The Windermere Cup crew races and Opening Day yacht parade on Montlake Cut provide a day of traditional Seattle celebration.

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Q: Who enforces the boating season around here? Is there a platoon of Boating Season Cops?

A: Nope. The only enforcer is Mother Nature — and your own willingness to go sailing in the rain in February.

So, when you hear about Seattle’s Opening Day of boating season, which is this coming Saturday, you should know that the season is just tradition, not some kind of nanny law.

But it’s usually cold and rainy in winter. Come May, the warming breezes are something to celebrate in our watery world. Since 1920, Seattle Yacht Club has led the way with an annual “official” Opening Day boat parade through Montlake Cut, an event unmatched just about anywhere.

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This year’s parade starts at noon Saturday, with almost 300 boats registered, from smoked-glass superyachts to the saltiest Northwest classics. Leading the parade will be Seattle rowers, in their original 29-foot-rowboat, who in 2006 were the first to row unassisted from the United States to England.

The parade theme is “Out of This World,” with many boats to be decorated accordingly, from NASA themes to little green men. Fire boats will spray water, and boats carrying bands from the University of Washington and Washington State University will set the musical tempo for the day.

It’s a free event for spectators, with rowing teams competing in Windermere Cup crew races from east to west in the Cut preceding the boat parade.

If you go by car, bus, bike or foot, you may watch from the shores of the Cut. (Bring a blanket, a picnic and possibly an umbrella.) Parking is available at nearby University of Washington lots — a better bet than searching for on-street parking. Note that Montlake Bridge closes to auto traffic between 10 a.m. and about 4 p.m. and remains raised during the boat parade.

If you go by boat, Windermere Cup organizers and volunteers for the Seattle Yacht Club plan to have log booms for moorage in place on the east end of Montlake Cut by noon Thursday. This year, spots on the log boom were reservable in advance with a donation (the reservation deadline was Monday). Space remaining on the east end of the log boom will be open free of charge on a first come-first served basis, or boats may anchor in the area.

If you’d rather be part of the parade, book passage on the historic steamship Virginia V, departing from South Lake Union at 11:30 a.m. Saturday; $75 with buffet lunch, live band and a cash bar ( or 206-624-9119). Argosy Cruises isn’t planning an Opening Day outing this year.

This year’s Windermere Cup pits University of Washington rowers against England’s Oxford University and New York’s Syracuse University. Local rowing clubs and other Northwest colleges also compete in races that start at 10:20 a.m. and end at 11:45 a.m.

— Brian J. Cantwell

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