Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Sailing on Flathead Lake, Montana

It's been a long, cool, wet spring here in the northwest.  We just broke into the 60s this week, with what seems our first real shot of sunshine.  I've had the F18 on the water since early April, but that's been the addiction talking, cold weather sailing.  This weekend we got reminded of what summer WILL bring.

I left from work Thursday afternoon, the del Sol once again serving as my sports tow vehicle, this time ferrying the new yachting accessory to its summer home in Rollins.  Arrived in time to share another fine repast on the deck with Allen and Linda, my neighbors and benefactors in Montana.  Watched the dying sun burnish the Mission Mountains across the lake, and the near full moon rise.

Morning brings more sunshine, and a journey north to Brad's shop in Kalispell, to apply some effort to the 22, which we're prepping fo a shiny new suit of clothes. Six hours of sanding and filling has me ready for something more entertaining.  Back to Rollins to take to the hills with Allen, aboard the new accessory.  Across the highway, and up into the woods, climbing a couple thousand feet to a spectacular vista, gazing out over the lake, taking in a hundred miles of snow capped peaks, from St Ignatius to Glacier Park.  A sweet descent, some more deck time, and as we begin to contemplate the next meal,  John shows up to chat boats (he's my partner in the next cat, an 18 square, stories to follow....), we wander to the beach, and notice there's a breeze!  Seems neither of us has any pressing engagements for the remainder of the evening, so........  High Voltage is just sitting there, mutely begging us to start the season.  We oblige.  Tacking northeast towards the main lake in light winds, we notice swells building, odd from this direction, and on a day that didn't seem windy at all.  But when the now fluky breeze kicks in, it's a roller coaster ride!  We can't quit til we run out of light. Grinning into the night, we retire to a beer on the porch, and plan for the morrow.

Sun up has me back at the 22 with Brad, put in' in a few more hours.  But he knows the wind prediction as well as I do, and he sends me back south by noon.   I put in the call for crew, and John meets me on the beach, with GoPro in hand, and we suit up for the challenge.  It's blowing a steady 20 plus, still from the NE, and the closer we get to open water, the bigger the swell builds, approaching 4' in the big sets.  We're running under main alone, plenty of power, and driving into the waves we launch her skyward, off the wind we surf the rollers and pray the bows keep returning to the surface when we stab into the backside of the next wave.  Quite an initiation for the Stealth, but she holds together, mostly.  The stitching on the tramp begins to fail, so the task of staying on board gets progressively tougher.  We finally decide to call it good, but the swells are now breaking on the beach big time, and the wind is still crankin' directly onshore.  Around the point to the shelter of Canal Bay, and we drag her up the mudflat, and giggle uncontrollably walking back to the cabin.  A few more beers, and all seems right with the world.

I do squeeze in another bike ride, and dinner with Linda.  As we return from the day's last beach visit, Brad and Aaron roll in, and we talk boats some more, the guitar surfaces, and we close out another day.

Sunday dawns clear again; I fetch the 16 and park her on the beach again, strip the tramp for a trip to the sail maker, do a few chores, and saddle up the Honda for the sojourn home, top off in the brilliant sunshine.  I travel the great river valleys of the northwestern Rockies, the Flathead, the Clark Fork, the Coeur d'Alene, and the Spokane, all swollen to flood stage with the runoff from a strong snowpack.   I'm ready for another work week.......

By David Farmer, Spokane WA.

1 comment:

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