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Sailing Story: Kristie Hepburn

Finding Flathead’s Calming Waters: Kristie Hepburn’s Sailing Story

Go Sail Flathead Instructor

Kristie Hepburn grew up under Montana’s big sky and alongside the state’s crystal clear waters. Yet interestingly, it wasn’t until she moved to America’s largest city that she found her love of sailing. 

“I was not one of those that grew up in a yacht club or grew up on a lake,” she laughed. Instead, it was a colleague that took sailing classes on the Hudson River in New York City who first introduced her to the world of sailing. 

Kristie immediately loved how sailing took her out of the concrete jungle, with its stifling summer heat and humidity. “Just being able to leave the marina and be out on the water where it was cooler and you could feel the wind on your face– it was just a big sigh of relief,” she said.

Each weekend, Kristie and her late husband would head out on a boat, circling the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island along the way. Eventually she joined the racing team, sailing on weekdays too. 

However, by 2015 Kristie could feel Montana calling her home.In 5 years, she promised herself she would be back in the Big Sky state. On a trip back to her home state a year later, Kristie found herself in the Flathead Valley. Even though she had only visited the area briefly as a child on a trip to Glacier National Park, she quickly fell in love with Flathead Lake and the Whitefish area on her visit. 

Kristie moved back to Montana in 2021. With such a small sailing community, it didn’t take her long to find Go Sail Flathead Lake and become a trusted instructor and captain. In 2022, Kristie began working as an instructor for Go Sail Flathead Lake in her first “formal” teaching role.

Kristie had informally taught new members of her racing team how to sail in New York City, however, she noted that teaching in Dayton has been a much more laid back experience. “[I am] creating that excitement around sailing opposed to saying this is the way you have to do it to round that mark,” Kristie explained. 

However, it isn’t just the sailing that’s more laid back at Flathead Lake. The entire sailing experience is more relaxing. “[In New York City] you have the commercial ferries, the various tour operators, the ferries between New Jersey and New York and commercial traffic in the form of tankers,” Kristie explained. “Out there in Dayton you run into one other boat and that’s it. It’s very calm out here.”

Kristie said the laid back atmosphere makes Flathead Lake a great place for beginners to learn to sail or seasoned captains to learn new skills. “On Dayton, you can take your time and really take the time to figure out ‘when is that breeze going to hit my sail and what am I going to do when the breeze does hit my sail?’” Kristie said. 

By comparison she was on constant alert sailing on the Hudson River. She remembered panicking when the winds died down, worried she might get in a larger boat’s way. 

“[On Flathead Lake you] become a little more confident in that you can try out something and not worry about getting in the way,” she explained. 

For Kristie, the time spent on the calm, Flathead waters gives her more time to do what she loves most.. “I have always loved sitting on the rail of the boat, feeling the wind on my face,” she laughed. “I feel like a dog with his head stuck out the window of a truck!” 

You can schedule a class with Kristie here. ASA 101 Keelboat