April 29, 2016   Joe Cline


In November of 2015, we became aware of the specifics of a complicated and controversial situation involving a proposal that sought to resolve issues with the interactions of seaplanes and boat traffic on Seattle’s Lake Union.  There were a number of things that concerned us, most of all that the proposal was already approved and the public comment period closed, and yet far too few people seemed to know about it.  We believed that proposal would potentially be of significant concern to the sailing community.  Some of these concerns were laid out in my open letter, which you can read here.  We also acknowledge that more organization on busy Lake Union would be a good thing, and that many people, including many sailors, either supported that proposal or were interested in finding some alternative solution.  Our intention was always to inform, not to become activists on the subject, and consequently in the months since, we have not been involved in this topic.

We had recently heard a few rumors, however, that the originally approved proposal was on hold and there was a revamped proposal on the table involving a single line of lighted advisory buoys.  This week, we received confirmation of this from the US Coast Guard when Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Zappen sent us an email informing us of the new proposal.  In a conversation with Mr. Zappen, he expressed the potential conflict or confusion of the original proposal and its relation to the Rules of the Road hierarchy.  In his letter, Mr. Zappen described the following:

The owners of the buoys (City of Seattle) and the other component (Kenmore Air) have been working with their agent (Anchor QEA) to communicate this project with numerous waterway users and gain their approval. Several groups of waterway users have stated they do not support the use of so many buoys in the middle of the lake and are concerned about the “box” the buoys create.  Those same waterway users support the need for some type of warning system for seaplanes operating on the lake and have come up with a solution. 
The attached document shows the presently approved buoy layout (buoys 1 – 8) with the new proposal (buoys 9 – 13).  Other than the location of the buoys being different the characteristics of the buoys (shape/size/color/markings/lighting) would all remain the same.  Instead of a box with buoys marking it a line of buoys would be used.  Instead of a plane landing in the box they would land alongside the line of buoys.

The new proposal would not use buoys 1-8, but would instead be a straight line of buoys 9-13.


When we spoke with CWO Zappen, he encouraged input from any users of Lake Union before May 20th – that he would take phone calls, emails (preferred), or letters.

He can be reached via the following methods –

Mail –
USCG Sector Puget Sound
ATTN: CWO Zappen (WWM)
1519 Alaskan Way South
Seattle, WA 98134

Email –

Phone –


Joe Cline is the Editor of 48° North.