Lake Mead Cruise Report

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Lake Mead Cruise Report

Postby jeffd » Sun Nov 09, 2014 11:08 pm

I have been wanting to cruise Lake Mead since my first trip to Lake Havasu in Feb 2012. I'd heard of its great scenery and decent sailing, and lots of coves and anchorages to explore. So when a bunch of Havasu Pocket Cruisers put together a trip in April 2014, I told them I was in! There would be five boats: a Potter 19, a Capri 18, a Beneteau 23, a Seward 25 and a San Juan 21. We would meet at Boulder Basin Las Vegas Boat Harbor, Hemmenway Boat Ramp, and sail for a week, seeing most of the bays on Lake Mead.

The GPS on my iPhone 3GS (circa fall 2009) was unreliable and on this trip, would not get a fix, so I do not have any GPS tracks. I used my handheld GPS (and of course, my paper charts) for navigation. This map is an overview of the places we anchored:

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But of course, before sailing, I had to get to Las Vegas Bay. I planned on a long two day drive, but I had a few interesting experiences along the way. The route I chose was to go over Snoqualmie pass (I-90), then turn south (I-82), cross the Columbia River, follow I-84 over Deadman Pass and through eastern Oregon through Baker City OR, and on into Idaho, then turn south at Twin Falls Idaho, and take US-93 (2 lane highway) through Wells NV, Ely NV, then take US-6 & 318 & 93 into Las Vegas. My tow vehicle is a '91 Chev G20 with 170K miles on it, and it doesn't go very fast, so the 2 lane highways are fine for me.

Along the way, I had an adventure with Bearing Buddies and dust caps. As usual, before leaving on this trip, I pulled both bearing buddies off and inspected the bearings and races, having recently repacked them in December, but I just put 2600 miles on them in February on a trip to Lake Mohave AZ. All looked fine, so I reassembled the hubs and pounded the Bearing Buddies back on the hubs. At a rest area, in Eastern Washington, I noticed that I had lost the left Bearing Buddy. No problem - I carry a spare. I pound on the spare, pump a bit of grease into it, and I'm off again. Next stop . . . its gone again! I stop in Kennewick for lunch, and get a couple of dust caps at Auto Zone. I don't know the area and I'm kind of behind schedule so I figure I'll get a real Bearing Buddy later. I put the dust cap on, and this time, I carefully jack up the trailer and rotate the hub, making sure I don't have some kind of interference problem. Next stop . . . it's missing again! Now I'm kind of puzzled. I put on the 2nd dust cap, making sure it is on real good. The bearing is nice and cool - it is not heating up. I drive on, trying to make up some time. Next stop . . . its gone again. Now its getting very late. I press on and find a rest area just beyond Boise and catch some ZZZ's.

The next day, I get up early and continue on. I'm having breakfast at McDonalds in Elko NV, and I get an idea - the clear plastic cup I am drinking out of makes a nice dust cover, and you can see through it! I cut it down to fit, and duct tape it in place. This HOT SETUP works, all the way to Las Vegas!

More adventures to come. Driving into Nevada, the wind is a crosswind, and it is very strong. Lots of dust blowing across the highway. The 2 lane highway through central Nevada is pretty good, except there are very few rest areas. Lots of wide spots in the road, but no restrooms! It is a nice, scenic drive. I have to really concentrate on steering, and not let the wind blow me off the road. Eventually, I get to Las Vegas . . . after dark. I find the In-N-Out Burger to catch a bite to eat, and eventually make it to the rendezvous point. I heard from my friends that the wind was so strong, gusting to 40-50 knots, that one boat decided not to rig and launch that day.

Before launching, I get a new set of Bearing Buddies at Walmart in Boulder City. Today, the wind is much lighter, but there is bit of a breeze. After removing my plastic cup dust cap, I put the new bearing buddy on - but this time, I duct tape it on too. Next challenge: the ramp is not very steep, because the lake level is way down this year - maybe 80 feet down. I back down the ramp and end up having to go a lot deeper than I'd like. To add insult to injury, I forget to detach the strap from the bow eye. Hmm, no wonder the boat isn't launching. How embarrassing! Note to self: Maybe that tongue extension isn't a bad idea - this is the third time in the last 5 years that I could have used one.

