25 July 2008

Long Voyage on Great Salt Lake (1 of 4)

"Great Salt Lake will show you who is boss" came the wise advice of Dave Shearer, harbormaster at Great Salt Lake's South Shore Marina. I had asked Dave for his advice regarding a trip my 2 oldest sons, my father, and I had planned to circumnavigate Fremont Island, the 4th largest island in Great Salt Lake.

One of my life's goals is to sail to Fremont Island in Great Salt Lake. Fremont is relatively barren. However, there is a freshwater spring that rises 100 + yards off its west shore in the middle of the salt water. Sailors who have traveled this far north report being able to anchor in the water above the spring, and experience the rare sensation of swimming in fresh water in the middle of salt water!
So we made plans for a 2 day trip in late July to circumnavigate Fremont Island.
We reached I-Dock, Slip #3 at the South Shore Marina at 6am on Friday. The docks are covered with massive spiders this time of year. And although I've never heard of sailor being dragged off the docks by the spiders, you certainly wonder if it is possible.

We loaded the boat with our sleeping bags and 2 coolers full of ice and cold drinks. The secret to staying well-hydrated in the 100+ degree afternoons is a wide variety of juices, sports drinks, and water.

My Dad and #1 son ran a hose from the dock to the water intake on the boat, and my #2 son watched below to tell them when the tank was full. We planned to swim in the afternoon to cool off, so we filled a couple of solar showers and strapped them to the deck to heat up in the sun.

Swimming in Great Salt Lake leaves you very salty, which is not a comfortable way to stay. The solar showers work well, by afternoon they reached 110 degrees, and could be easily hoisted on the forestay for a quick rinse on the foredeck.
I ran down to C-Dock to borrow a nav chart from my Father in law's old boat (my first sailboat), and then we were ready to set sail.
The sunrise was absolutely magical, with pillowy white clouds overhead reflecting in the blue water. We motored quietly past the sleeping sailboats and out into the deep water channel. Flocks of seagulls floated in the still water, and gracefully lifted off in flight to get out of our way as we headed for the outer channel markers.

Even with a 5 - 10 mile per hour wind, Great Salt Lake waters remain as flat as a mirror. I assume this is due to the heaviness of the water, which is many times heavier than sea water. The stillness of the water makes it feel like you are sailing on a large mirror, with every cloud or star in the sky reflected below your boat.
Morning winds were light, but with the genoa we easily made 4.5 miles an hour as we sailed north on the southerly breeze. After half an hour, the wind shifted eastward, so we adjusted sails and continued north.

Eventually the winds shifted northward, and would stay that way through the day. At that point we opted for a westerly tack out toward Stansbury Island, about 10 miles to the west of us. (See map below for reference.)

Great Salt Lake gets an undeserved reputation for being a 'stinky' lake. The problem occurs a few times in late summer when large amounts of brine flies lay eggs on the surface of the water and live for only a few days. When all the brine fly remains wash up on the shores, it rots, and winds blow the smell into neighboring towns. The great secret is that even during those brief periods, the smell is only noticeable within a few hundred yards of the shore. Once out on the water, the smell disappears and the air, humidity, and smell are idyllic.

See map below of Great Salt Lake. The South Shore Marina is labeled Boat Harbor on the south edge of the lake. [Continue to Part Two]

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