Jewel of the Pacific Northwest
From the comfort of their Sundancer, a Seattle family soaks in premium views of the Emerald City and beyond.
Insider secret: It does not, in fact, rain nonstop in Seattle. The city sees perhaps more than its fair share of gray-sky days, and yes it’s been known to “drizzle” for weeks on end. But in truth any soggy tendencies can’t come close to obscuring one undeniable perk: the widespread availability of breathtakingly panoramic views. We’re talking snow-capped mountains surrounded by shimmering blue water and framed by deeply hued trees—the ones that live up to the name “evergreen”—growing to impressive heights. It’s the kind of view that could knock your socks off, and you wouldn’t even notice until you got home that evening, removed your boots and found your toes bare.
And oh, that water! Seattle does not mess around when it comes to glorious boat-friendly terrain. From Lake Washington to Puget Sound and into the vast ocean beyond, the Pacific Northwest is a boater’s paradise. (We’d say “nirvana” but it’s a bit of a loaded word in this region.) There are so many navigable miles that it’s possible to cruise extensively every weekend and not hit the same place twice. And when you navigate those miles on a Sea Ray, sheltered by fiberglass or canvas and buoyed by unfailing performance, chances are a little rain won’t dampen the fun.
For an easy escape from the city’s pace, the San Juan Islands lie just four to six hours north of downtown by boat. Popular destinations include Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor and Lopez Island, each with a maritime atmosphere and a quaint small-town charm all its own. Expect to see outdoorsy types paddling kayaks and riding bicycles through fields of lavender, farmer’s markets teeming with colorful produce, and main streets lined with cafes, art galleries, bookstores and antique shops.
To Northwest natives the Olsons, the appeal of being able to fish before dawn, cruise into town for a cup of coffee, and be up in the islands by mid-afternoon is immeasurable. Erik and Katie Olson and their kids, Jake (15), Kendall (13) and Avery (9), seize every opportunity to take a Sea Ray for a spin. “You can’t really be a fair-weather boater if you’re going to be a boater in Seattle,” Erik says with a laugh. “But summer is definitely prime time. The nice thing about cruising in Puget Sound versus out on the ocean is that you have views—landforms—everywhere you look. Not only is it beautiful naturally, but also there’s always something going on to watch. It’s not just beach on all sides.”
The city skyline is picturesque as well. Seattle has grown to include architectural marvels like the pointy-capped Smith Tower, which reigned for 17 years as the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi; the Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Ramus designed Seattle Central Library, a striking hodgepodge of stacked glass shapes whose red-and-chartreuse interior relegates the books to second fiddle; and the recently revamped King Street Station, with its 250-foot clock tower modeled after the Piazza de San Marco in Venice. And of course there’s the Space Needle, which lately waves a “12th Man” flag in tribute to the NFC champion Seahawks and the team’s devoted fans.
Along the waterfront, giant metal cranes resembling nothing so much as AT-ATs, or perhaps spindly brontosauruses, reflect the seaport goings-on below. With more than 1,500 acres of waterfront land and nearby property, housing container and cargo terminals, refrigerated storage, foreign-trade zones and some 8,000 feet of moorage, the Port of Seattle remains a significant force in the state’s economy, which has a rich fishing and lumber heritage.
The flagship store of longtime local Sea Ray dealership Lake Union Sea Ray occupies a sweet spot right in the shadow of the Space Needle. Its state-of-the-art facility features a two-floor indoor showroom and two heated outdoor floating showrooms, making the process of boat shopping quite comfortable even in the grayest days of winter.
The Olsons’ 370 Sundancer hails from this location. Erik rattles off a long list of features that make the boat perfect for family trips as well as entertaining. “The ease of access throughout the boat is terrific,” he says. “With the walk-through windshield, you don’t have to walk around the sides to get to the bow. And Sea Ray has redesigned the cabin—it used to be roomed off but it’s now free flowing throughout, so you get this big wide-open space where five or six people can be down there and not feel crammed. The skylights keep it from feeling like you’re in a cave.”
Further, the Sundancer offers plenty of protection from the elements and plenty of ways to please a crowd. “With the isinglass, you can easily be up in the cockpit in the rain and not mind,” Eric says. “The cockpit grill is a really nice option too—you don’t have to drag one out and stick it in the rod holder. And everybody loves the cockpit TV.”
In all, the 370 is an ideal mode of transport for exploring a region defined by water. “One thing I love about boating,” Erik says, “is that it’s not like RV’ing where you have a destination and only once you get there does it start. With a boat, the vacation starts as soon as you leave the dock. There’s no timeframe. You go at your own pace. The fun is just being out there.”
And when “out there” sparkles with the Pacific Northwest’s jewel tones of emerald and sapphire, the fun times shine all the brighter.