“Most people aren’t excited about going 5 miles an hour and it’s not everyone’s bag, and that’s OK too,” he said. But – he quipped, “you’ll be happy that you came,” because the water is “so clean and it’s the perfect place to learn.”
Go Sail Flathead Lake is connected to some incredible souls, all of which call the region in and around Flathead Lake, home. One such human is Jim Lekander, former owner of the dock at Dayton. Sometimes it takes one experience to change the direction of a life, and for Jim, that’s exactly what happened with sailing.
In 1970, Jim was skiing in Whitefish, Montana, and as he was riding the lift, he struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to him, who had a sailboat. He was invited on his sailboat, and it was so much fun, that the next fall, Jim ordered his own sailboat, which arrived the following spring. The two sailed together for a decade and were fast friends.
Jim’s knowledge of Dayton and Big Arm Bay is extensive, and if you ask, he will share his wisdom about why Flathead Lake offers some of the best sailing in the world. There is “no better wind” according to Jim, and “no better place” to sail because there isn’t any ship traffic, tides, and obstacles. He compared Flathead Lake to sailing in San Francisco and said it’s more comfortable and more expansive. The lake is 28 miles long and the wind will “teach you how to handle yourself.” The West side of the lake has plenty of places to hide and seek shelter, whereas the North has another bay without consistent wind, and the East, he warned, is not as forgiving as the West because it’s deeper.
“Good wind or your money back,” Jim said and laughed into the phone. Many years ago, when he was marketing the dock he owned in Dayton, that was the slogan he used. Many people don’t realize that Flathead Lake has only frozen entirely 4 times since 1968, and trust me, Jim would know. He’s still getting out and still sailing Flathead Lake where he has a slip. Jim is an honorary member at the North end of the lake, and he is one of the 50 original Charter Members at the North Flathead Lake Yacht Club. He was the 7th one to join, and he’s still active alongside the other 140 current members.
Our conversation focused on the weather and the landscape of Flathead Lake, as well as Jim’s experience in Dayton where he used to own the “old dock” which took years to fill up with sailboats, 98 in total, in fact. He continued to share how incredible the breeze is, even down to the times of day when a person should go out sailing.
Speaking with Jim felt as though he was sharing secrets and information that only a select few know about like I was being admitted into a special club of sorts, without ever having tried the sport. From 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, the breeze is coming off the North of Wild Horse Island on Dayton Bay, and then, the wind reverses from 9 pm to 5 am, so Flathead Lake is prime for not only daytime sailing but night sailing as well. “No clouds equal a great breeze,” he said.
Sailing In Montana is affordable!
Another positive aspect of Flathead Lake is the cost. Compared to other places in the United States and around the world for sailing, Flathead Lake is half the cost of what it would be in other locations to own and maintain a sailboat. There’s the room still for sailing to continue growing on Flathead Lake, and Jim shared that, as an example, a slip on the Great Lakes would cost $5,000 whereas, on Flathead Lake, the cost is half that for a slip and winter storage.
For the folks who prefer not to sail with insects flying around and swatting at them during sailing, you’ll be happy to know that Flathead Lake has far fewer insects due to the large bat colony that calls Flathead Lake home. Jim highly recommends that you venture to Flathead Lake and spend some time on the water.
Go Sail Flathead Lake is a wonderful place to learn, and the school caters to all skill levels. With a team of fantastic instructors, all of which have years of experience sailing, and each brings their experiences on the water to their teaching. When you visit, be sure to take a trip to Dayton to say hello to Jim. No doubt he’ll be able to guide you to the best places to sail on Flathead Lake and explain the unique and special weather patterns and climate of Flathead Lake.