Sunday, August 09, 2015

Grand Tetons National Park boating

This summer we have been traveling, towing our boat to new locations.  We started at Holter Reservoir, near Helena, Montana, then on to McDonald Lake in Glacier National Park, and, from there, onward to Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  With the concern about invasive aquatic species, the boat has been inspected numerous times as we traveled from lake to lake.  In Wyoming, Montana, and Glacier N.P. the inspections were free.  In Idaho we were charged for a state sticker but received no inspection.  Then we traveled to Grand Tetons National Park.  There we first had a park entry fee, then a boat inspection, then an aquatic invasive species sticker $30 payment, a boat entry fee payment ($40 season's pass only), then a $35 per day slip fee.  We then discovered that another boat was already tied up in our assigned slip.  It was almost sundown before we were able to launch and tie up in our assigned slip.  We were wondering if all the cost and hassle was worth it.  But, as we motored out onto the lake next morning, all our concerns faded.  The Grand Tetons have to be one of the most scenic mountain ranges on earth.  Steep, jagged peaks still with visible snow fields in mid-summer.  The mountains end right at the lake's edge; the shores are covered in undisturbed dense forest.  As we went out onto the main lake, I recorded a reverse compass bearing of the entrance to the cove where our dock was so that we could find our way back to it.  Jackson Lake is about 15 miles long by 7 miles wide with over a dozen islands and located at a high altitude of about 6800'.  From a distance, the shoreline blends into continuous forest.

We spent the next three days exploring the lake (as well as hiking).  The water is clear, cold, and deep (almost 450 feet).  Few other boats were encountered.  We went water skiing briefly (no wet suit).  The Tetons, especially Mt. Moran, kept attracting us like moths-to-a-candle with its high, rugged prominence and partially snow (glacier?) clad slopes.  The peaks were so picture-perfect they seemed like something computer-generated out of a movie.  The weather was cool and calm which meant very few waves.
We met my brother and his wife at the lake.  They have a 27' Sea Ray cruiser, twin engine, 430 hp, so we cruised the lake together, stopping in quiet coves for lunch.  I had mounted a 13" pitch propeller on my boat which provided extremely quick acceleration and a top speed of 33-34 mph.  We had a full tank of gas (18 gallons) because we spent hours exploring away from any harbor.  My brother, Jay, commented that he had never skied behind a boat which pulled him out of the water so quickly (and he has been skiing for 50+ years).  I could have easily mounted a 15" pitch prop which would have provided more speed.  My wife, Dawn, also enjoyed the boat handling, such as making high-speed circles, banking into the turns and creating a large wake.  It rained several times, mainly at night, but our full canvas enclosure kept the boat interior completely dry.

At this point, I am completely satisfied with my boat's performance.  The secret to success in this case is the strong but light-weight construction of the boat.  Modern wood/epoxy/glass construction provides a water-tight, monocoque, composite structure which is significantly lighter than normal fiberglass.  I should add that the boat tows on its trailer so easily that you can almost forget that it is there.  We towed on the highway at 80 mph or better when allowed.  Our SUV still got decent fuel efficiency, 16-18 mpg.  One thing needs to be addressed: I originally wanted to paint the topsides but was encouraged to finish it clear to show the wood grain.  Now the "clear" finish is becoming slightly opaque and uneven in color.  Before next boating season, I hope to sand and paint the topsides.  A black color, to match the deck edge, would be the most obvious choice, but I would prefer a lighter color to not absorb so much sunlight.