Well I have been in the Kootenays for almost 6 years now. I have realized since moving Spindrift out here from Montreal that there are several things I wish I had known about boating in the area before I moved out here. Or, more specifically, before I moved Spindrift out here!

So, since I am finding myself with some time to reflect, here’s a list of the things I wish I had known…

Where are all the boat lifts?

Yes, that is correct. There are no boat lifts on Kootenay Lake. None. Nada. Zilch. So for someone like me who has moved from an area full of marinas with loads of services, this was a bit of a shock. Well maybe not a shock, but definitely a bit of a challenge. So, how did I handle launching Spindrift without a boat lift? Well, you can read all about that little adventure here. It took some finesse, and creativity, but we got it done! Now, just to figure out my mast maintenance without a lift…

Where does all the poop go?

Until recently there was no pump-out station on Kootenay Lake. I actually called Environment Canada when we first moved here to confirm that Kootenay Lake was actually grandfathered for discharging waste overboard, and to my shock, it is. Actually, all inland lakes in BC are. Fortunately, the Kootenay Lake Sustainable Boating Society recently installed a pump out station at the Prestige Marina. It is only $10 to pump out your waste and it saves it from mucking up our beautiful waterway. Hooray!

Why are there so many swing keels?

It is widely agreed that a fixed keel performs better than a swing keel. Also, there is quite a bit of maintenance required for a swing keel (winches, cables, etc.), that you do not need to worry about if you have a fixed keel. And so, when I moved out to the Kootenays I was surprised by how many boats had swing keels. Again, back east most 24’+ boats have a fixed keel so I thought what is the deal? Well, when I picked up my Kootenay Lake charts and started looking for anchorages, I realized the joke was on me. Out here we are either in 50′ of water, or 3′ of water. Neither of which are optimal for anchoring, nor are they optimal for Spindrift‘s draft. Sigh.

Where does the water go…

When I fist arrived in Nelson I was warned about the Spring run-off and the fluctuating lake water levels. Well, I’m used to the Atlantic tides such as the Bay of Fundy, so how much can an inland lake really fluctuate? By God, they were not joking! I have had Spindrift stuck at the dock twice now. Once in the Fall at Kokanee Marina, and once in the Spring at Prestige Marina! I cannot win! This year I pulled her out for some maintenance over the winter, so I won’t get stuck in the muck… but will I be able to get her back in to start my 2021 season? That is a good question…

Where the hell did that wind come from?

Once again being from back East we can watch weather come towards us for hours. I was told that Kootenay Lake creates the best sailors because of the mountain effect. Well, that is quite true! All too often I will be teaching points of sail to students heading in one direction, only to have the wind pull a 180 and then I have to flip it all around! It is GREAT for learning how to become an intuitive sailor. You really have to use your senses to feel the wind and have a keen eye to watch the wind dancing on the water, but it is a little confusing for my first-timers!

It takes how long to get parts?

And finally, for the most part we have many amenities out here and several local suppliers who are more than happy to help us sailors order in parts. However, I have found that it takes quite a bit of research to make sure you get what you need. You also need to factor in shipping times as when you need to do a “quick” boat project (ie the unicorn of the sailing world that actually does not exist), you can’t just walk down to the local chandlery to scout out supplies. It’s all good though. I’m having fun trolling catalogues and asking local shops for their opinions!

Overall there is great reward with boating out here in the Koots. It does come with unique “challenges”, but we just have to be a bit more savvy. Like dropping the mast… that’ll be my next post I think!


Captain Penny


  1. Great one Penny, and for a guy who thought all this was normal!
    But I gotta know how did you pull your boat for the repairs you are doing now? Is it the hull you are sanding and fibreglassing or something on the top sides??


    1. Hey Scott! I pulled it out at Kokanee Marina with a trailer… I am doing bottom fiberglassing and minor hull fixes before I put her back in.

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