When a mass of
arctic air falling down onto Utah made it plain that the plans
we made in the heat of the summer for a last camp by a scenic
mountain lake would not be a good idea, we (my son Andy and I)
decided instead on a quiet afternoon on Utah Lake.
There has been a drought in Utah for the last four years. Reservoir
levels are low, and many of the smaller ones are empty. We had
planned to go to a quiet little 80 acre no-motorized-craft reservoir,
but found that all of the reservoirs in the Sevier (pronounced
severe ) river drainage were empty.
Utah Lake is about 30 miles long and 10 miles across, so we were
confident that it still had some water in it. We were surprised
to find that its level had dropped to the point that it was difficult
to impossible to launch a power boat from the existing ramps.
In fact, once we got our boats into the water (hand carried my
V12, and a variation of Herb McLeods OSS that my son calls 'Aflac')
we found that we struck bottom with our oars on almost every stroke
while in the protected channel that leads to the lake. That isn't
We knew that lake was big, but we didn't really feel how big
it was until we were out on it. We felt like dust specs and stayed
near the shore at first, fishing at anchor for an hour or so.
We ate lunch, and then a few breaths of breeze encouraged us to
raise the sail and do a little exploring. The wind turned out
to be pretty fickle, and it wasn't too long before we were doing
a little exploration under oar power. We spotted a little island
off on the horizon and thought that we might row out to it. It
was probably about a half a mile a way.
The race was on
We rowed for quite some time and the island didn't seem to get
much closer, but Lincoln Beach seemed to be about a half a mile
a way.... hmmmm. We kept at it, racing a little from time to time
for another twenty minutes or so. Again, Lincoln Beach seemed
to be about a mile away now..... and the island still didn't seem
much closer. Maybe a little, but not a lot. We weren't sure just
what to do now. We were tiny specks in some big water, but there
wasn't a cloud in the sky, or enough wind to ripple the water.
So we pressed on.
After another twenty minutes or so we couldn't see the big pile
of rocks (about 20 feet tall) that marked the channel to the boat
ramps at Lincoln Beach, but finally the island was getting bigger
and more impressive. The lake had dropped so far that the island
wasn't really an island anymore, but was connected by a muddy
land bridge. Bird Island lived up to it's name with a variety
of gulls, cranes, and avocets watching us with suspicion and declining
to stay and visit. Andy and Aflac continued on to land on shore
and claim the great victory. I still had the centerboard down
and the rudder on, and declined to share in the glory.
Landing on Bird Island
About the time that Andy landed on the island, I felt a distinct
change in the wind. It had been fickle and fitful all afternoon,
but now a fresh breath came from the north told us both that it
was time to go. I have a few memories of being on the wrong end
of a long lake when the wind was blowing from my first sail on
Lake Powell. I had watched the weather reports and was pretty
sure that there were not any big storms brewing, but winds up
to 10 mph were predicted and that was enough for us.
As soon as Andy got his lure freed from the lake bottom, he rowed
over and we attached a line, raised the sail and headed home.
It was great sailing, with a fresh breeze and long down wind tacks.
About thirty minutes after we started, I noticed that the little
two inch waves were starting to ride piggy back on some swells
that were probably about twelve inches tall. But we continued
on without trouble. The wind picked up a little and the tow rope
between the two boats was mostly out of the water now. I wish
that I would have had a little more courage and taken a few pictures
here, because it was really pretty cool. Coward that I am, I just
couldn't tie off or drop the lines and tiller and find the camera.
The waves continued to grow until they were about 18 inches or
so with an occasional bigger one.
We were glad that we were not having any real trouble when Andy
(the lookout - I was kind of busy) reported that a little sailboat
that we had been watching earlier had biffed it and was down for
the count. I don't know the brand or make, but it was one of those
little guys that have two big foam cushions running up and down
the sides....basically made to go fast and get you wet one way
or another. They were near to the shore and we were still at least
a mile away, so we couldn't do much about it.
Getting into shallow water
We fell to discussing the wisdom of sharing the details of our
little adventure with our spouses and had about decided that it
would be best not to worry them when Andy (again the lookout)
announced that we were busted. My wife had come to pick us up,
and the truck was on a little ridge overlooking the lake. The
waves continued to grow as we got into shallow water, so untying
the two boats, brailing the sail, raising the centerboard, etc.
was pretty exciting and a little out of control.
But all is well that ends well and now you all know the sordid
details of the Bird Island Escapade. A pretty small adventure
really, but a great day on the water, a great day with my son,
a great day to remember when I am at work in my beige cubicle.