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Boaters, paddlers advised to 'Mind the Zone' as flashing buoys return to Lake Union

The Recreational Boating Association of Washington launched the "Mind the Zone" campaign to advise paddlers and boaters to stay 200 feet away from landing seaplanes.

SEATTLE — From Memorial Day to Labor Day, five advisory buoys will flash in Lake Union when seaplanes are set to take off or land, advising boaters and paddlers to move 200 feet east or west for safety reasons. 

The Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW) launched the "Mind the Zone" campaign in 2022 to inform paddlers and boaters about the guidance and says pilots reported people moving away more quickly last summer. They hope this summer to continue the education process, especially as more new people hit the water. 

"Lake Union isn't getting any bigger, but the people that come to Lake Union, there are more and more of them, so we just want to make sure everybody can recreate safely on Lake Union- and part of that is just awareness," RBAW Vice President Andrea Pierantozzi said. "When you're on the water, you really just have your head on a swivel, they say. Know where you are, if the light flashes, move 200 feet east or west and just watch the seaplane land and go on about your floating."

RBAW says a lot more people bought boats during the pandemic, and in recent years, more people have moved into areas near Lake Union leading to more overall traffic on the waterway.

Kate Anderson, director of member experiences for Freedom Boat Club of Seattle & Greater Puget Sound (FBC), says FBC fills its members in on the policy and includes a laminated guide on each boat so they can enjoy the magic of Lake Union safely. 

"It's incredibly magical, right? People who aren't from Seattle or visit for the first time, to be this close to a seaplane and see it land and take off, it's a really fun and different experience," Anderson said. "It never gets old. I've lived in Seattle for years and it's always a fun thing to see."

Anderson says the co-existence of boats and seaplanes contributes to the iconic nature of Lake Union. Greg Wadsworth of Kenmore Air says the "Mind the Zone" collaboration has helped ensure safety for all involved. 

"Having the buoys in place gives us that space and just makes the pilots a little more comfortable with the fact that nobody's gonna cross into the space just as they're coming in," Wadsworth said. 

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