All Season Charters' quartet of captains share the wheel of the company's single 50-foot, all-purpose boat, Annie A. The ship serves a variety of purposes, ferrying passengers as they hunt salmon with the firm hand of Captain Amy at the tiller or spot whale flukes with the eagle-eyed guidance of Captain Michael. It holds up to 20 people, providing ample railing-space for scenic views, as well as the comfort of a galley with free coffee. The captains, for their part, charter their vessel out for any kind of oceanic excursions, such as sea burials or hunts for that message in a bottle you lost.
A group of rowers founded Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) in 1996, meeting at Idylwood Beach Park in Redmond before each of their journeys across the water. Eager to grow SRA, it wasn’t long before the crew took notice of an abandoned boathouse in Marymoor Park, languishing on the banks of Lake Sammamish. Its ceiling was rotting away, and its oar racks were emptier than a child's pockets after a candy-shop spending spree—but that didn’t deter the passionate rowers or their vision. They put in a bid for the building, formed a strong subsequent partnership with King County Parks and Recreation, and set to work renovating the vintage structure to make it fit for public use.
Ever since, SRA has introduced adults and youth to the benefits of rowing. The sport's fluid, low-impact motions tone muscles all over the body, and the collaborative nature of the sport nurtures sportsmanship and camaraderie. The association's future is bright: members are building a new boathouse scheduled to open in the summer of 2013.
An osprey hovers 30 feet in the air over Lake Washington, virtually silent until it spots something beneath the water's surface. Quickly, it folds its wings and plunges into the water, emerging seconds later with a fish ripped firmly between its talons. Nearby, Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers' founder, Dan Henderson, floats by silently. This slice of the pristine outdoors happens to be his workplace, but none of it would have happened if his mother hadn't forced him to take a canoeing lesson in 1972. Despite his initial reluctance, Mr. Henderson took to the water like a robot to a magnet store. He went on to race whitewater canoes and flat-water Olympic-style canoes, eventually earning four medals as a member of the U.S. national team. Later, Mr. Henderson became a coach and set out to train a new crop of water athletes. To this end, Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers serves as the natural continuation of Mr. Henderson's journey: a place to, in his words, "share paddling with the community in a manner that is fun and safe."
Under the leadership of expert guides—many of whom learned their trade directly under Dan Henderson's wing—visitors embark on day trips into inlets and bays, paddling in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains or tailgating orca whales. The staff also leads canoe and kayak classes that aim to take novices from beginner to expert. Their efforts have proved fruitful, as three of Cascade Canoe & Kayak Centers' students have made it to international-level competitions.
The first time George Todd sailed, he took to the seas for two years. His initial voyage carried him from Hong Kong through the West Indies and, eventually, to America. He was hooked. Looking to continue his aquatic explorations, the former Navy pilot and officer set out to build his own vessel from many of the materials he obtained on his travels. The elegant result was the Schooner Mallory Todd, a 65-foot yacht furnished with the trappings of a bygone nautical age: antique stained glass, rubbed mahogany, and a main saloon outfitted with porcelain fireplaces.
Today, the Schooner Mallory Todd takes to the waters helmed by a dedicated crew. A US Coast Guard-certified captain mans voyages for up to 30 passengers at a time, guiding guests through the mountain-framed reaches of Lake Washington and Lake Union. Along the way, the ship might pass the iconic houseboats featured in Sleepless in Seattle, or drift by bald eagles building their nests and combing over their neck plumage.
Besides running charters, Todd helms his own nonprofit, the Sailing Heritage Society. Every year, the organization grants more than 100 free sailing trips to ill and underserved children. All fees for charters on the Schooner Mallory Todd support the society's charitable voyages.
It's like a scene from a secret agent film. A man in a black wetsuit shoots out of the lake, propelled by a jet of white water coming from a pack on his back. He arcs into the air, flips head over heels like a dolphin, and splashes back down into the crystalline depths.
This type of high-adrenaline excitement is commonplace at AV Watersports, a sporting company that deals in thrills such as flyboarding, jet ski rentals, and innertubing. Its flyboards are comparable to jetpacks and can propel wearers into the air, or horizontally across the surface of the water while they stand on a board. Using a personal watercraft for propulsion underwater and in the air, Flyboard riders stand on a board that is connected with a hose through a jetski. As water is routed to a pair of jet ski boots, riders fly into the air or can dive headfirst through water. Instructors are readily available to acquaint newbies to the unique aquatic sport, and to acquaint them with the customs of the cloud people they'll soon be meeting.