Getting to Know Home: Boat Tour of Tacoma, Washington

It’s funny that I can work in Tacoma for years, and live it in for months, before finding out that its seaport does 3 BILLION dollars in business every year. Yet, that is indeed a fact, and just one of the many things I learned while taking a tour of the Port of Tacoma waterway.

I didn’t seek this tour out, truth be known. I was simply down for an early morning walk in Thea’s Park when I noticed people lining up by the docks. Being the Northwest Nomad, a curious sort of fellow and one always on the lookout for new travels big or small, I moved closer to investigate. In doing so I learned that the time had come for the Port of Tacoma’s annual, FREE boat tour.

Tickets were already sold out, but the Port people had a standby section and told me that I would almost certainly get a seat. In this, they were correct.

While waiting for the boat to come, I watched kids (and adults temporarily transmogrified into kids) make bubbles with materials provided by the Port. There were two sticks with cloth joining them at one end…some esoteric form of bubble-making technology that confounds me still.

The tour took us through most of the major waterways while a Port representative shared educational information and gave away prizes.

It was a sunny day and it felt good to stand on the deck in the open air and enjoy the scenery. It was also interesting to see Tacoma from a new perspective, as I don’t own a boat and never get out on the water.

Stadium High School was a particular highlight for me. It looked like a castle up on the hill.

The shipping business is not a subject most people find instinctively exciting, but the information shared by the tour guide was actually pretty fascinating. There’s a lot of competition going on right now between the Port of Tacoma and Canadian ports, as well as the east coast ports that have now gained a direct-access to Chinese imports via that nation’s use of the Panama Canal.

There have also been new advances in ship design, and the new ships slated to do shipping are THREE TIMES bigger than the ones that have been used for decades. The Port of Tacoma has had to undertake massive reconstruction just to be able to fit them, but they are committed to making it happen. From the sounds of it, the Port of Tacoma is determined to remain one of the nation’s premiere ports, even going so far as to make an alliance with that most dreaded of rivals…SEATTLE!

Next year is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Tacoma. The tour guide assured us that this means that next year’s free tours will include lots of fun extras. I’m already looking forward to it.

Keep posted for updates on the centennial tour. I’ll be keeping me peepers peeled and will update thee, my fair, fine, fantastic readers.