I was treated to a very nice surprise. The group I was joining had spent the day before (the windy day) planning dinners for the group and doing all the shopping. They were kind enough to include me in their planning, so lucky me - all I had to do was show up and pay my share, which was $18. Wow, what a deal, and all my dinners were covered.

Here is a map showing Las Vegas Bay, and the destination for our first day: Rufus Cove.

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After discussing general plans for the day, the group left the marina about noon. The little "islands" on the chart were huge! I guess that's how it is when the lake levels are really low. We motored a bit, then raised the sails. The scenery in the desert country is quite different than what I'm used to, and so I'm having a great time taking it all in. And I'm really enjoying sailing in shorts and a T-shirt in April, and soaking in all the sun. It's even getting a bit hot!

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As we sail, the wind clocks around, until, it a run! Time to put up the spinnaker. Speeds are now up to 4 - 4.5 knots. My autopilot isn't working very well, so I'm glad I bought a TillerClutch from Stephen at SJ Sailboats. It works great! OK, so it doesn't track a compass heading, but it requires no power, and works as expected.

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It is great having five sailboats on Lake Mead, and what a beautiful day.

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I somehow find myself at the front, so I guess I need to do some navigating. I can't just follow the boat in front. So I see a green navaid on the chart, and it should be about there. Hmm, no its way, way, up there!

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OK, so now I'm starting to figure this all out - there is a lot less water than is shown on the chart.

Its time to find a place to camp at Rufus cove. Several of the sailboats have fixed keels so we need to find a beach with a steep bank. Luckily, there are lots of them here at Lake Mead, and no tides to worry about!

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We find a suitable beach, and all tie up. Across the bay, there are few Bighorn Sheep.

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Here is a nice view from our beach camp the following morning, when the water was still. Dinner is Pizza, cooked on a propane BBQ. Very nice!

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Day 2: Today, we sail through what's known as the Narrows. Looking at the topo map, I can see why they call it the Narrows. We are headed to a beach camp near a rock formation named Napoleon's Tomb.

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Here is a shot of our group, breaking camp at Rufus Cove and leaving the beach. Notice the shorts, T shirts and lots of sun!

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Sailing through the narrows was challenging. The wind tends to be shifty and variable. Today, I am testing my newly cut down storm jib. I cut down my old Clark Jib (circa 1983), figuring it isn't useful as a jib anyway. I know, the sailmakers say don't do that, because it will probably shred when the wind really picks up. I did it anyway, more as a test. It hasn't shredded yet, and I've used it several times in blows exceeding 20 knots.

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Here's a shot of us sailing through the narrows. And look! We're in luck - another run today.

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So I have to put my spinnaker up. Today, I decide to put up the small one.

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Here is a shot of us sailing through the narrowest section of the narrows. It was a lot of fun, although challenging at times.

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We got to see eagles flying . . .

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. . . and then, suddenly, this guy comes zooming by . . . pretty low, between the canyon walls!

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As we exited the narrows, the wind got kind of light. But the scenery was gorgeous! Yes, it was getting hot, so I took a dip in the cool (cold!) waters of Lake Mead.

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OK, time to start motoring. We have a ways to go to get to camp, so we all start motoring.

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Here is our camp beach at Napoleon's Tomb:

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Here is the view across the bay:

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Dinner is BBQ'ed brats - mm, very good. Wind from the south is picking up. It's supposed to start blowing really hard tomorrow by 11am. Maybe I'll get a chance to really test that new storm jib!

Day 3: Today is a short day - we sail from our camp at Napoleon's Tomb to the Temple Bar Marina.

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We all get an early start. Temple Bar Marina is maybe 4-5 miles away. We leave by 8:40am.

