Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sailing the Great Salt Lake

When you hear about fun stuff people have done in Utah, the Great Salt Lake just does not come up. Having lived in Utah for over five years, there are a couple of things I have learned about the lake. First, it stinks. Approximately once a fortnight the wind shifts such that the aroma of the lake is perceptible in the city. It's never really that bad, but it's enough to make the unaccustomed think "what is that smell?"

Today, however, was the day that all prejudices were put aside. My buddy Mike invited me to go sailing on his boat in the Great Salt Lake. What the hell, I've been on an adventure streak and there was no reason for me to break it. This was to be an evening sailing outing. Mike, who does not often mention his sailing adventures, decided that the wind might just be good enough.

We arrived at the Salt Lake Marina with plenty of daylight left in the sky. Suprisingly, there was no line at the boat ramp, so went right to work putting the boat in the water. Equipped with a swimsuit, two water bottles, sunscreen, and no fucking clue, I set foot in the Great Salt Lake for the first time. As it turns out, Mike knew what he was doing (of course), and so before I knew it we were sailing. Now, by "sailing" I mean that I was sitting on the bow rowing with a kayak paddle while Mike operated the rudder.

Before continuing with the story, some description of the Salt Lake Marina is in order. The marina is located on the South end of the Great Salt Lake just off of I-80. There is a protected bay with docks holding a hundred odd boats. All but two or three of these boats are sailboats. The most interesting characteristic of the marina is that it smells like raw sewage due to the rotting brine shrimp carcasses filling up the top six inches of water.

Mike commented that this was the worst that the marina had ever smelled. I tend to recall the lake being slightly more vile when I had the occasion to be near the lake a couple years ago for a Third Eye Blind concert at Saltaire, but that could have been the stench growing stenchier in my mind with passing years.

Eventually I applied enough strokes to get us out of the marina and onto the open water. The stink diminished markedly at this point, but the overall nastiness of the lake was still quite strong.

Oh yeah, I have forgotten to mention another very important property of the Great Salt Lake. I must have repressed this one. There are brine flies all over. The brine fly, or ephydra riparia, congregates with millions of its brethren atop the surface of the Great Salt Lake. From my observations, the flies tend to achieve their densest congregations on top of what appears to be feces floating the water. In this particular situation, upwards of ten thousand flies may be landed on the same quarter inch diameter piece of shit floating in the water. These flies have the positive property that they do not seem to bite. They also suffer from the negative property that they love to land on human bodies and creep around on your skin.

Also, this post would be wholly incomplete without a description of the brine shrimp. In the Great Salt Lake, there are approximately a jillion brine shrimp. They are small, white (when alive), and don't do much. When peering into the water, you do find yourself thinking "so this is what it would look like if the entire population of Utah blew a snot-rocket into the Great Salt Lake."

So back to the open water. Well, we did not get far; the wind was not blowing. A couple of times it gusted enough that I could perceive movement, but for the most part nada. The only logical thing for us to do at that point was to drink beer while swimming in the lake! Remember that this isn't fresh water and it isn't even the ocean; this is supersaturated brine and thus the buoyancy is outstanding! For reference, when standing straight up in the water, my head and neck were out of the water without me doing anything about it. Suspending the reality that I was in a cess pool, this was a pretty awesome experience.

A couple beers and a lot of paddling later, my adventure on the Great Salt Lake came to an end. All that was left to do was eat tasty mexican food at the Taqueria Lolita. Mmmmm, costillas de puerco...

1 comment:

Naytron said...

Was just looking up GSL sailing :)
Even as nasty as you pointed out the lake Can be... it has its own beauty to it. I quite enjoy it.

Nice post!