2024 West Coast Wētā Midwinters - Lake Mohave, NV

Drying off in the afternoon sun on Saturday

April 18th, 2024

5 Wētās entered. 4 Attended/sailed:

149 Don Ardine and daughter Olivia (North Las Vegas, NV)
276 Bruce Fleming (San Diego, CA)
371 Dale Werkema (Henderson, NV and Corvallis, OR)
375 Peter Karlsberg (Camarillo, CA)

Lake Mohave is a couple of hours’ drive from the greater Las Vegas area, for Don and Dale. It was a long 300 mile, (5+ Hour) drive for Peter and Bruce, and we had interesting weather on the way: high winds, thunderstorms with hail, and snow in the mountain passes. All of us survived a rough 6 miles from Searchlight, NV, to 6 Mile Cove on the lake, on a washboard road of sand and gravel that took 40 minutes to traverse. I don’t know how my boat and trailer survived the constant bouncing and shaking. That 6 miles was just as bad on the drive home, but the rest was fine. 

The landscape of Lake Mohave basin, on the Colorado River, about 50 miles downstream from the Hoover Dam, is stark, desolate, and stunning. The water flows directly from the bottom of the dam through the Black Canyon wilderness to the lake, but doesn’t appreciably heat up during journey, so it was chilly, probably the low 50s. 

Six Mile Cove is a rustic camp area. You have to pack in everything you need. There are open/unmarked camp sites with only vault toilets. Zero cell service. The trade off: a spectacular night sky, and the midnight silence was broken only by the breeze in the scrub brush and a resident coyote yipping and howling for attention from the others far away.

As the storms subsided on Friday night, the wind blew from the west at 10-15 with a few gusts to 20, and then died by about 3 a.m. We woke to a clear sky and a moderate southerly breeze on Saturday and got in one race, but then it glassed off. The PRO sent us back to the beach and we had lunch and beers as the chop subsided and the lake became a millpond. The RC finally called off further racing for the day at about 2 p.m.The wind came back up a little after 3:00, and by 4:00 3 of us Wētās and a couple Hobies were back on the water, enjoying the afternoon breeze.

The Hobie Fleet 51 organizers fed us breakfasts and dinners, and hosted a raffle of some unique prizes, with the grand prize being a new beach cruiser hybrid bicycle. This was their 13th year doing this event, and it ran smoothly. They were friendly and welcomed us Wētās with open arms. By the end of the day on Sunday, I had fielded questions from a couple veteran Hobie sailors who might be interested in getting a Wētā. Next year, we’ll should plan to invite interested parties to go for rides. We might be able to get a few to jump ship and get a Wētā.

Sunday dawned with a glassy smooth lake, and a few of us were counting the minutes to 11:00 when we’d pull the trigger and start de-rigging to get an early start on the drive home. Wouldn’t you know it, just as the organizers predicted, the wind appeared on the south end of the lake and progressed across in about 30 minutes. The boats got rigged and launched, and we got racing a little bit after Noon. The wind filled in at about 10-12, and gradually built to 15 by the third race. I retired, but Dale stuck around for 1 last race.

The Hobie fleet consisted of 10-12 Hobie 16s, a lone Hobie or Nacra 20, and 12 Hobie Waves. Those underpowered tubby boats appeared to have the most competitive bunch, and there was quite a heated disagreement on the beach between two racers in the group. I was concerned they would come to blows, and relieved to see they chose to back away from each other.  Lessons: Learn the rules, understand them, and admit you can be wrong. Call out an offending boat on the course, and file a protest if they don’t do their circles. Leave the disagreements on the water or in the protest hearing.

Race 1 on Saturday: I got a clear start and held the lead all the way around the course. Peter had a late start and was finished on the course by the RC. Don and Olivia weren’t able to shake out some kinks on their boat to start with us.

Race 2 (Sunday): I got a terrible start (15 seconds late?) and several boat lengths behind Dale, but managed to get ahead by the end of the first lap. Peter was closer, and Don and Olivia were a bit further behind.

Here are some highlights (Race 2) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuMlpIeUlSs

Race 3: Dale and I duked it out at the start, and he gained a windward position to cover me. I footed off to get fresh air and took longer, lower tacks to reel him in near the windward mark. (By this point in the regatta, I had found that sailing a single tack to the middle of the lake definitely yielded better wind on the windward legs, and faster reaches to leeward. Dale chose to sail to the shore side of the course several times but didn’t find an advantage there.) I took a better line to the leeward gate and rounded ahead for one more lap. Peter was closer following us this time. Peter and Don and Olivia had retired.

Here are some highlights (Race 3) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh_1drGtQbU

Race 4: Another terrible start, nearly 30 seconds late, but so was Dale! I managed to beat him to the windward mark again, and keep the lead for the rest of the race.

Race 5: I went in before the start, to begin packing my boat for the drive home, so Dale was the sole Wētā to start, and of course that means he finished with a bullet. 

Final standings:

1.      Bruce
2.      Dale
3.      Peter
4.      Don and Olivia

Heading to any new event or venue can be an adventure, and with the crazy weather at the beginning this was definitely one. It turned out to be a really fun weekend and I’m already looking forward to returning next year. Although camping in a tent was okay, I’m going to look into renting an RV for the creature comforts it provides.

Bruce Fleming
Wētā 276, AKAHELE!
San Diego, CA

Photos Bruce Fleming

That white stuff is SNOW on the western sides of the Joshua trees

Wide shot of 6 Mile Cove, looking east to Lake Mohave

Dinner around the fire, Saturday Night

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