For members of Seattle’s sailing community Duck Dodge on Tuesday evenings is an essential part of Seattle summer’s on the water. Begun in 1974, Duck Dodge (originally subtitled: Lake Union Beer Can Regatta) is celebrating it’s 40th year of coordinating Seattle sailboats in a casual race around buoys or markers on Lake Union. Truly a homegrown tradition, Duck Dodge is entirely volunteer run and hosts over 50 boats on the most beautiful summer evenings.
From shore Duck Dodge looks, pretty odd. Boats seem to be sailing somewhere with purpose but where and why? And what on earth are they wearing? Each week Duck Dodge has a costume theme, some more popular than others. You may see sailors in togas, hula skirts, or dressed as pirates depending on the week.
So what does Duck Dodge entail?
Beginning in June, sailors (and drinkers) come out of hibernation to cruise around Lake Union on a somewhat logical race course. Starting at 7:00PM the Race Committee (aka the amazing volunteers making it all happen!) runs 4 starts for “Fast Boats”, “Half-Fast Boats”, “Slow or Cruising Boats”, and “Dinghy (small) Boats.” The buoys or marks that are the racers destinations are associated with nearby landmarks such as “Aurora” for the mark closest to the Aurora Bridge and “AGC” for the tall building bearing those same letters in gold just behind the “Red Nun” buoy the boats sail around.
After zig-zagging around the lake avoiding paddlers and of course, ducks, the participating sailboats cross the finish line. For each start the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place boat receives a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Duck sticker, respectively. These Ducks are displayed on the sailboat’s mast or boom (the metal part sticking straight up or the one perpendicular to that) and add to the boat’s street (or water?) cred.
Following the race is the Raft Up where participating boats gather in a meandering line and tie up alongside one another. Boats of every shape, size, and condition become neighbors while their sailors catch up, welcome Duck Dodge “virgins,” and celebrate Seattle’s long evenings.
So this evening, or next time you are along the waterfront on a Tuesday evening (there is an especially good view from Gas Works), keep an eye out for all those boats dodging ducks and having too much fun. Curious about the theme of the week? The schedule is here. Interested in joining in on Duck Dodge? You can visit the Duck Dodge Facebook group or just ask a sailor!
Congratulations to founders Ron Lloyd, Mike Rice, and Bruce Gilbert for not only dodging plenty of ducks but creating a terrific Seattle tradition.