Monday, July 28, 2008

Greening our weekend activities with a sailboat.

Here in Minnesota, spending our vacation time at "the lakes" is a century old tradition. My father, who is a well to do gentleman lets us have the full run of his lake home complete with the power boat, the 30 foot pontoon, and the little outboard fishing boat. There have been weekends when the family is all together where we have gone through more than 20 gallons of gas in a single day as we tear up the water.

But guess which boat my nine-year old son prefers?

No, not the speed boat. He likes the paddle boat!

He and his cousin will spend the entire day peddling around the lake in the paddle boat. He likes it because its so quiet. He can sneak up on turtles easier that way.

Recently, I've been having some boat envy. I appreciate that my dad lets us use his toys, but I always feel a special responsibility with these boats, always self-conscious about keeping things clean and not using too much gas. If I ever bump into a log, panic sets in until I can determine that all is well

So when I saw a sailboat advertised for $200, I decided to check it out. I was skeptical; after all, what kind of boat can you get for that kind of money? It turns out, an elderly couple was downsizing and just wanted to get rid of it. It was indeed an older boat ( a 1959 Glastron fiberglass sailboat, 17'), but and it was in great shape! So I bought it and dragged it home.

This past weekend, rather than pontoon'ing around the lake, we quietly sailed around instead. The kids just loved it. They spent hours on the boat with me. It was wonderful being part of the wind. And the quiet you experience on a sailboat is just incredible. You hear things that you could never hear on a gas powered boat. Kids and dad, working together to bring the sail boat home.

Sailboats are not common on our lake, which by Minnesota standards is small at a mere 1,000 acres. On the weekend you will see many fishing boats, speed boats, pontoons and jet skis. But we were the only sailboat on the lake, and actually in all the years we have been on this lake I don't recall ever seeing a small sailboat.

We're enjoying the novelty factor of being the only sailboat on the lake. The powerboats have been very polite and yielding so far. When we came through a small channel, there were 3 other boats waiting patiently for us on the other side. They all had smiles and seemed to enjoy the "skills" it took to navigate the channel when there was absolutely no wind (I was using my arms!). I think they enjoyed the opportunity to just sit quiety, motors off, listening nature, while watching me flounder about.

Although I'm not ready to swear off ever using the other boats, it is my hope that this sailboat and the gas-free fun it provides will be come a family favorite for years to come, and that we will use less gas by having the option to sail. Afterall, the best fun is simply being on the lake, and the lake becomes even more fun when we are able to silently and cleanly take in its natural glory.

I just emailed myself the pictures on my cell phone of our adventures on the old sail boat. The look at the kids faces is just priceless. Clearly the memories we made that day sailing will be with these kids for a long time.

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