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Since its supposed to blow like mad, I'm going to test the storm jib! I start out with full main and the storm jib. It's calm here at camp, but around the corner, the wind is already picking up. It starts out around 10 knots, but soon, its time for a reef. The Storm jib is working well to balance the boat, and add a bit of drive. An hour into the beat, the wind is consistently over 15 knots, sometimes blowing 20-22 knots. Time for the second reef! 2 reefs and storm jib, doing 4.5-5.4 knots. So the storm jib works well. the boat points quite nicely too. By now, the wind is blowing 20-25 knots, with chop, whitecaps and lots of spray. I get pretty wet. Boat and sails are doing well. I'm enduring. Before I put in the 2nd reef, I had tidied up the boat a bit - coil shore & anchor lines, etc. Good thing! the one thing I did not do was to grab my windbreaker. I get a bit cold from the spray. Lesson learned! My friend Doug on the Seward 25 took this shot of me:

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Nearing Temple Bar Marina, winds are still favorable (reach), but it's still blowing 20-25 knots. Several of the other boats have given up and motored by. I decide that I'm making about as much progress sailing as I'd be motoring. I steer around the waves, avoiding some of the spray. Turning into the bay, the winds are now on the nose. I beat down toward the east shore, get close to the marina breakwater - by now, the wind is really howling! I decide I'm not going to make the breakwater. so quickly, the jib comes down, motor on, main down. Hmm, dropping the main needs work (I later find out one of the masthead sheaves is damaged, so the main halyard has too much friction). I get the main lashed down while motoring toward the dock. My friends are waiting at the dock - very nice. I come in hot, since the wind is really howling. My friends catch me and we get the boat tied down. I then we help the two other sail boats come in. We're all in by 11:30am. Windspeed average was 19.3 knots, with a peak of 33.6 knots. I noticed 20-22 knots a lot, and later 25 knots. 2 reefs in Main and storm jib, 4.5-5.4 knots. Storm jib passes the test! At the dock, 1:30 pm, windspeed average is about 20 knots!. According to the GPS, I sailed 9.8 NM today.

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We stay at Temple Bar Marina for two nights, allowing the storm to blow through. But the views are awesome and the scenery is quite good.

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During the night, the wind blew like mad. It even rains a bit. The anemometer had a max reading of 34.1 knots. In the morning, it calmed down quite a bit as the sun rose. It was a wild, rocky night, but it was nice to be tied up to the dock.

Another nice thing about being at the Marina: we all decided to go up to the restaurant for breakfast! After breakfast, I went back to the boat to clean up, and then motored over to the day use dock to charge the battery. While waiting, I bucket washed the cockpit - all that dust and dirt from the windstorm in central Nevada. I emptied the port potty - they have a very nice dump at the marina. I checked the gas tank - I've only used about a gallon of gas, so I don't need to fill up yet. One other huge benefit of staying at the marina: I walk up to the campground and take a hot shower! They even have a Laundromat.

It's 3:30pm now - Time for a sail! We take a ~ 1.5 hour sail out in Temple Basin.

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I sailed with the Beneteau 23, up to the Temple.

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Awesome sun and clouds! Wind 8.8 knots average, 18.1 its max.

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For this daysail, I was able sail right off the dock. I tried to sail into the slip, but came in a bit too hot to windward, and had to motor the last 40 ft. Dinner was BBQ Steaks, using the BBQs up by the motel. We sing songs, tell stories, and had a lot of fun! Later, we walked back to the boat, enjoying the evening.

Day 5: Sail from Temple Bar Marina, south to Burrow Bay, then north to Napoleon's Tomb

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We had a pancake breakfast at the dock. Very good breakfast! Sailing south, we had a run to Burrow Bay:

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So of course, the spinnaker has to come out:

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I'm turning into Burrow Bay, reaching with the spinnaker, trying to get as far into the bay as possible, without changing sails. My buddies Dino and Pinky Pie come out to see the Burrows:

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And, we are not disappointed. The burrows are here in Burrow Bay.

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Scenery and land formations here are quite scenic too

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After enjoying the Burrows and motoring to the end of Burrow Bay, I turn back out and head back north. As I am motoring north, my friend Doug on the Seward 25 calls me on the radio: "There's a family of Burrows at the water on your right . . . ":

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Wow, how cool is that!

The wind picks up a bit, and we sail north, past Temple Bar, and continue back to our old camp at Napoleon's Tomb.

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The wind even shifts around so I can reach and run, right up to the beach. Here is a shot that my friend Doug took of me sailing into the bay, from way up on the bluff:

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Tonight its my turn to cook Burgers. Gary is very kind and lets me use his propane BBQ on his Beneteau 23. Another great dinner, beautiful sunset and nice evening.

