Lake Union, our charming, chaotic and calming jewel, is full of surprises

There’s more than the Tuesday night Duck Dodge sailboat races going on at Lake Union. Lily Lawson, with a lift from Angie Kupfer, does AcroYoga exercises at Gas Works Park. A red-roofed electric boat cruises by. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

The city’s jewel of a waterway plays a vital role in Seattle’s industry, travel, recreation — and identity.

PADDLERS, FLOATING PICNICKERS and apprentice pirates, please take note: Even inside the cozy-crazy confines of Seattle’s Lake Union, normal rules of maritime passage apply.

Sort of.

By that we mean: Sailing vessels, as usual, have right of way over powered craft, but must yield to commercial vessels plying the lake’s shipping lane (here, as elsewhere, “tonnage rules”).

But from there it gets complicated. Rules of the road often are rewritten on the fly on Lake Union, where the mix of “normal” watercraft — ranging from kayaks that fit on the roof of a Subaru to ocean trawlers that barely fit through the largest of the Ballard Locks — is supplemented by a decidedly abnormal auxiliary flotilla. At any given hour, this might include:

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