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Kick Off the Season on Opening Day: Seattle, Washington

Heather Steinberger: Marine Editor      Published March 2018

Kick Off the Season on Opening Day: Seattle, Washington

Boating isn’t just about cruising, fishing and enjoying watersports with family and friends, although those things are certainly important. It’s also about gathering together with like-minded boaters to celebrate boating’s unique camaraderie and the many distinctive pleasures of summer.

When it comes to celebrations in the boating community, you’re not limited to choosing one that’s close to home. Around the country, formal and informal events dominate the season’s boating calendar; some are sponsored and feature live music, racing, parades, organized activities and even local foods, while others are more grassroots-style get-togethers, spontaneous and organic.

Look no further than Seattle’s Opening Day in May. No, it’s not about baseball, and it’s actually more like a full week—one that is a longstanding tradition for Seattle, and indeed all of western Washington.

Opening Day Week is one of the nation’s largest regional celebrations of all things boating, and it takes place on Seattle’s Lake Washington, just outside Montlake Cut in Portage Bay. More than 200 boats, big and small, congregate in Portage Bay and then parade slowly through the cut to commemorate the official opening of Seattle’s boating season.


The first Opening Day parade and regatta took place in 1913, and the first parade through the Montlake Cut was in 1920, after the Seattle YC moved to its current Portage Bay home. The club introduced the first theme, “Hell’s a Poppin,” in 1959; since then, participants have decorated their boats around the theme, vying for prizes. Also decorating their boats are the countless revelers who raft up together just off the cut in Portage Bay, fully prepared to enjoy the multiple-day festivities.

Sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club and bearing the theme “Ocean Crossings” for the 2018 boating season, this year’s celebration takes place on Saturday, May 5. The main event, the Opening Day Parade of Boats, is scheduled for 12-2:30 p.m. It will start with a cannon blast and the raising of the Montlake Bridge.

Just prior to the boat parade is the celebrated Windermere Cup, hosted by the University of Washington Huskies and Windermere Real Estate. More than 800 rowers compete in this prestigious event, and admission is free. Spectators may view the races from the shores of Montlake Cut—or from boats anchored to a log boom in Lake Washington.

For more information about Opening Day Week, and to see a full schedule of 2018 activities, visit