A Week Sailing on Lake Diefenbaker
“Watch your head!” my sailing partner Tricia half shouted and half giggled at me.
I quickly dropped down into the hull of the International 420 racing dinghy we were learning to sail, ducking my head so I wouldn’t get knocked out by the swinging boom during the unexpected jibe. This wasn’t the first time Tricia needed to call out to me, warning me about the moving spar.
Eyes wide, we looked at each other and laughed at the close call. Sitting in the stern of the boat, I was charged with manning the rudder and attempting to guide us along the shoreline near the Elbow Harbour Marina at Lake Diefenbaker. From too much wind to not enough, we had been challenged the previous few days while learning the secrets to successful sailing. We were told several times during our on and offshore lessons that sailing is an easy sport to learn yet difficult to master - but that’s what the fun is all about.
Sailing the Saskatchewan Seas
Everyone knows Saskatchewan is a landlocked prairie province (despite the wheat and barley stealing pirates on the river Saskatchewan). Calling Lake Diefenbaker a “Saskatchewan sea” might be a bit of stretch, but it’s a surprisingly perfect location to throw off the bowlines and explore the nearly 800 kilometres of shoreline.
I signed up for a week of sailing lessons with the Saskatchewan Sailing Clubs Association (SSCA) Mobile Sailing School in partnership with the Lake Diefenbaker Yacht Club (LDYC) and Sail Canada. For a prairie girl growing up with rolling wheat fields and structured grid roads, the allure of action on unpredictable waters attracts me. In the past, I’ve learned to surf, pursued scuba diving to a professional level and even attempted windsurfing and kitesurfing. I’ve always secretly fantasized about selling everything, buying a sailboat and setting off to explore the world’s oceans and coastlines.
But happily, I don’t need to go very far from home to get my fix for adventure on the water.
Summer Sailing CoursesMany people I mentioned the sailing course to were surprised. Most didn’t know sailing was something you can do in Saskatchewan or that there are several organized clubs actively promoting the sport. But the LDYC has been around for more than 40 years. There’s even a waiting list of more than 100 people hoping to snag a seasonal moor for their sailboat at the Lakeside Marina.
Throughout the summer months, the SSCA goes around to more than half a dozen different lakes including Last Mountain Lake, Blackstrap, Emma Lake, Candle Lake and Redberry Lake, teaching people of all ages how to sail.
During my week long course, there were two pre-teen girls (and their mom) learning the ropes so they could help their dad on the family sailboat. A couple from Indian Head had recently bought a sailboat in Guatemala and were hoping to learn what they needed before spending the winter in warmer weather. For the rest of us, we were just curious about sailing and wanted to try something new.
After five days on the water, countless laughs and a growing passion for a new adventure sport, my only questions at the end of it all were: Who has a second-hand sailboat for sale and who wants to come with?
Set Sail: A week of sailing lessons with nationally certified Sail Canada instructors is very affordable, ranging from $110 to $250 depending on the local club. For more information, check out the Saskatchewan Sailing Clubs Association website.
Author & photographer: Ashlyn GeorgeAshlyn George lives for travel and outdoor adventures and manages to make it happen full-time by moonlighting as a digital media content creator and motivational speaker. She’s also a former Saskatchewanderer. A prairie girl to her roots, you can find her online at The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World.