Sailing the High Seas…..of the Rocky Mountains

Sailing on Dillon Reservoir with Captain Ed

Sailing on Dillon Reservoir with Captain Ed

For many years, as I would zip down Interstate 70 on my way to assorted mountain destinations outside of Denver, I would look out over Dillon Reservoir. I saw the little sailboats plying the blue waters of the lake and wonder what it would be like to navigate a sailboat on a body of water high in the Colorado Rockies.

I got my chance to experience sailing in the Rockies when we were invited to stay at our friends’ condo in Silverthorne. Ed learned to sail a couple of years ago and now belongs to the Why Buy Club where, for a reasonable annual fee, he has access to a fleet of six-person sailboats. As a member of the club, Ed can check-out a boat whenever he likes, subject to availability.  He managed to get a boat reserved for Friday afternoon, so we packed up the car and headed up the highway to the reservoir.

We arrived at the marina at 1:00. Being a typical June afternoon, it was inevitable there would be storm clouds brewing, which could make the sailing a bit hazardous. While we waited to see what Mother Nature had up her sleeve, we went ahead and prepared the boat.

I never realized how complicated sailing can be, even on a small boat such as this. Ed gave us a briefing on how things worked, which included assorted terminology, such as the main, the jib, the sheet, the traveler, and other fundamental parts of the boat, most of which I forgot five minutes after he told us. As we were getting things ready, the one ominous storm cloud we had been keeping our eyes on appeared to veer around Dillon Reservoir so we decided it was safe to do a quick sail around the lake. We cast off from the dock under the power of a small outboard motor. Within minutes, we shut down the motor, hoisted the main sail, and away we went.

Enjoying the sail on Dillon Reservoir

Enjoying the sail on Dillon Reservoir

There were few boats on the lake on this Friday afternoon. We did watch the Silverthorne Water Taxi transport passengers between the Dillon and Frisco marinas and thought what a great way that was to get from one side of the lake to the other. You can even take your bike aboard and ride back to your starting point.

The winds kept shifting in multiple directions which proved a bit of a challenge for Ed to keep the sail pointed in the right direction. Still, the breeze was light enough for him to handle the boat by himself. We didn’t move very fast in the gentle wind, which was fine by us. It was really relaxing sitting there floating across the lake taking in the view of the surrounding mountains.

As tends to happen in the Colorado Rockies, the weather quickly changed and the skies began to cloud up again. Without warning, Ed turned the boat around and told us to quickly bring the main sail down. He noticed a thin line of disturbance going across the water that indicated a huge gust of wind approaching. We got the sail down just as the wind blasted across our bow and white caps formed on the water. A seasoned crew probably could have adjusted the sail quickly and weathered the gust, but since the other three of us passengers were more ballast than crew, Ed felt it was probably safer just to get the sail down before the wind changed.  We secured the sail and motored back to the dock in a light rain.

It was a very brief, and somewhat turbulent, first time experience sailing in Colorado. Still, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon in the mountains.

Tidying up the boat after our sail

Tidying up the boat after our sail


About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company ( After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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