Keechelus Lake Sail

If you're planning on doing some cruising and would like some company or just a nice place to organize it, post here. Also, if you had a great cruising experience and would like to share it with other sailors, post here.

Moderator: Charmed Juan

Keechelus Lake Sail

Postby jeffd » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:43 pm

Well, it was Friday, and the weather had been quite warm all week. Time for a sail! This was Seafair weekend in the Seattle area, and those of us who avoid crowds do as they do in Monty Python's Holy Grail: RUNAWAY!!! The last place I wanted to be near this weekend is Lake Washington. So I thought I'd try sailing Keechelus Lake - just east of Snoqualmie Pass, on I-90. And it is Friday, so it is a no blasting day. Construction projects on I-90 just east of Snoqualmie pass involve blasting operations, so the lake is closed on blasting days at 6pm. It appears they usually blast Monday through Thursday. Here is the web site:

So it is a perfect day to try out Keechelus Lake, before the lake levels go down so far that the ramp runs dry. Many times over the years, I've driven by Keechelus Lake and thought I'd try sailing there someday. Some times the wind has been blowing like mad - looked like a great place to sail.

So Friday afternoon, Aug 3rd, I'm off to Keechelus Lake with the boat in tow, and a Northwest Forest Pass (required to use the ramp, and not available at the site. Purchase one at US Forest Service Ranger Station, REI, etc. $5/day, $30/year). I get there kind of late, about 4pm. No one there at the boat ramp. There are a couple of groups of people at the far end of the road - looks like they are free camping in RV's. The wind is blowing fairly consistently, but no whitecaps, yet - looks like a great day for sailing.

I rig the boat - late in the afternoon, the parking lot is in the shade! Very nice on a hot day, even at 3000 feet elevation. Below is a Google Earth screen shot of my sailing track, made on my iPhone 3GS using Navionics Marine.

Map of Keechelus Lake Sail:

0Keechelus_Sail_Route.jpg (77.62 KiB) Viewed 727 times

Hmm, no, I did NOT sail on land at all! I guess the track alignment is a bit off, especially at the southeast end of the lake.

Here is a shot of the boat ramp, looking west. The lake level is a bit low, and the ramp has a few rough spots near the end. But it is fairly steep, paved, and there are no other boats. There is no dock either. So after rigging, I carefully back the boat down the ramp, and launch. I'm by myself, so I take a couple of extra cautions, like before unhooking the boat, I tie off the bow line. And I block the wheels of the van after backing down. When the boat is off the trailer, I maneuver it over to the sandy (rocky) beach next to the boat ramp, and tie up to a handy large rock. Then I park the van.

1Keechelus_ramp.jpg (51.04 KiB) Viewed 727 times

I push the boat off the beach and jump aboard. After getting into deeper water, I motor out a bit and finish rigging, drop the swing keel, attach the rudder, and finally, raise the sails. The wind today is from the west - going my way! I like this place - I get to enjoy running downwind first! The wind is pretty consistent, so up goes the spinnaker. Yes, I enjoy this place! It is warm and sunny, and on one else out here. Later, a fishing boat launches and heads out.

2Keechelus_run.jpg (53.49 KiB) Viewed 727 times

I-90 runs right along the shore of Keechelus Lake. The weekend mass exodus to Eastern Washington is happening now, and it looks like a traffic jam. There are times when I am sailing faster than the traffic is moving! Either way, I'm glad to be out on the water sailing, than being stuck in traffic. The wind is fairly consistent, and I am making 5 to 5.5 knots most of the way to the dam at the east end of the lake.

3Keechelus_run.jpg (53.75 KiB) Viewed 727 times

Well, it was a very nice run to the end of the lake. It took a bit less than an hour, with pretty consistent winds, although I did notice a few wind shadows on the south side of the lake - the side away from the freeway. Sigh, I guess one thing about sailing near the freeway is you get the freeway noise and the construction noise all the time. Still, it is nice to be on the water, with good, consistent wind, and a nice warm sunny day. And no Seafair boats to deal with! OK, so we finally run out of lake, so it is time to take down the spinnaker and begin our beat back to the west end of the lake. Still, the winds are pretty consistent and there is no real chop on the lake, so the beat upwind is a very pleasant sail. The lake is very deep on the east end, so I can sail to within a boat length of the shore before tacking, and still have plenty of water.

