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Husky Harbor

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

[Stuart Isett for The New York Times]

I’m a little late on this one, but I don’t want the NYT’s coverage of University of Washington football culture to go unmentioned. Not that I care all that much about UW football. Let’s be clear about that. Yet the intersection of UW football and the Puget Sound-Lake Washington boating scene, as depicted above and in the accompanying slideshow, is pretty special.

On fall Saturdays, like this fall Saturday, when Washington plays at home, the occupants of Husky Harbor emerge near the stadium’s east end like some sort of tailgate flotilla. They come on charters, luxury yachts and smaller vessels, in sailboats, motorboats and speedboats, even boats coated in purple paint, to the same docks where Rick Neuheisel, a former coach, once drew N.C.A.A. scrutiny for boosters ferrying recruits to the university at below cost.

Once docked or anchored, they tailgate with a twist, a practice the locals have alternately called boatgating, sailgating and sterngating. Here, all of the captains hope Coach Steve Sarkisian and the 4-1 Huskies can, well, continue to right the ship.

[snip]

At Washington and at Tennessee, they can choose to arrive by boat. Yet Huskies fans view their harbor as unparalleled, based on surrounding views (Cascade Mountains to the east, Olympic Mountains to the west), water color (blue as opposed to brown) and proximity (closer to the stadium).

Husky Stadium opened in 1920, and soon after, the boat tradition started, with fans stashing vessels in tall grass not 200 yards from the end zone. Docks were built around 1960, according to Dave Torrell, the curator of the university’s hall of fame, and early transportation from anchored boats often came from members of the rowing teams in exchange for tips.

I’ve been to my share of Husky football games. I’ve never arrived by boat though. Of course, we can see the stadium from our house and walk there easily enough, so there’s no obvious reason why we’d boat over, assuming we had a boat.

No doubt I’m missing the point. (When it comes to fun I often do.) The ride might be an adventure in itself, even if I can get to the stadium more easily on foot. Why, just two days ago, my friend Russ and his family got to the Colorado game by boat. They took the Ivar’s Salmon House brunch cruise.

Gail is surely thinking, “What can be better than that?” The merger of multiple Seattle traditions that she grew up with: Husky football, boating, salmon, Norwegian culture, and northwest coast native culture. Well, some day. Maybe.

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