seattle houseboats

Shakes On The Lake: Seattle Floating Homes During An Earthquake

seattle floating homes
Westlake waterfront of Lake Union shows our incredible community form this perspective,

Earthquake Bathtub Sloshing Effect Verified on Seattle Houseboats

Do we feel earthquakes? This is one of the questions Molly and I get when we talk to new prospective neighbors for our Seattle houseboats and Seattle floating homes communities. They want to know how Seattle floating homes feel during an earthquake.

If you have lived in one of the Seattle floating homes (or one of the houseboats) for any number of years, you may have felt the effect of an earthquake somewhere. Every once in a while the floating houses on Lake Union just move for no apparent reason – earthquake or not.  I remember the first time I experienced this strange phantom moving during an inspection for an end of dock floating home in Eastlake. 

Local legend Sid McFarland was checking the house out for us and I asked him what it was.  He told me every once in a while it just happens. Wise words from a lovely man whom we sorely miss in our community. I am also reminded of the time I asked him how people could live on docks with children as I held the hand of my then two year old son wearing a life jacket.  He looked at me sideways and said “they watch them”. He was so great and I am thankful I was able to learn from him early on.

Helpful Reading Resource For More on Our Floating Homes Community

Staying Afloat by Jeri Callahan (hardback)

If you want to read more about Sid, I love the chapter of Jeri Callahan’s Staying Afloat book called The Moving Man. It is sold in the FHA’s Houseboatique if you want a copy – Molly and I are also happy to include it in our housewarming gift to you when you purchase a floating home with us of course!

Later on, I felt those movements.  For Seattle earthquakes, it was a weird vibrating in my house much like the washing machine on spin cycle as the ground shook our dock pilings and moved my mooring arms.  And then there is the occasional sloshing as strange rollers bounce back and forth across Portage Bay for no apparent reason.  There is an explanation though.  Seattle floating homes during an earthquake or similar event can feel more movement from places far away. 

Verifying Seattle Floating Homes During An Earthquake From Some Of The Experts On The Lake

It was my great pleasure to be able to have the privilege of living next to the dear Betty Swift for many years.  She was a fantastic lady and an excellent resource for basically everything.  When I read the 2002 article by floating home resident Ed Waddington published in the Floating Homes Association Newsletter #140 about earthquakes and houseboats, I had to ask my reliable source. 

Betty said oh yes, she had felt many earthquakes over the years. She then described the seiche effect that our houseboats community experienced from an earthquake that occurred in Alaska.  She told me about the house lifting in a swelling of the water and then just kind of dropping. Then of course as the water bounced back and forth across Portage Bay there was a tea cup effect. This lined up very well with the Raleigh waves that Ed Waddington described in the article as feeling much like a “bathtub sloshing”. He went on to say that it feels very different than normal boat traffic wake waves.  Even with this occasional sloshing I personally feel the safest in my floating home during an earthquake.

Funny as I write this and review my notes from the article, I can’t help but notice that Betty is also published in this same issue. She served this community well always and was on the Environmental Committee of the FHA at the time.  Of course she was. What a lady. What a community!

Let us know what your experiences have been during various shakes on the lake. [email protected] If you are interested in living in our community on the lake, please reach out to us. Molly and I work very hard to always serve the community first and love the people here. We are Seattle Afloat. Courtney Cooper 206-850-8841/ Molly Cartwright. 206-841-6800.

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