
and having fun on the water, and celebrating an Opening Day is as good a party theme as can be found.
The second reason is a bit more obscure, as well as historic. Seattle Yacht Club is the primary organizer of everything associated with Opening Day, and various historians recall “Opening Day” ceremonies dating back to the arrival of Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet during its ‘round-the-world cruise in 1908.
Seattle Yacht Club, with a clubhouse then located in West Seattle, staged ceremonies to open the Port of Seattle to the visiting ships and crews. In 1909, Yachtsmen from up and down the West Coast were invited to Seattle Yacht Club facilities in conjunction with the opening
of the Alaska Yukon Exposition. The Exposition was held on the future site of the University of Washington.
In the early 1960’s, a member who was then an “old timer” at the Seattle Yacht Club recalled the very first Opening Day parade in 1920. The parade celebrated yet another “opening”; this time the opening of Seattle Yacht Club’s then-new facility on Portage Bay. According to the
memory of that senior member, the Seattle Yacht Club fleet of about 25 or 30 boats paraded through the Montlake Cut. That year, the parade terminated in
Lake Washington where Seattle Yacht Club members participated in a regatta hosted by Queen City Yacht Club.
The Opening Day Regatta and Parade Schedule for Saturday, May 7, 2011:
Opening Day Program
Saturday, May 7, 2011
8:00 AM – Official Parade Boats start to assemble in Portage Bay
8:45 AM – U.S. Navy Band Concert, SYC Lawn
8:50 AM – Commissioning Ceremony, SYC Lawn
9:40 AM – Parade Course Closed to ALL Boat Traffic
9:50 AM – Official VIP Boats parade to moorage
10:05 AM – Dragon Boat Exhibition Race
10:20 AM – First Crew Race starts
11:30 AM – Last Crew Race starts
11:45 AM – All Crew Shells parade back through parade course
12:00 PM – Official Parade begins
2:30 PM – End of Official Parade (approximately)
3:00 PM – Parade Course open to marine traffic (approximately)
4:00 PM – Montlake Bridge resumes normal operations
4:30 PM – Army Drill Platoon, SYC Lawn
6:00 PM – Trophy presentations, SYC Lawn
6:30 PM – Closing Ceremonies and Lowering of Colors