4Keechelus_beat.jpg (52.1 KiB) Viewed 727 times

I left my D-SLR at home, so I had to rely on iPhone photos (no good zoom). Still, the scenery was spectacular, and the photos turned out OK. I've noticed this before, but again, I notice I am faster on port tack than starboard. I guess I should do some rig tuning to fix that. The beat is very pleasant - good consistent winds, fantastic scenery, and we are making 4 or 5 knots most of the time, except when I get lazy, and let the autopilot steer.

I decided to sail up past the boat ramp and see how far up the west end I could get. In the past, I recall seeing this end of the lake covered with stumps when the water is low, so I sail carefully toward the shallows. When the depth sounder hits 10' I chicken out and decide to turn around and head back to the boat ramp. I sail most of the way back, until it got too shallow, and I had to crank the keel up, and fold the rudder. I beached the boat next to the ramp.

5Keechelus_beached.jpg (46.92 KiB) Viewed 727 times

In the distance, on the spit of land in the background, you can see some of the RV'ers free camping. What I great place. I can't blame them, although the I-90 and construction noise detracted from the peaceful setting.

I retrieved the van, backed down the ramp, then motored the boat onto the trailer, hitched up, and pulled out. While I was unrigging, the fishing boat pulls out. Looks like they had a pretty good day - caught several keepers and lots of bites. They are locals, and they tell me there are times when it blows like mad here. Sounds good to me!

The GPS indicates I covered 9.8 NM today. I'm out and unrigged before dark, and I'm on my way home by 8pm. Just for grins, I check Windfinder, and they show 6 knots of wind at 5pm, and 78 degrees. It seems to me like there was more wind than that, and it was quite warm, but a lot cooler than in Seattle!

On the way home, I notice the left side marker light is flickering. Hmm, I think I have my work cut out for me this weekend - fixing lights! Just before Issaquah, I noticed my dash lights went out! Hmm, not good. That means my taillights are not working either! So I pull off into a nice somewhat lighted parking lot to investigate. Yes, the 10 amp fuse for the dash lights is blown out. I unplug the trailer, replace the fuse and check the van's dash/tail lights - all OK. I carefully reconnect the trailer, and all lights work. Good - I hope I can make it home, and figure this out tomorrow, when it is daytime. I do get home OK. Next day, I check the trailer wiring, and I discover that my sloppy trailer wiring is at fault - the left tail light wire running to the side marker was not secured well, and worked its way between some metal trailer members, and the insulation was worn away, causing the short. I repair the wire, and take the time to carefully secure all of the wires, so this doesn't happen again.

I highly recommend Keechelus Lake - it isn't too far from Seattle, and it seems the winds are pretty good. Just make sure to get a Northwest Forrest Pass before coming, and check the blasting schedule, to make sure the lake isn't closed.

Jeff D. #2208
Last edited by jeffd on Wed Nov 04, 2015 12:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
Posts: 30
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:49 am

Re: Keechelus Lake Sail

Postby jaltice » Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:03 pm

So when people ask Jeff where he sailed last weekend, he says stuff like: "did a nice spinnaker run on an alpine lake"

Great pics. Next time, a movie.
Ballard, WA
Parveen, Hull No. 366
"There is no cannibalism in the British Navy; absolutely none. And when we say "none" we mean there is a certain amount."
User avatar
Posts: 75
Joined: Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:42 pm
Location: Ballard, WA

Re: Keechelus Lake Sail

Postby cklamp » Fri Aug 10, 2012 3:48 pm

As always Jeff, love the write ups..

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 430
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:08 am

Return to SJ21 Cruise Organization and Reports

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest