Potholes Reservoir Cruise

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Potholes Reservoir Cruise

Postby jeffd » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:06 pm

Potholes Reservoir in Eastern Washington, near Moses Lake is actually a pretty good place to go sailing. Yes, I know there are a lot of water skiers, fishermen, jet skis and other fast moving watercraft there. But the wind is usually pretty good too. One thing that surprised me the first time I was there is the wind keeps blowing well into the night, and sometimes even in the morning. And then, there are all of those sand dunes to explore! It's a fun place to gunkhole. A depth sounder is pretty much required equipment, unless you are really looking for adventure! And in the summertime. it is usually quite warm, and sunny.

This year (2014), I decided to head over there earlier in the season when the water level is higher. I know a lot of people like to wait till late July or August, when the water is warmer, but the reservoir level tends to drop later in the season, and it is a bit tougher (or more adventuresome) to get to the sand dunes. So this year, I took a two day trip on July 10 and 11, 2014.

Here is my crazy track for the two days:

  • Purple Track: sail from the State Park dock, pass the dam, up the river a bit, then down the far side and down to the dunes/grass.
  • Green Track: Motoring and sailing into the dunes/grass, trying to reach Winchester Wasteway, but I didn't quite make it.
  • Blue Track: Sailing back out of the grass, then anchoring for dinner.
  • Orange Track: Night Sailing! Under the stars, with some great wind.
  • Yellow Track: Second day, sailing up the channel towards the spillway to Moses Lake, then motoring out and sailing back to the State Park dock.

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Arriving at the state park, the launch ramp and parking lot was fairly empty. A number of vehicles in the parking lot, and maybe a boat at the dock every once in a while. I rig, and prepare to launch. It is HOT and sunny! I'm not used to this, being from western Washington. I take precautions and cover myself with sunscreen. Once out on the water, the wind is great, with winds 10-15 knots, fairly consistent (it is very FLAT out here) and warm. I sail up to O'Sullivan Dam, and even up the river a bit. Running out of wind, I decide its time to head back to the main part of the reservoir. Upriver, I notice an overhead power line too.

Back in the main part of the reservoir, the sailing is great all afternoon, with winds building, but it is still quite warm and sunny. Now I know why all those powerboats come out here.

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After sailing for a few hours in the main part of the reservoir (it isn't that big), I decided its time to go gunkholing! I sail in toward the grass and dunes, paying attention to the depth sounder, and prepared to pull the pin and crank up the keel if necessary.

Motoring and Sailing in the dunes/grass:

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Later in the year, when the level is down a bit more, the sand dunes are more visible. Today, there are a lot of areas with vegetation and picking my way through the muck is a bit tougher. The views are very different.

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Years ago, I was looking at a kayaking/canoeing guidebook and came across a paddling route through Winchester Wasteway, which dumps into Potholes Reservoir. It looked like an interesting paddle. So I decided to see if I could find the place where Winchester Wasteway dumps into Potholes. I plugged the coordinates into the GPS, and consulted my Fish-N-Map chart for Potholes Reservoir, and tried to find the way in.

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The keel is mostly up, and I get to within about a half mile. There sure is a lot of vegetation between me and the waste way. I probably could get there if I anchored the boat and went in by kayak (I carry an inflatable kayak), but then, I decided its time to get back to sailing! And now, the wind is going my way, so its a run.

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Lots of interesting waterfowl and other life here too. Unfortunately, there is also the irritating kind - flies, mosquitos, and other pests. But now, the wind is good, so no problem with bugs . . . yet.

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I pull up the motor to check out my "catch". Hmm, a lot of drag and interference here. It takes me a while to get it all off. I guess that's what I get for purposely motoring into the grassy areas.

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Sunsets are some of my favorite views. Today does not disappoint me. The views over the water are spectacular.

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Before the sun sets completely, I select an anchorage for the night. In the past, I've beached the boat on a convenient sandy beach (there are lots of them), but tonight, I'll anchor. I pick a spot, noting the depth and surrounding area, and mark it with the GPS, so I can return tonight, after my moonlight night sail.

Night Sailing: Sorry, no photos! I really enjoy sailing at night. It is so peaceful, and here in clear eastern washington, there are millions of stars to see. The wind is still blowing quite well. I am out here by myself (no crew, no other boats around), so I decide that flying the spinnaker is not the best idea. I reach back and forth across the reservoir, carefully avoiding the island in the middle (orange track). What a great sail! Peaceful, quiet, smooth water and good wind, lots of stars. I can't ask for a better evening.

After a few hours of great night sailing, I decide its time for bed. I sail back to my intended anchorage location with the help of the GPS, and set the anchor. It is still blowing pretty well, but the anchor holds well in the sand. I hit the sack and enjoy a great night's sleep on Potholes Reservoir.

Early the next morning, I wake up to a beautiful sunrise, warm sunshine, and the sound of birds. And the wind is still blowing! It has calmed down a bit, but there still is a good wind. I make coffee, have my usual breakfast of instant oatmeal, applesauce, and a banana. After washing the dishes and cleaning up, its time for more sailing!

I notice something 'funny' about the anchor rode. It seems to be going the wrong way. After further investigation, it looks like I did a bad job setting it the night before and got it wrapped around the keel! Hmm, now which way do I need to rotate the boat? Luckily, I can remove the wood cover over the keel slot and look down into the water, and see which way it is wrapped. So I use the motor to turn the boat, and untangle the anchor rode. After taking care of that embarrassing situation, its time to sail. The chart shows a place where Potholes connects with Moses Lake. Hmm, sounds interesting. Let's see how close we can get. So I sail up toward Moses Lake.

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Here is a good view of the sand dunes and beaches that most of the powerboats use for beaching and setting up camp on. Not too may here yet. I think it is still a bit too cold, although I did go for a swim yesterday, when the wind died and it got pretty hot. It was a bit cold, but refreshing. The Morning wind is good - perfect for sailing among the dunes.

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Looking back out into the main part of the reservoir. I think that is Royal City in the background.

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Sailing deeper into the 'cut', it appears that I won't be able to get very close to Moses Lake. I run out of water and there is a nice sandy beach up ahead, with a bit of water beyond. Maybe if I had more time, it might be worth an explore with the kayak - but that will have to wait for another time.

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After reaching the end of the water, I turn around and sail back out to the main part of the reservoir. In a couple of places, it gets tight, and I have to use the motor to make headway, but the wind is still pretty good.

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After reaching the main part of the reservoir again, I beat back toward the state park. The wind has picked up and it is great sailing out here. Too soon, it is time to pull out and head back home. I-90 closes for 'blasting' tonight, so I have to make sure I make it back over the pass before they shut down the freeway.

Total Sailing and gunk holing: 26.9 Nautical Miles on the GPS
Last edited by jeffd on Wed Nov 04, 2015 12:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Potholes Reservoir Cruise

Postby cklamp » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:53 pm

As usual Jeff, beautiful pics, and great write up! looks like a nice relaxing place to sail.

Later
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