September 26, 2016

Great Salt Lake Yacht Club

by Al Sachrov

The alternative to dangerous deep ocean sailing can be found in Utah’s largest most under-utilized lake.

Salt Lake is one of the best kept secrets in Salt Lake.

Most local residents give it a passing thought as they drive by on the way to Wendover. But this 1,700 square mile body of water is home to an active community of sailors, rowers, and Hawaian canoe paddlers.

For Captain JR Reynolds, the Great Salt Lake provides some of the best sailing in the country. Reynolds and his wife, Sue, sail the 27-foot NAUTI GIRL and provide charter, leasing, and sailing lessons for pirates and salty dogs alike through their company, The Great Salt Lake Experience.
Reynolds is quick to point out that the wetlands bordering the lake provide the vapors that residents are reluctant to inhale. Once out of the harbor the clean air and steady breezes are a sailor’s dream.

“What attracts sailors to the lake is that there are few power boats. The wind is so consistent that once we were able to sail eight hours in one direction without tacking the sails,” he said.

Reynolds has been sailing the Salt Lake since 1989. Several years earlier he was an instant convert to the pastime.
“After the first time I got in a sailboat, I went home and bought one. It’s a zen sport that allows you freedom and a chance to be at one with the wind and water. Once you cast off the dock lines you’re on the way to somewhere,” he said.

Plus, there’s the camaraderie. There are about 300 boats in the marina near the Saltair building. Regattas are held throughout the year, culminating in an 80-mile race that lasts overnight.
“Sailors are friendly folk,” Reynolds said, “especially if you have beer. Beer is very important on boat repairs.”

To introduce more people to the lake, Reynolds’ charter service offers two-to-four hour cruises.   One such foray resulted in an onboard marriage proposal with the prospective groom tying the engagement ring to the boat’s wheel!

Sailing and corporate team building cruises also allow beginning sailors the opportunity to develop nautical skills while talking like pirates.
For Reynolds, any time of year beckons to the open water. But with all of the runoff that is occurring, lake levels are rising and there will be fewer problems with reefs and sandbars.

“This will be an excellent year to sail,” he said. §

If you would like to try sailing this summer on the Great Salt Lake visit: http://sailutah.com/