Day 6: Sail from Napoleon's Tomb, through the Narrows, back to Rufus Cove:

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We left Napoleon's Tomb around 7:40am. Winds were predicted to be 10-15 knots today. Good winds outside the cove - I raise the main with 1 reef, and the jib. I'm making 5.8 kts in 19 kts of wind. Wind is from north so it is a close haul, then a reach, then a beam reach. Winds were averaging about 16 knots with about a foot of chop. Boat speed was about 5.2 - 5.5. knots. On a beam reach, in 18 knots of wind, I am now making 5.9 - 6.4 knots - some great sailing! Very exciting! Some spray, but this time, I got my windbreaker on early. Windspeed for this day's sailing so far was 13.5 knots average, 22.5 knots max. I am making 6.4 knots on 13 knots of wind, then 7.5 knots on 18 knots of wind. I sailed through the narrows - very shifty winds, close hauled, beating. Wind generally from the north, blasting down the canyons. Just before the red mark turn, it was a run, wing-on-wing at 7.5 knots! I shook out the reef - winds approaching Rufus cove and inside were very shifty. (sorry, not many photos - I was pretty busy sailing the boat, and having a great time!)

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Wind data for the whole day: Average 9.7 knots, max 26.5 knots. According to the GPS I sailed 17.2 NM today. What a great sail! We arrived at Rufus cove about noon.

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We ate lunch. Then, I inflated my kayak, and kayaked around the neighboring coves. I followed some waterfowl around the cove:

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I took my "daily dip" at 4:30pm. Felt really good! Dinner tonight was Brats, again cooked on the BBQ. Another great day, and some really really great sailing - probably the best sailing on this trip.

Day 7: Sail out from Rufus cove, then back

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Well, all great cruises have to come to an end. The others needed to head back to Las Vegas Bay and pull out. The weather forecast predicted strong winds, increasing in the afternoon, so the others left pretty early in the day. I could stay another day, so I decided to lounge around in Rufus cove, then go sailing, and return to Rufus cove, but thought I'd find a different place to anchor, deeper in the cove.

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In the anchorage at Rufus cove, it was blowing 5-10 knots. The afternoon forecast was for 20-30 knots from the north with gusts to 40 today, with high temperatures 80-85 degrees, according to NOAA. After saying goodbye to my friends, I have a leisurely breakfast, and enjoy the morning. At 9:40am, I motored over to the narrow part of Rufus cove to check it out, as a possible spot to anchor tonight. Then, I headed out to the main part of the lake to go sailing. In the channel, with a storm jib only, I was making 5.2 knots with 17.8 knots of wind, on a broad reach - gusty too. At 10:30, I cleared the islands, and put up the main with the 2nd reef in. On a beam reach, I was making 7.2 knots with 28 knots of wind. The forecast was about right. My best today was 7.9 knots with 18.1 knots of wind. Windspeed average was 12.1 knots with 26.6 knots max. At 11am, I decided to to turn around and head back - I was almost halfway back to Las Vegas at that point. At 11:25am, the wind was averaging 18.2 knots, with a max of 27.5. The beat back was splashy, shifty and gusty. By 2pm, I finished tying up between two rocks deeper in Rufus cove. It took a while, about 20-30 minutes to tie up. Windspeed statistics: 11.6 knots average, 36.3 max (downwind and upwind), and I sailed 13.1 NM today. The windspeed in cove tie up: Average 8.6 knots, max 16.5 knots.

Tying up between the two rocks was a bit of a challenge. I had to avoid the shallows. Here you can see my makeshift shade tarp, which worked great, except I can't use the tarp when I am sailing!

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I composed a few emails, then kayaked back out to the main channel to send them, since there was no Cell Phone coverage in Rufus cove. Then, I returned to the boat, and put up the tarp for some shade, and enjoyed the anchorage.

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Another awesome sunset, with lots of colors on the rocks:

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I'm on my own tonight. Dinner is potatoes. In the anchorage, its still a bit breezy.

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Day 8: Sail from Rufus Cove to Las Vegas Bay

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My goal was to get up early, leave Rufus cove by 7am, sail back to the boat ramp and pull the boat out around 10am. I took off the window covering to let some early morning light in, and I was up by 5:30am. There was some pretty good wind last night in the cove: Average 5.6 knots, max 25.5! I recall a lot of gusts in the 10-13 knot range, and the boat rocked some. During the night, the wind had overturned the kayak! I made coffee, ate breakfast, got things in order and I'm gone by 7:40am.

