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On Small Ship, Ocean Life (and Other Passengers) Are Up Close

By Bonnie Tsui, New York Times

Most of the boat is asleep when we pass through Ballard Locks in Seattle shortly before midnight. Blotchy, heavy clouds are stacked like anvils above a purple horizon. Stars wink here and there, a promise of a clearer night. Salmon still run freely between the fresh water of Lake Washington and the salt water of Puget Sound, through a fish ladder integrated within the locks.

Two workers from the Army Corps of Engineers man the locks this evening; they wave and throw lead lines to our crew working the deck. Capt. Tate Grant sticks his head out on the bridge wing to monitor our 120-foot-long, 234-ton vessel as it is pulled closer to the dock, fenders given the lightest of kisses. We drop 20 feet over 20 minutes to match the water level outside the locks. Then they open, and we are released.