Kudos need to be extended to Sean Thornton's (new this year) WIND APP - Windy Lookout. Bonneville was out on Utah Lake, May 6, 2020, from 4:30 PM until 7:30 PM. There were strong winds forecast for that time so we were prepared with a storm jib hanked on and ready to reef the main as soon as we got out. This would be Noah's second "Learn to Sail" lesson. In Noah's own words, he was..."a rookie". Little did Noah realize that by the time we returned to the slip that day, he would be a battle hardened veteran.
Crossing the lake on a beam reach was actually pretty smooth. Our course would take us close to the Knolls on the west side of Utah Lake. Boat speeds would frequently spike into the 6 knot range. We were able to identify cars on Redwood road, which I figured would be close enough to shore on the west side, plus I would like to get back to Provo around 7:30 PM. Noah pulled off a great tack as we swung the boat around on our new heading towards home base.
The sky was a clear blue...except I noticed that the Point of the Mountain was NOT THERE. A line of "white" actually extended from Alpine (on the east), across the north end of the lake, to Saratoga (on the west). If you were sailing on the ocean, I suppose you could call this a "White Squall".
Around 6:45 PM, I received a Windy Lookout alarm on my IPhone. "Strong winds coming from the Lehi / Saratoga area, 35 MPH, heading to the south" came in as a text message. For Noah's lesson #2, that means we are going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. We have a brief game plan, as this white squall continues to spread across the lake. With storm jib quickly stuffed half way into its deck bag, we get clobbered. The main is let out as our boat speed increases to over 7 knots. Whoa Nellie! Another game plan is discussed as to what to do once we reach the mouth of the harbor. We head up into the wind and waves, to drop the main sail. It felt like we were in a rodeo, with the boat out of the water as much as it was in.
Approaching the ULSP harbor entrance, a State DNR rescue boat is heading out onto the lake. We still have to concentrate on getting in to the protected harbor and the slip. Huge waves are crashing against the close-by jetty rocks. A steering mistake here could be disastrous. Coming in to the inner harbor, there are Search and Rescue vehicles along the north jetty road. They are just launching a large Zodiac inflatable rescue boat on the east ramp. But I have to concentrate on getting Hau Kea safely into it's slip.
Sadly, I learned the next morning that two teenage girls were swimming/tubing in the Knoles area when this white squall hit, and could have been in the same area where we were. It saddens me deeply to think there may have been a possibility to help them, had we been looking for someone in the water.
If Utah Lake had a facility that monitored VHF 16, and if we, as a sailing/boating community would monitor VHF 16, maybe help for those in need could be rendered. The Great Salt Lake sailing community monitors VHF 16, as does Bear Lake, Strawberry Lake, Lake Powell. We often have fatalities when there is a strong wind event like this on Utah Lake.
And without having the Winy Lookout App, we would not have brought our storm jib down when we did. I know this helped us keep Hau Kea under control in overpowering wind conditions.
Windy Lookout is a big step in the right direction, but if safety is really an issue, more, much more could be done. Can we please have a dialogue about the possibilities?
Is anyone out there listening?
Visit our Facebook page for video of this wind event.
Bonneville School of Sailing