That photo shared by Greg Whittaker of Alki Kayak Tours earlier this week is one of several we’ve received showing one or more seals on a raft off western Alki. After publishing another one of those photos, we received an unexpected note. Turns out, there’s quite a story behind the raft, and Guy Smith wanted to share it, hoping that when we mention it in the future, we will use its official name: The Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft. No, it’s not a memorial – instead of in tribute to Joy D. Smith (Guy’s wife), it was meant “for” her – in this photo, she checks it out with its proud builders after they assembled it last year:
Read on for the story, and more photos that Guy shared:
The raft floats off western Alki, where it was placed almost a year ago, in view of where the Smiths live:
Building it was a three-generation project – including Guy, son Stu, and identical-twin grandsons Adam and Matt.
Guy explains they built it as a surprise for Joy “when she was recuperating from back surgery last fall. We launched it on November 28th of 08 and tied it to our buoy.” Two photos from that day:
(That’s Stu, towing the raft.) Guy continues, “It provided great entertainment for Joy with birds, seals, etc for about a month until it broke loose in a storm. Luckily, I had attached a copper nameplate with our phone # and it was returned in January. The nameplate identifies it as The Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft.”
Guy also says: “All kinds of interesting things have happened on that raft. In August, a mother seal died on the raft. After reporting that sad fact to the people on the dead seal hot-line, they said to dispose of it in deep water. I towed the raft out toward the mid channel buoy and when I sped up, as planned, water washed the seal off and she immediately sank.”
When we first heard from him a few weeks ago, they had been watching a seal that had turned up daily for almost a week, “a sleek seal we call Squint … Squint has unique markings that we can identify using our big spotting scope, including a left eye that is half closed.” Here’s a photo:
We were particularly interested in Guy’s explanation of logistics, as West Seattle-based Seal Sitters‘ leader Brenda Peterson told us recently about the need for more rafts to provide safe respite for baby seals. (You can also read about that at the Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog.) Guy told us he’d be happy to offer advice to anyone “who wants to do what we did. The tricky parts are the buoy and the attachment from the buoy to the raft. These can go bad quickly and you can lose everything, which is quite costly in materials and frustrating to have to rebuild, tow, attach, etc. Having been through 2 cycles, I feel like I know some of the approaches that work best and many that must be avoided.”
But for starters – next time you see the raft with the distinctive buoy and float, you know it’s not just “a” raft, it’s the Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft.