Thursday, September 20, 2012

Destiny Harbor Tours - Tacoma

When I am learning about a city, one of my favorite ways to tour it is by boat.  This is especially true of the city of Tacoma, Washington, since its location along the Commencement Bay area of Puget Sound plays a pivotal role in its history and development.  My water tour was made possible by Destiny Harbor Tours ( or  ) which can be boarded just outside the entrance to the Tacoma Glass Museum (silver cone shown in photo is the "landmark" for the Glass Museum, with more information available about it at ).   
 Captain Tom (shown in photo with uplifted arm) gathered his passengers around the entry to the secured loading gate to give us an overview of what the tour would include: city views, bridges, Old Town, Brown's Point, ships, tugs; wildlife, history, & ecology of the Thea Foss Waterway; and, an overview of the working Port of Tacoma located on world-famous Puget Sound in Washington State.  He "delivered as promised", since we saw all those things and more on the glorious day in September that I took the tour. 
 After proceeding down the walkway, we boarded his boat, one at a time, stepping onto a portable step and into the sparkling clean boat.  As you can see in the photo, life jackets are easily reached underneath every seat.  Guests are welcome to wear them throughout the trip, if they so desire, but they are not required to do so. 
 Captain Tom is a great example of an American entrepreneur.  He is shown taking up the boarding passes and coupons supplied by the guests who purchased them in advance.  Destiny Harbor Tours can be found on Facebook, and checking their page on social media will keep you abreast of special tours and discount coupons that are available.
 One of the other passengers on the boat had a magnificent camera around her neck, with a gigantic lens for capturing distant scenes, so I knew she would have no problem snapping this photo of me, using my much more compact camera! Some passengers also brought their binoculars, so they could study wildlife "eye to eye" as we cruised!
 Captain Tom promised we'd see bridges, and the first of these is the cable-stay bridge adjacent to the loading area.  It is a landmark, along with the silver structure behind it, known as the Tacoma Dome. 
 With the boat gliding underneath the bridge, I was able to get a photograph of the diagonal cables that give it its striking silhouette against the sky.
 The boarding area for the Destiny Harbor Tour is adjacent to the Tacoma Yacht Club, shown in this photo, with the skyline of the Tacoma downtown business district in the background.
 Another landmark on the Tacoma skyline is the clock tower, which is the Old City Hall.  The "teapot-looking" roof adjacent to it, used to be the home of the Northern Pacific Railroad headquarters.  In fact, Tacoma's nickname as "City of Destiny" relates to its location as the western terminus of the railroad.
 This structure's architecture and bluff-top location above the water reminded me of the famous Chateau Frontenac Hotel in Quebec, also built above a river.  Although the structure in this photo was originally going to be such a hotel, fires and financial setbacks resulted in the hotel idea being abandoned, and instead the building was turned into a Tacoma public school, known as "Stadium High".  The neighborhood around it is called "The Stadium District".
 This Chinese Pagoda was a gift from the country of China, and relates to the history of the thousands of Chinese immigrants, who were instrumental in the building of western railroads in the nineteenth century.
 All the passengers in the boat were able to easily hear Captain Tom as he pointed out these historic landmarks, thanks to a most excellent microphone and  sound amplification system he used on board. 
 Captain Tom spoke some on the ecology of Commencement Bay, pointing out how the placement of massive logs along the shoreline is a signature of Pacific Northwest beaches, and helps reduce erosion.  He said the bluff shown in this photograph, is somewhat unique to the waterway, because of the way it displays the various layers of sediment that were compressed to form the land mass.  His nickname for this part of our tour was the "riviera", because this area was usually a few degrees warmer than other shorelines, because of it receiving the western sun exposure.
 The monstrous gray hull ship shown in this photo is the "Cape Island", and is docked along the waterway to be ready to respond to provide assistance in national emergencies such as earthquakes or tsunamis.  The kayakers shown in the photograph illustrate the fact that paddlers can launch their own canoes/kayaks onto the Thea Foss Waterway, or they can rent boats from various outfitters along the marina. 
 As promised, we were able to see abundant wildlife along our tour route.  The brown seal pictured here seemed quite content sunning himself on the comfy log that was being used as a breakwater near the shore.  We also came across active seals who were diving for fish in the bay.  The captain pointed out that the clue for seeing the diving seals, is a circle of seagulls floating on top of the water, patiently waiting to scoop up any remains of fish that the seals would leave behind.
 Also as promised, we were able to see examples of Tacoma's working waterfront.  The Captain showed us this container ship that was being loaded with soybeans, from the cylindrical grain storage  silos that were on land adjacent to the waterway.
 This is a working paper mill, as evidenced by the mounds of wood chips in front of the factory.  Stringent environmental controls to limit air pollution have the added benefit that there were no unpleasant odors being emitted from the paper-making processes going on.
 Another example of this being a working port was evidenced by getting to photograph the workers, safely harnessed to their work sites, high above the water.  They are part of a ambitious, multi-million dollar project to update the elevator bridge that is partially shown in the photograph. 
 We also took a swing by Brown's Point.  The Brown's Point lighthouse has this non-traditional architecture, because it was purposely built to represent the Art Deco style of architecture, popular in the early part of the twentieth century. 
 When I looked in my concordance for Bible verses that had the word "destiny" in it, I found the passage from Ecclesiastes 7:2 that says "death is the destiny of every man." Thus, it is fitting to add that Captain Tom's business is licensed for at-sea memorials, where families can spread the ashes of their cremated loved ones, in a respectful and reverent ceremony.  But since none of us know exactly "when our ship will sail" to our final destiny, I would recommend planning a visit to Tacoma, as soon as possible, to see all this wonderful area has to offer to visitors.  You can visit to learn more.  I can also heartily recommend the Courtyard Marriott Hotel ( ) for convenient lodging across the street from the boarding area of Destiny Harbor Tour dock.  Destiny Harbor Tours uses a pun for its motto that says "Go to See!", which I guarantee, will give you miles of smiles!  Tricia
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