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Now, the trick is to time my departure during a break in the wind, since I am bow & stern tied to a couple of rocks. I start the motor, wait for a break in the wind . . . . now! I jump into the kayak, row to the stern tie rock, jump ashore, free the rope and quickly row back to the boat. I heave the line into the boat, tie off the kayak, climb aboard, and manage to balance on the bow pulpit, slowly pulling the boat toward the rock I have the bow tied off to. I balance, holding the forestay and manage to get the line off the rock. Then, I push the boat away from the rock, quickly go back to the cockpit, give the motor some gas, to get us out of there. Worked pretty smoothly, and the wind cooperated. Now, I motor toward the channel, lower the swing keel, oh no - a big gust of wind turns the kayak over again! So I pulled the kayak aboard, emptying as much of the water as possible, then I deflated the kayak, and rolled it up and put it inside the boat. 8:10am, once in the channel, up goes the main, with 2 reefs and the storm jib. NOAA wind advisory starting at 10am was for 15-25 knots with gusts to 35. So on a broad reach making 5.6-5.9 knots with 13 knots of wind, clearing the island with the green light about 8:30am. Now its really blowing, still on a broad reach, and at times on the beam. Winds now up to 15-20 knots, and the boat hitting the lot 6's, surfing the waves. Broad reaching, surfing down the waves at 6.7-7.8 knots. Boat speed varies from 5.6 to 6.4 knots, in 14-18 knots of wind. I see a 7.6 knot Peak with 18 knots of wind. Wow! I see the GPS hit 8.0 knots on a 20.5 knot gust! I am 4.2 NM from the boat harbor - Las Vegas Bay/Hemmenway boat harbor. Wind stats 14.4 knots average, 24.8 max. 1 mile to go, 9:45am, near the green mark on the island. Down to 4 knots in 8 knots of wind. 13.6 knots average windspeed. By 10am, I'm outside the breakwater, with the sails down. I sailed 12.5 NM today.

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Wind stats for the whole sail: 13.3 knots average, 24.8 knots max. At 10:15, I get to the dock, cleaned up, dumped the porta potty, unrigged, straightened up the boat, and dried the kayak in the sun. I'm done by noon. I motored to the ramp, backed van down - I sure could use that extension tongue! The van's exhaust pipe is almost in the water. By 2pm, I'm done draining bilges - lots of water! I unloaded the boat, dropped the mast, and left Lake Mead about 3pm.

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I hit the In-n-out burger for late lunch, and left Las Vegas around 5pm. I drove, and drove, and got to Ely NV about 10pm, and treated myself to a stay in the Motel 6, where I took a nice, long, hot shower!

Total trip: 105.7 NM according to the GPS, Hobbs time 8.3 hours on the Outboard, used about 2.5 gallons of gas.

Drive Ely NV to Renton, about 860 miles, 16 hours?

Up at 5:30, left by 7:30am. Drove to Wells NV. Got gas, checked boat - ugh! Water! So I spent some time pumping out, after eating a salad at McD. I made sure the bilges and insides were towel dried, for the Idaho Invasive Species inspection. The station is just north of the NV-ID border. They were very pleasant. They asked a few questions, I filled out the form, then they pressure washed the boat with 140 degree high pressure water. Nice and clean! I wish they'd wash the van too (!) I continued north through ID, OR then on to WA.

Evening Sky near Baker City OR:

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I got to the Yakima Motel Zero (rest area) about 12:30am - time for some ZZZ's!

The truck next to me started a noisy engine at 5:30am, left it running for more than 10 minutes. So I decided it was time to leave. Left at 5:40am, drove home. Nice sunrise, clear over Snoqualmie pass, and I'm home around 8:30am.

What a great trip! I'm ready to go again, maybe next year.
Last edited by jeffd on Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Lake Mead Cruise Report

Postby kuriti » Mon Nov 10, 2014 7:51 am

Thanks Jeff! I literally logged in today because I needed to read a cruise report. I was determined to find one this morning since work sucks and this was perfect. Great write up as usual.

cheers,

kuriti
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Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:17 am


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