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Plenty to see on Puget Sound

Off Kilter


Last updated 3/11/2020 at 12:46pm

What can you say? We’re fortunate in living along the water’s edge in Puget Sound. Our home has an unobstructed view to the west looking across the Sound toward the Olympic Mountains. We can see the Edmonds/Kingston ferry (to the southwest) and the southern end of Whidbey Island as well as the entrance to the Everett Harbor (to the northeast). Included is a view of the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

As I’ve sat in my office overlooking this great vista, here are some of the things I’ve seen over the five years we’ve lived here.

First, we have the Burlington/Northern railroad tracks, which run directly along the shore in front of our home. Fortunately, the ground between the street in front of our home and the railroad tracks has a steep slope such that there is actually ground between the tracks and the house. So the noise of the large diesel engines is masked by the hillside.

However, about a mile or so to the south is a railroad crossing. The railroad is required to sound their horn every time a train nears this crossing. As the crossing is visible to us from the house (across the water) and sound travels especially well across open water, we do hear the railroad engine horn. These tracks are active 24x7, so we do hear the train horn during the night. As everyone says, “You get used to it.” That’s like saying, “Just ignore that 800 lb. gorilla sitting in your bedroom.”

Next, we have a family of seals that live in our “bay.” Every morning, they swim by the house barking their heads off. I’ve developed a fairly good “seal imitation” bark. So I can go out on our deck and “sound off,” and they always answer. I wonder if they’re thinking, “Why is that moron with the New York accent thinking that he can fool us into thinking he is a seal?” I’m not good enough at understanding “seal barks” to interpret what they are barking back at me.

What do we see on all those trains going by? First, we see all the Boeing 737 fuselages that arrive at the Boeing Renton plant from Kansas by train. I guess with the imminent suspension of production there, perhaps we’ll see less of them for a short while.

Next, we see boxcar after boxcar full of Korean automobiles (I think Hyundai). The boxcars are closed, so one can actually tell what model of car they are.

But sometimes the trains stop in front of our house. I’ve been trying to think of a way to drive one of the cars off the train and then park it in my driveway. Think they would miss only one car?

Coal and Oil Trains: At least a few times/day, both oil trains and coal trains head in a northerly direction to the large shipping port outside of Bellingham. The coal is shipped to China where they bring a new coal-fired power plant on line every two weeks. The trains are hundreds of cars long.

Engines: Depending upon the length and weight of the train, B&O uses more than one engine. Often we’ll see a train with four to six engines on the front of the train, then one or two engines “pushing” on the rear. No doubt, this technique has to be “exact;” otherwise, if you’re pushing harder at the rear than pulling on the front, the train would derail. This is all computer controlled as there is only one engineer no matter how many engines.

But by far the most interesting thing we see is the ships. As there is an active Navy base in Everett, we routinely see one of the half dozen destroyers based there going out to sea. We’ve also seen the USS Nimitz when she put back out to sea after a major overhaul in Bremerton. (I was invited to tour the Nimitz during that time in port – very impressive!)

Last week, our family of seals appeared to be feeding on some largish (9 foot or so) carcass floating out front. We couldn’t tell what it was – perhaps a walrus. Certainly not an orca as they don’t venture into our bay at all (no salmon there).

We see the float planes that land down in Lake Union. They are on final approach as they pass by at approximately 2,000 feet elevation.

Last, there is both a public beach (Picnic Point County Park and Beach) and a kid’s camp at either end of our bay. There are lots of kayakers and occasionally wet suit-clad divers in front of our house. I find it amazing how small they appear as they venture a mile or so offshore.

Shows that that famous saying: the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer is spot on: “Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.”


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