In Seattle, the annual tradition of boating season’s opening day, the first Saturday of May, means one thing: Crowds will gather along the Montlake Cut to watch crew teams—including those from the University of Washington (UW)—vie for the Windermere Cup, and the subsequent parade of decorated boats. For spectators looking to make the most of this year’s May 5 event, we tapped Mary Lynn Thompson of Windermere and Michelle Sailor, a member of the Seattle Yacht Club, for a few tips.
1. Stake your claim early. This means arriving well before the start of crew races at 10:20 a.m. and the parade at noon. Keep in mind that the Montlake Bridge will be closed to traffic from 9:40 a.m. to 4 p.m. Consider arriving by bike, public transportation or rideshare, which are all recommended. If you do drive, be an early bird and take advantage of the overnight parking.
2. Choose a viewing spot. Find a spot along one of the walkways on either side of the Montlake Cut, or on the embankment at the north end of the cut, behind the UW Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. Those arriving late can watch from the Montlake Bridge.
3. Dress in layers. This is May, but it’s May in the Pacific Northwest. Wear layers; a sweater, raincoat and a few blankets will help ward off any chilly weather.
4. Tread lightly. If you’ve lucked into a spot on a parade boat, avoid marking up its deck by wearing shoes with a soft, non-marking sole. Boating sneakers and deck shoes are recommended because they don’t mark or slip.
5. Break out the purple and gold and cheer the home team. The University of Washington crew has placed well in recent years, for both the men’s and women’s teams. For the Windermere Cup, they’ll take on Oxford Brookes University, the University of British Columbia and the Dutch National Rowing Team.
6. Hit the pre-party. Kick off the festivities on Friday, May 4 by heading to the northeast corner of the cut for the Windermere Cut Party. From 6 to 10 p.m., enjoy local bands, including headliners Spike and the Impalers, along with food-truck fare and brews from a beer garden. Proceeds benefit a yet-to-be-determined charity.