With seven major ski resorts and around 400 inches of snow annually, the Lake Tahoe area is known for its skiing more than its boating opportunities. But one of the best ways to enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains is from the lake itself. The water is something to see as well. Lake Tahoe has some of the clearest water in the world. The Secchi depth test, which involves dropping a dinner-plate-sized disc into the water to see how far down it can be seen, shows that it is still possible to see 70-feet down. You’ll watch house-size boulders slide by far below you as you cruise the shoreline of the lake.
While there are many ways to take to the lake, including paddleboat tours and the faster motorboat rides, there is nothing quite as peaceful as sailing on a catamaran. Once away from the dock the engines are cut and the wind does all the work, leaving passengers with the sound of their own voices, the flapping of the sails and the slapping of the gentle waves against the hull. You can add to that the clink of wine glasses as you toast the natural beauty around you.
Watch the shoreline and you might see some wildlife. Look up and you’ll see mountains in every direction, covered with the green of pine forests and the gray of huge slabs of granite. And even in the middle of summer you might spot a few patches of snow up on the higher slopes. You will see some beautiful homes along the way as well, and you might also learn a bit of history about the lake and the area, since most cruises provide a narrated tour as part of the trip.
There are a couple good choices for catamaran cruises, and they each have something different to offer. The Woodwind II, for example, operating out of Zephyr Cove, Nevada, has indoor space, something you might want if there is a chance of rain, or if the day is chilly. They also have two underwater observation windows. They offer several different kinds of cruises during the season, which runs from mid-April to mid-October. The sunset cruises typically include free wine and beer, and there are lunch cruises as well.
The Sierra Cloud Catamaran, operated by the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort south of Incline Village, Nevada, is an all-outdoor affair. It has a nice deck with a solid floor covering much of the boat, but if you’re feeling more adventurous you’ll want to find a spot to sit or lay back on the “trampoline,” which is to the front. Here you’ll see the water rushing by below you as the boat sails along. Be careful moving around there, because it can be a bit bouncy, especially if there are some waves. In either part of the boat attendants will bring you a selection of wines, beers and delicious snacks, all of which is included in the price.
Both of these companies offer private charters as well. If you want a unique wedding reception or just a party for a few dozen friends, you can’t do much better than sailing in the mountains whole enjoying wine and cheese.
If You Go
Both of these catamarans are 55-feet long, and very safe, but big bodies of water are never entirely predictable, so persons with mobility problems should stay away from the “trampoline” area in case rough waters are encountered. Attendants will assist anyone who needs help with embarking and disembarking.
Bring a jacket or sweater even if it is a warm day. Tahoe is one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. At 6,225 feet above sea level a chilly breeze is a possibility anytime of the year, especially out on the water.
A two-hour catamaran cruise will generally run between $65 and $85, but call to see what is currently offered by each company. For much of the summer of 2014, for example, The Sierra Cloud Catamaran has special $70 cruises that include live music.
The Woodwind II: 760 U.S. 50, Zephyr Cove-Round Hill Village, Nevada 775-588-1881
The Sierra Cloud Catamaran: 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, Nevada 775-832-1234 (Ask for the concierge at the Hyatt Regency.)