Cruising: Name That Bay
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Outside magazine, June 1995
Cruising: Name That Bay
Playing pioneer on Canada’s Great Slave Lake
If you’re a sailor who secretly wishes you could have been there first–to slap your name on every bay, island, and headland in sight–you’ll be happy to know that you weren’t born too late. Just head north to Great Slave Lake, a vast body of water 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories, where thousands of islands
But that’s not the only reason to explore Great Slave Lake. This is a wilderness boating experience that’s hard to match in North America. You won’t find marinas, crowded harbors, or clam bars. You will, however, float on clear water clean enough to drink (and cold enough to chill your wine in minutes) and navigate through passageways lined with cliffs carved from Precambrian
Summertime cruising conditions are as good as it gets. The lake is ice-free from the summer solstice until late September. Midsummer temperatures reach the eighties. A dominant high pressure system keeps rain away, and the blackflies and mosquitoes that plague much of the north country steer clear as well. The lake is large enough to create its own winds, which blow at an ideal
Great Slave Lake’s safest waters and most spectacular scenery are in its East Arm, a region designated as one of Canada’s next national parks. Its twisting channels lead past pine forests, waterfalls, occasional green meadows and marshlands, and a few fishing camps and communities of Dene Indians. Chances are you’ll have every anchorage to yourself.
A weeklong trip starts in Yellowknife, where you’ll board your charter. Some 50 nautical miles away, in Devil’s Channel, you’ll pass bald eagle and loon nesting areas en route to Goulet Bay, where you can troll for trout, pike, and grayling, and then grill your catch on the beach. Out in Hearne Channel, you’ll skirt Blanchet Island’s 600-foot cliffs on the way to Nipin Bay,
Sail North (403-873-8019) offers crewed charters on the Gandalf IV, a 42-foot sloop that takes up to five passengers (five-night cruises, $715 per person; seven nights, $1,000, including all meals, sailing instruction, and flight back to Yellowknife). If you’d prefer to head out on your own, charter a 26-foot cabin cruiser for a week ($1,180, not