West Seattle waters: Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft relaunched

Almost two years after we first heard the Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft‘s story from its namesake’s husband, Guy Smith, he sent this update last night (the “today” references mean Tuesday):

Bird and seal watchers may be interested to know that after a 7-month absence, the Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft is back on its anchor by the Alki Lighthouse. After its initial launch in November 2008, the little 24-square-foot refuge has been a lot like the cat with 9 lives. Four times it broke loose and 4 times it was found and retrieved through people finding it, reading the ID tag and then calling with the location. The 4th time it broke loose was caused by the big February storm this year when the anchor line, buoy, and raft all ended up on a rocky stretch of beach about half way to Lincoln Park. Unfortunately, rough water precluded retrieval by sea and steep banks precluded retrieval by land. The frame was cut up and abandoned, but the buoy and flotation were salvaged.

After what seems like too long a delay, the raft was reframed yesterday and launched today. The anchor line was rebuilt with stainless steel cable and hopefully will better withstand the forces of Mother Nature. But we know from experience that something will break loose again; the question is not “if” but “when”. The thing about a raft is that while it’s unmistakably a raft on the water, when it breaks loose and ends up on a rocky beach, it blends in and is not easy to spot. We really appreciate the efforts of those who have spotted our wayward raft in the past and have phoned us with its location.

Today our neighbors helped with the re-launch and now we are all awaiting sea life visitors. A seagull was quick to check it out, but we’re looking for more interesting visitors; visitors like seals with pups, the rare otter during daylight but probably more at night, cormorants that always fish alone but which rest in groups, and the harlequin ducks which always appear in pairs. It’s noteworthy that other diving ducks that winter at Alki Point, like buffleheads, goldeneyes, grebes, guillemots, mergansers and surf scoters, always fish together in groups, diving together and surfacing together, but they never get on the raft.

The wildlife protectors at West Seattle-founded Seal Sitters have said they wish more people would set up rafts like this one – as they are the least-dangerous resting places for seal pups and other marine mammals.

4 Replies to "West Seattle waters: Joy D. Smith Wildlife Raft relaunched"

  • Mike September 21, 2011 (5:10 pm)

    Kudos to the selfless folks that help bring beauty and interest to West Seattle! Thank you.

  • Westside J. September 21, 2011 (8:29 pm)

    Awesome! I’ll go in for a half the cost of another one of anyone wants to split one!

  • April September 22, 2011 (10:35 am)

    I was wondering what that was. I think there’s two of them out there now (at least). Pretty close to eachother. Funny, i thought it was just some floating wood that sometimes appears around the bay.

  • Debbie September 23, 2011 (9:54 am)

    I love this idea. Suits me better than any of the ‘urban artwork’ recently seen.

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