Andrews Bay. Photo by Karen O’Brien.
Andrews Bay separates Bailey Peninsula from the rest of southeast Seattle. It is home to breeding peamouths, juvenile and spawning salmon, and other fish and invertebrates. Bald eagles, ospreys, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, kingfishers, mergansers, and Caspian terns regularly fish the bay. Buffleheads, goldeneyes, scaups, ring-necked ducks, widgeons, gadwalls, mallards, Canada geese, coots, gulls, and occasional eared grebes and loons find food and shelter in the protected waters. Pied-billed grebes make their floating nests among the cattails and bur-reeds. Turtles sun themselves on rocks and fallen trees. Beavers, otters, and muskrats make their homes in the bay or visit to find food. Red-winged blackbirds sing from the shorelines, while dragonflies, swallows, and bats catch flying insects over the bay.
The native people living on the shores of Lake Washington most likely hunted ducks in the bay from their canoes, and gathered wapato for food and cattails for mats. With the arrival of Euro-American settlers, the bay was named for Lyman B. Andrews, early pioneer of Issaquah and Seattle, who was a chainman on the crew of the cadastral survey of 1861 that first used the names Andrews Bay and Andrews Peninsula. Though the name of the peninsula changed with different landowners, Andrews’ name is still attached to the bay.
Boats in the bay
In their 1912 Preliminary Plan for Seward Park, the Olmsted Brothers firm envisioned Andrews Bay as being for small pleasure boats, not for steamers and commercial boats, the motorized boats of the day. As early as 1905, before Bailey Peninsula had been acquired for a city park, the Seattle Boat Club held boat races in the bay. A public swimming beach was created at the head of the bay in 1918, and has been popular ever since. By the Great Depression, neighborhood groups strongly opposed a proposal to make a permanent race course in the bay because of the roar of motorized boats. Nevertheless rowing or crew races were very popular in the bay in the 1940s. The route of the races is still used for training by the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center. Today the bay is used by swimmers, rowers, canoeists, kayakers, and paddleboarders, but the most visible use in the summer is for anchorage of motorized boats.
In 1909, the state granted jurisdiction of waters and tidelands fronting or adjacent to a city or town to the city or town to the middle of the bay, river, sound, lake, or other waters (RCW 35.21.160). When the city acquired Bailey Peninsula in 1910 and owned both sides of Andrews Bay, it acquired jurisdiction over the entire bay.
In 1996, a temporary ordinance (Ordinance 118114) that was soon made permanent (Ordinance 118570 in 1997) established the eastern portion of Andrews Bay as a location for overnight anchorage of boats (up to 72 hours).
Seward Park Anchorage Zone. Courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation.
The capacity for the bay suggested by Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is 80 boats, though on a summer weekend it is more common to find 150-300 boats. Despite a persistent myth that Andrews Bay is the only place to anchor on Lake Washington, overnight anchorage of up to 72 hours is also available at Kenmore and Juanita Bay. That said, the distribution of anchorage sites is highly inequitable, with most lake communities banning anchorage outright. Union Bay Natural Area, reclaimed from a landfill, is protected as a natural area and prohibits motorized boats. In contrast, Andrews Bay, a natural bay flanked by old-growth forest with some of the best available salmon habitat left on the lake, receives a high concentration of motorized boats and no active protection.
Anchored boats on Andrews Bay. Photo courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Four similarly sized bays that ban anchorage.
The growing noise from increasingly sophisticated sound systems on boats motivated local neighborhood activists around the lake to lobby for noise ordinances. In 2012 a noise ordinance was passed for Juanita Bay and in 2013 one was passed by the Seattle city council at the behest of park users and Andrews Bay neighbors. However, while Juanita Bay enforced their ordinance, the Seattle Harbor Patrol, headquartered an hour away in Lake Union, did not enforce the noise ordinance on Andrews Bay, and the noise instead worsened when noisy boaters from Juanita Bay relocated to Andrews Bay.
Seattle Ordinance 124225: “It is unlawful for any person to negligently cause, make or allow to be made from audio equipment under such person’s control or ownership sound from a watercraft that can be clearly heard by a person of normal hearing at a distance of three hundred (300) feet or more from the watercraft itself.”
In 2018, ostensibly to clarify jurisdiction, the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) granted a 30 year lease of Andrews Bay including the use of the anchorage area “for no other purpose” to Seattle Parks and Recreation without any apparent public input or notification (Aquatic Lands Lease No. 22-096863). It is unclear why this was necessary, given that the 1909 law already gave the city jurisdiction. This “clarification” and a claim that “Harbor Patrol can better control unruly behavior if area is under SPR management” did not result in any enforcement of the noise or anchorage ordinances from either the Harbor Patrol or Seattle Parks and Recreation, despite the fact that the lease allows “Andrews Bay to operate as a public park.”
DNR lease area. Courtesy of DNR and SPR.
The situation became less tolerable to neighbors during the 2020 pandemic, when summer weekend noise, derelict boats, and overcrowded drunken floating parties without personal flotation devices for the participants were accompanied by two drownings. The Save Andrews Bay neighborhood group formed to lobby city officials and park employees to enforce the ordinances. Save Andrews Bay is concerned not only about noise, but the safety of swimmers and boaters, fuel and sewage spillage into the bay, anchorage outside the designated area that reduces space and safe passageway for non-motorized users of the bay, and the impact on both surface wildlife and the benthic flora and fauna when 200-300 boats are anchored in the bay.
Overcrowding and anchorage outside the buoys.
In direct contradiction to the desire of the Olmsteds to prohibit commercial use of the bay, commercial cruises advertise “waking up on quiet Andrews Bay” by booking an overnight bed-and-breakfast cruise. It is unclear whether these cruises are permitted by Seattle Parks and Recreation.
In 2022, after no visible action by the city, Save Andrews Bay teamed with the Friends of Seward Park to raise $17,000 to hire the Harbor Patrol to patrol Andrews Bay on summer weekends. This was significantly successful, with noise levels reduced because the Harbor Patrol had a presence, even though no tickets were issued. There were no drownings. Unfortunately, raising private funds to patrol a public park is both inequitable and unsustainable, and our hope is that having been shown that enforcement can make a difference, the city will budget for future enforcement. To date no such funding has been budgeted, but $50,000 has been budgeted for buoys with better signs marking the anchorage area.
A permitting system for anchorage has the potential to control overcrowding and noise and pay for itself, but thus far the city has shown no interest.
First light of the new year on Andrews Bay. Photo by Robert Ketcherside.