Photo by Ben Robinson
IF YOU'RE A SAILOR there is perhaps no lake in the American Northwest which offers so splendid a sailing opportunity. Bear in mind, however, the lake is so large and the surrounding topography so varied you'll find distinctly different prevailing conditions depending on where you're sailing. Also keep an eye out for storms.
The majority of sailors on the lake berth at Bayview, at the southern tip of the lake. The prevailing winds here are from the southwest when weather is brewing, though morning winds in summer usually come from the east. The mountains surrounding Bayview are quite precipitous, however, and can often block wind.
Those setting sail from Sandpoint will encounter three different wind patterns. With a weather front coming through, the winds are usually from the southwest. On other occasions, a north wind will blow down from Canada, usually coming up during the night, blowing in the morning and dying by noon. But most typically in the summer, a light but steady easterly wind will come up in the early afternoon.
The winds around Hope are the most unpredictable, and departing from Garfield Bay is challenging because it faces south into the prevailing winds.
Resources for lake sailors:
- The Sandpoint Sailing Association website includes information about sailing, plus a calendar of regattas and events. This group races most Thursday nights and Saturday mornings in summer and always welcomes newcomers. Windbag Marina is the only place on the lake besides Bayview where a sailor might find replacement gear a modest collection of lines and hardware is for sale in a small shack on the dock.
- The Lake Pend Oreille Yacht Club is based in Bayview, which is home to hundreds of sailboats thanks to water depths that enable owners to keep their boats in the lake year-round. The club has both cruising and racing calendars, with races on Wednesday evenings in summer, a spring and fall series, and even a frozen New Year’s Day race for those who haven’t drifted off to the ski slopes. The Bitter End Marina is home to the majority of the masts, and races begin from there or MacDonald’s Hudson Bay Resort.
- Sailboat rentals: One marina on the lake rents sailboats, MacDonald's Hudson Bay Resort in Bayview (208-683-2211). For more information, go to the Super Directory and see Marinas & Boating Services.
- "Hidden Treasure in North Idaho." 48 Degrees North, a Northwest sailing magazine based in Seattle, writes about the thrills and challenges of sailing Lake Pend Oreille (story begins on page 44).