How’s the water? Ask Bill Lindsay

EDMONDS — The man’s quick, determined gait stood out at the Edmonds waterfront as he marched by the scattered beach chairs and strolling families licking ice cream cones.

Meet Bill Lindsay.

As always in the summer, he was barefoot and wearing only jean shorts. He had long, white-and-gray hair and a walrus mustache.

He walked to the jetty at Brackett’s Landing and dropped a thermometer in the water for exactly 15 seconds.

“Hey, Bill, what’s the temperature today?” a passerby asked.

It was 59.9 degrees in that spot, the first of 12 where Lindsay would stop on his daily 2.5-mile walk along the beach.

Then he’d go back to his car parked outside Claire’s Pantry restaurant and record the water temperature numbers in a diary, along with notes about what he saw and who he talked to.

Lindsay, 63, of Lynnwood, has been a frequent sight at the Edmonds waterfront since 1994. He’s reached a kind of celebrity status under the nickname, “Edmonds Beach Water Temperature-Taker Dude.”

“I work this beach. It’s my daily routine. It’s like a summer vacation every day,” he said.

He started driving to Edmonds and visiting the beach just because he liked the walk and later decided to measure the water temperature because it was something he’d always been interested in. Bad weather is no obstacle to Lindsay, but in winter he does put on jeans and a T-shirt.

After stopping at the jetty on a recent sweltering afternoon, Lindsay hit a couple more spots south of the ferry dock and walked on to the fishing pier to visit with friends he’d made over the years. Among them was a one-legged crow who sat perched on the railing, waiting for his usual treat. Lindsay threw a cracker to the crow, as he’d been doing almost every day for the past five years.

Regulars said hello and asked Lindsay about the weather. Others came up to him to find out what he was doing. That’s Lindsay’s biggest reward.

“I like people,” he said. “Sometimes I spend half an hour talking to someone.”

People like Lindsay, too. A friend of a friend started a Facebook fan page for him. As of Monday afternoon, it had 6,409 likes. In comparison, The Herald’s page had 3,419 likes and the Snohomish County PUD had 4,598. The Everett AquaSox fell short of Lindsay’s fame with 6,167 likes.

People post photos and stories about their encounters with the Edmonds Beach Water Temperature-Taker Dude. Lindsay doesn’t log in to or update the page, but he knows about it and doesn’t mind the notoriety. In a way, he is out there measuring the temperature for the benefit of other people.

There’s a science to it that Lindsay wants people to be aware of.

The water temperature varies by several degrees depending on where you are along the beach, and it’s different from day to day, Lindsay said. For example, water is often cooler on a hot day because the heat changes the regular wind pattern. The wind then blows cold water toward the beach.

Lindsay fell in love with water during the summers he spent on the shore in New Jersey. He came to the Puget Sound area in 1973, when he was an officer in the U.S. Navy stationed in Bremerton.

He has a degree in mechanical engineering and works as a technical manual writer for Boeing. He is a member of the Boeing Employees’ Garden Club and editor of the club’s newsletter.

Most weekdays he arrives in Edmonds between 3 and 3:30 p.m. He changes into his shorts — no, he doesn’t wear them to his job at Boeing — and leaves his shoes in the car.

He loves numbers and has developed a system for remembering them. Each number makes him think of something, and he loves looking for patterns.

Lindsay is happy to share his knowledge about the weather and hopes people find it useful. It’s been useful for him: Years’ worth of monitoring temperature and wind patterns help him predict what plants will do well in a particular season. Thanks to that, he is able to grow just about anything in containers at his rooftop garden, including kiwis, figs, corn and peas. He even planted coffee beans and grew enough for a cup of coffee one year.

But most of all, Lindsay hopes people see him and remember to notice and enjoy small things in life.

“Life is kind of like picking cherries from a tree,” he said. “You discover pretty things, like a crab in the water or a pretty pattern.”

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