After a year off, Seattle’s most illustrious night of sailing and silliness is back!

In early May, the Duck Dodge committee dusted off their flags and headed to the water for the first official Tuesday night race on picturesque Lake Union in a long time. While aspects of the Duck Dodge experience aren’t exactly the same yet (there is no raft-up this season), the fleet and the good vibes of the venerable beercan event haven’t missed a beat. The first month of Duck Dodge 2021 have seen themes of: Committee Appreciation, Ugly Sweaters, Star Wars, and last night’s Crazy Wigs.

I know how many others have badly missed the opportunity to commune under sail, in costume or not. And last night, I finally had my chance to cast off from Westlake and remember that I, too, love the Duck Dodge.

It was one of the hottest evenings of the year thus far, and the northerly breeze that had been steady all day was a bonus. I went to the boat in board shorts and a T-shirt, hardly typical Seattle Sailor garb even for the lake. My longtime sailing buddy, Bryon, had me and a few others on his C&C 32 for the evening, racing casually and joyfully under white sails in the third class. I estimate the total fleet topped 60 boats — not the biggest Duck Dodge you’ll see, but certainly not shabby considering that it is still early in the season, re-opening is still in progress, and a number of crews may not be in the Tuesday routine yet. The lake felt as busy as ever, even with that number of participants.

While the sailing wasn’t anything to brag about, it was kind of perfect to me. Including perfectly Lake Union. We port tacked most of the fleet in the west-shifted northerly. We were in the mix for that first fetch to the I-5 buoy, carrying our port tack on toward the Gasworks shore. We had a close tack with another racer in there (we got sails in on starboard just in time and the other boat did a big bear away) — a move fittingly audacious for our skipper’s electric green punk mullet wig. No foul or collision, pure punk, all good!

By the time we got into the ship canal header, lighter boats that were faster through tacks had put some distance on us. When we rounded the Aurora mark near boats with spinnakers in the softening breeze, we knew the hopes of a duck sticker were officially toast, but oh well! We passed out a round of beverages and a charcuterie plate (which one crewmate pointed out is really just Lunchables for grown-ups!). We eeked our way south as the breeze died, watching some of the more performance-oriented boats wring hundredths of a knot of speed out of the occasional, shifting zephyrs.

We made it to the AGC mark, but not around it, drifting in alternating slow-mo 360s just south of the buoy without steerage for a splendidly satisfying half hour  — watching a few boats actually snake through the cluster of stopped competitors at a snail’s pace and move on toward the finish — before deciding enough was enough. Of course, a Duck Dodge night is never made by finishing position. We were all grateful and gleeful to be out there sailing, more importantly to be doing so together with friends. That the season is just getting started… well that’s just gravy. The Seattle sailing scene wasn’t the same without this weekly night of summer fun, and it is really good to have it back.

Pajama Night is next week (June 8) and Pirate night follows (June 15). See you on the lake, and soon!

Thank you, Duck Dodge Race Committee!
Thank you, Duck Dodge Race Committee!
It was a multigenerational night on the water, including this young helmswoman.
It was a intergenerational night on the water, including this young helmswoman.
The starting area was plenty busy. Always good to keep an eye out whether you have rights or not.
Byron wearing the smile we all shared and the wig we all wished we had.
Byron wearing the smile we all shared and the wig we all wished we had.
Heading toward the canal, the inevitable header and resulting tacks were a penalty for slower, heavier boats.
Just about time for the adult Lunchables (charcuterie) to come out.
The Buchan's beautiful Madrona would be in a familiar position - first overall.
The Buchan’s beautiful Madrona would be in a familiar position – first overall.
The breeze dwindled as the fleet worked south.


So close to that turning mark... and yet, so far.
So close to that turning mark… and yet, so far.
The jam up at ACG got more impressive as we drifted nearby.
The goose thinks it’s a duck. It was a lovely night on the lake for humans and waterfowl alike.