Seattle’s Ballard Locks & Ship Canal: Entering from sea

We came through through the Ballard Locks and ship canal to the University Of Washington today. I decided to take photos along the way and show some of the sights and ships along the way.

To enter the channel you aim just to the right of Shilshoe Bay Marina. There are a lot of sailboats in this marina. When the wind blows, there is one hell of a lot of clanking going on:
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Just inside the entrance of the channel on the left side is Ray’s Boathouse Restaurant and to the left of that is Anthony’s Restaurant, both very good seafood joints.

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You will then pass many waterfront homes and soon see the Burlington Northern Rail Bridge in the distance. The Ballard Locks are just on the other side of the bridge around the corner to the left:
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If you are in a large vessel, you will have to get the bridge open. Today we didn’t need an opening on the Clifford A. Barnes Research Vessel. The bridge was already open for a tug and barge ahead of us that went into the large locks:
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Just as you turn to go under the rail bridge, you will see the locks up ahead. The large locks is on the left and the small locks are on the right. Just before entering, there is a waiting wall on the right. Being that we were in a government vessel, we went in first:
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Often they will pack several vessels at a time in the lock. Once everyone is tied off, the gates will shut and the level will rise or fall depending which way you are going:
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The fish ladder is over in the corner by the yellow pipes, just below the condos:
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The small locks couldn’t be more easy. You loop your dock line over the button and make it fast. The buttons are on large floats that stay the same level as your vessel when the levels change. In the large locks, you heave your lines over to the attendants and then you manage your lines and you rise or fall.
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Once the water has risen and the lock opens, you are now in fresh water of the ship canal / Lake Union / Lake Washington. This is the home to many tug companies, commercial fishing vessels (many of them are based in Seattle but fish in Alaska), tour boats, private boats, houseboats, yachts, etc.
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Here is the Army Corps of Engineers “Puget” that collects logs and sunken vessels from the locks and nearby channels that would otherwise restrict vessel traffic:
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A tug waiting to enter the large locks outbound:
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Looking back into the locks where we just came from (looking West):
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The emergency lock gates and crane. If the lock gates were to fail, the Army Corps would place these emergency gates to keep all of the fresh lake water from flowing through the locks until repairs could be made.
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The Highland Blight, officially named the Highland Light, has been stinking up the place for a long time. It’s probably good for scrap now, but someone is living the dream of one day sailing this tub back to sea.
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Kirby Tugs (formerly K-Sea):
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This is Ballard. Ballard was once a working man’s town but is almost completely yuppified now. Other than a little industrial area and some working waterfront it’s all shops, condos, coffee, bars and thick black frames glasses.

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The Stabbert’s built a marina for yachts with condos above:
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Starting to see the Ballard Bridge in the distance:
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Just before going under the Ballard Bridge, Fisherman’s Terminal is on the right:
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Just after the Ballard Bridge on the right hand side of the channel is Coastal Transportation:
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On the left side is the Bold. Another ship that rarely moves. If it does, it’s just to a new berth.
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Then you come to Trident Seafood’s yard on the left and Ocean Beauty Seafood’s on the right:
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Redden Marine Supply is next on the right:
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Foss Shipyard is next on the right:
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A few more fish boats on the left and then….
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Western Towboat’s Yard is on the left. Their tugs always stand out in yellow and blue!
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Just after Western Towboat is Kvichack (pronounced V-Jack). Builders of aluminum vessels:
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Then some more small boats on the right and Lakeside (Sand & Gravel) on the left:
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Turn around and look where we just came through:
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Then you enter the Fremont Cut. The area is lined with trees and bike / walking paths on both sides. Many large tech firms are on the left side and Seattle Pacific University is on the right. At the end of the cut is the Fremont Bridge (short) followed by the Aurora Bridge (tall):
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After going under the Aurora Bridge, you start to enter Lake Union. Once in Lake Union you will see the big grassy hill on the left called Gasworks Park. This is where Seattle’s 4th of July Fireworks are launched each year. It just was redone and new grass seeded. On the right as you enter into Lake Union you will see downtown Seattle.
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There is Fremont Tug on the left:
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As you round the end of Gasworks Park at the North end of Lake Union you start to see the Interstate 5 bridge:
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A dry rack for ski boats. This isn’t all that old. It is soon to be torn down so that new condos can be built. The working waterfront is disappearing.
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Just before going under I-5 there is an Ivar’s Salmon House on the left. Keep Clam!
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Just as you go under the I-5 bridge (tall) you make a sharp right and pass under the University Bridge (short) and enter Portage Bay. On the left side of Portage Bay is the University Of Washington (where my other ship, the Thomas G. Thompson is berthed) on the right are a bunch of houseboats. At the SE end is the Seattle yacht Club:
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This transit ended for me at the U of W dock. If you were continue just around a slight left turn and go through one more cut, you’d pop out into Lake Washington right near the Husky Stadium. The transit from the Locks to the U of W takes about 45 minutes.

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4 thoughts on “Seattle’s Ballard Locks & Ship Canal: Entering from sea

  1. Capt Jill

    Lots of net pictures. Did you happen to see the fishing vessel Ocean Peace? It’s a big Alaskan catcher/processor. I worked on that one for a season. I liked it.
    I have some friends who worked on the Thompson, it sounds like a lot of fun. Personally, I can’t afford a job like that, but maybe one day, if I ever can get my bills paid down I can take another fun job. 😉
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
      1. Capt Jill

        I haven’t been up that way in years. Yeah, she’s probably still up North fishing. I was amazed at how much fish they were catching! It’s not at all like the fishing we do down here.

  2. Bob Martin

    Thank you Todd .  You are now the tour guide !  I have never seen this before because I’ve never been through the locks.  I have been through the Panama Canal though.  That was pretty interesting to say the least.  What a trip that was.  We were purging the Russian Missiles from Cuba ! 

    Reply

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