Bird Island

Even before I started building my first boat my girls were fascinated about the stories I told about visiting the various islands of Moses Lake, Washington, where I grew up.  Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around paddling, rowing, or sailing to Goat Herd Island or Marsh Island, and my girls were intrigued by the idea of following in my footsteps and visiting an island of their own.

Well, this Saturday that wish finally became a reality.

Abby, Eliza, and Stella plant the "Earl" flag on Bird Island.
Abby, Eliza, and Stella plant the “Earl” flag on Bird Island.

Utah Lake has one island, appropriately named as Bird Island.  It is almost exactly 2.5 miles due North from the Lincoln Beach Marina.  That puts it at just about 10 miles due South from Lindon Beach (actually I believe the official name is “Vineyard Beach”) where we usually launch.  Ten miles in a Puddle Duck is officially a long haul, and a 20 mile round trip would require perfect conditions, and a much better skipper than Nephi’s Courage has.  That didn’t stop me, on previous trips, from telling the girls that we were headed to Bird Island, but it did make it highly unlikely that we would actually reach our destination.  Our last outing we left from Utah Lake State Park, in part because it was much closer to Bird Island (It’s only just over 5 miles from Bird Island).  This should give you an idea as to how optimistic I am.  It is almost embarrassing how naive I can be sometimes.  We barely made it half way before having to turn around,

However, my children still were intent on trying for Bird Island, and so when we got the green light from KaeLynn to go boating again this last weekend I knew that we had to give ourselves the best possible chance of actually achieving the goal.  So we packed up the boats and head for Lincoln Beach Marina.

Bird’s eye view of Utah Lake featuring all of the relevant landmarks.  As you can see from the scale down the in the lower left corner, Utah Lake is a pretty big lake.

People that launch boats on Utah Lake probably already know about the Lincoln Beach Marina.  If you own a boat, live in Utah County, and you don’t know about Lincoln Beach Marina you should become informed.  The Lincoln Beach Marina had lots of parking, a nice wide boat ramp, restroom facilities, and available camping.  Best of all, it was all free.  Second best of all the restroom facilities weren’t closed.  It was a bit of a drive, but we will probably launch from there again.  It is certainly not as close to us as Vineyard Beach, but the addition of restrooms, and the fact that the parking is much closer to the actual launch area probably means that I can be in the water faster.  I can certainly do it with less actual work.  To me, that seems like a win.

My crew on this particular Saturday consisted of my three youngest daughters, Eliza, Abigail, and Stella.  My two oldest children, Brooklyn and Zachary, were unable to make the trip, and KaeLynn hurt herself this last week, and needed to stay home and rest.  Both Brooklyn and Zachary have a lot going on, and it isn’t unusual for them to have conflicts due to soccer, dance, choir, or some other very worthwhile activity.  It is fun to see them turn into little adults with their own activities and schedules, even when this means that our family outings end up a bit short handed.  To be honest, Brooklyn shares many of the same prejudices about water as her mother.  Both KaeLynn and Brooklyn are very distrustful of water where you can’t see the bottom, and Utah Lake is about as opaque as it is possible to be.  If either of these women are at the lake with me, it is almost certainly a sign of their great affection for me, and not because they are particularly keen to be there.

The girls played in the water near the shore while I set up the sailboat.  Setting up the sail boat takes way too long.  Nephi’s Courage, has all sorts of fancy rigging (at least for a pdracer), most of which has to be set up from scratch every time we go sailing.   I have a separate (boring) article I am hoping to finish soon, where I talk about design decisions in depth, so I won’t talk more about his here.  In this particular case it worked out all right.  The girls were more than happy to play near the shore while I set up the Puddle Duck.  Lincoln Beach Marina does not have a truly proper sandy beach, but the girls were happy to play in the mud.  As an added bonus lady bugs (one of the two or three insects my girls are not afraid of) were swarming in large numbers.  The girls spent the down time capturing the insects and putting them in their mud castle.

Soon enough, however, the Nephi’s Courage was rigged and ready to launch.  The harbor at this marina is very narrow, and so I elected to row out and then raise the sail.  Because there was also a fair amount of motor boat traffic I tied the mouse boat behind so I could tow it out.  Eliza got in the mouse boat, and Abby and Stella took up their positions in the Puddle Duck, and soon enough we were out of the harbor.

Under weigh towards Bird Island. Which reminds me. I still need to get an anchor and set up an anchoring system.
Under weigh towards Bird Island. Which reminds me, I still need to get an anchor and set up an anchoring system.  Eliza took this picture from the mouse boat while being towed behind.
We got some pictures of Eliza too. If you look closely you will see that she is trying to get a bit of a nap.
We got some pictures of Eliza too. If you look closely you will see that she is trying to get a bit of a nap.

The wind was pretty strong the entire time we were sailing, but it shifted direction constantly.  The first part of the journey the wind was primarily out of the North, and it was an upwind slog for the first hour or so.  Abby and Stella had a good time sitting on the bow of the boat and scooping ladybugs out of the water.  Ladybugs were everywhere.  Then the wind shifted to the West and things got a lot more interesting.  We started to make what was for us very good time.  More importantly Eliza got the best video to date of Nephi’s Courage under sail.

Abby also got in some gripping videography.  She’s getting quite a bit better at filming  It is possible that you won’t even get sick if you watch this.

This distances involved in a sail to Bird Island are not really that far, unless you are in a Puddle Duck pulling a mouse boat.  However, with a fair wind even we were able to go over 3MPH.  Soon enough I was lowering the sail and rowing up on to the shore of Bird Island.

Hopefully disturbing the birds is not illegal or something…

We didn’t stay very long on the island.  For one thing there wasn’t really much to do.  For another, I felt bad disturbing the birds.  Gulls were everywhere, but there were also white pelicans at the ends of the island, and I was a little afraid that the island was a bird sanctuary or something.  Plus, the wind had shifted to the South and now we would be facing an upwind slog back to the marina.  On the way home all four of us rode in the Puddle Duck, and we towed the mouse boat back empty.

Lots of songs were sung.

The wind shift was especially concerning because I wasn’t entirely sure where the marina was, and it was starting to get a bit late.  I forgot to put a waypoint in the GPS, and I had never sailed on this part of the lake before.  In the end we made fairly good time back, despite my worries.  I did have to lower the sails and row into the marina.  The wind had shifted (again), and tacking up the narrow channel was well beyond my skill as a skipper.

With clean up and everything else we didn’t make it home until nearly 7:30 PM after nearly 8 hours of travel (both in car and boat).  That left just enough time to go to Baskin Robbins before putting the girls to bed.

It was a GREAT day.  I can’t wait to do it again.

Did you like reading about this adventure?  My family and I did a repeat of the trip later on that year.

2 responses to “Bird Island”

  1. That was an epic post with the best videos ever. Eliza’s steady hand with the camera in the Mouse boat was truly impressive. Abby’s burrito song had us singing and laughing. Seagull eggs? There’s something you don’t see every day. Thanks for posting!