Joy of Sailing Lake CDA – The Coeur d’Alene Resort

Posted on: April 4, 2017

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Of all the places I’ve sailed in the world, I love Lake Coeur d’Alene the best.

My first trip here was with Dad, who’d rented us a dinghy near Silver Beach Marina. I remember being becalmed and waiting for wind to get us back, hungry as could be.

Later I spent many Sundays as foredeck crew on a race boat from Panhandle Yacht Club, duking it out with close tacks and sometimes collisions in the breeze that accelerates off Arrow Point. Each bump, bruise and “boat bite” was a story and a badge of honor.

I once sailed a small boat the length of the lake, mostly without an engine, coasting into Heyburn State Park to the south at dusk, then hoisting the spinnaker the next morning for a romp back north in the prevailing southwesterlies. Caribbean sailing conditions, I call them, those sunny summer days with the rail down, spray flying and grins to match. But in contrast to ocean sailing, on Lake Coeur d’Alene, protected by mountains and with fresh, clear water, there is no swell and no salt to rinse at day’s end.

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I briefly served as crew for Capt. Kermit on sunset cruises in a well-found ketch. Here I found out about the Wolf Lodge Express, a katabatic night wind that arises right on time nearly every summer night. Kermit would play a trick on the guests by claiming he could predict this wind’s arrival with his formidable nose. It never failed to impress.

It was a treat to teach sailing for North Idaho College, where I learned right along with my students in many eventful forays. On one occasion, we felt the rigging vibrating strangely even with no wind. We pulled into port and five minutes later one of those wild summer thunderstorms erupted. We smelled it just before we felt it, rolling over the mountaintop from the “wrong” direction. Always look over your shoulder.

More recently North Idaho College purchased a superb teaching boat, the Colgate 26, and sailing that boat with my pal Jon Totten and the rest of the self-named Rogue Union of Mariners has been a wonderful thing. The college offers first-rate sailing classes as well as boat rentals at the beach. It’s been endearing to see North Idaho College help get community kids on the water through Boys and Girls Club.

My friends Dave Hylton, Rick Vance and I once did a thing we called The Five Bs, before adventure racing became a thing. I believe it was boards (spring skiing at Silver Mountain), blades (roller-blading the Centennial Trail), belay (climbing at Q’emiln Park), bikes (some mountain bike climb) and boat. The boat part turned out to be the most memorable because of the spicy conditions. We had that J/24 right on the edge of control, with us holding on for dear life. I don’t know if Dave’s wife Georgie has ever gone back on a boat again.

A really great memory is the day Rick Vance and I took two Lasers out, borrowed against his better judgment from the irreplaceable Pat Flammia, who as they say had forgotten more about sailing than we had ever learned. It was a day when everyone else was wisely off the lake, and we took turns passing each other in wild flurries, only to be dumped into a capsize at the end of each brief ride. When you’re screaming with happiness as a grown-up, I guess that’s a sign of something good.

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For the past decade, I’ve had the enormous pleasure of being the private captain of Sizzler, a wood and carbon day sailor much admired by the sailing magazines and passersby. Lake Coeur d’Alene is her home, and she romps from shore to shore like a thoroughbred enjoying the gallop. She sails superbly, with 60 feet of sleek hull at fingertip control. From June to September you may see her, blue like the lake itself, a tall mast with translucent sails like wings. I can tell you that those night rides home from dinner under the stars, on that steady, reassuring Wolf Lodge Express, are the sweetest kind of dream, come to life.

So when the leaves along Sherman Avenue are restless, and the lovely American flag on The Coeur d’Alene Resort front lawn waves at full salute, this sailor’s heart will always be out there on Lake Coeur d’Alene, marveling at the magic yet again.

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