Get prepped for a season of fun By Abigail Thorpe
As the last of the snow starts to melt and the rivers and creeks tumble in to fill Lake Pend Oreille, we’re all turning our eyes to summer and one of the best parts of Sandpoint: lake time! For all of the fun and beauty it offers, winter in North Idaho can be long, and by the time May hits we’re all ready for sunshine, warmth and more time outdoors.
Summer in Sandpoint is full of time on the water, camping, adventures, and time spent with family and friends enjoying all that this area has to offer. But the season can be short, so preparation is key to enjoying a carefree summer and fitting in as much time outdoors as you possibly can. The lake is on the rise, and boat launch season and warm evenings are around the corner, so if you haven’t already, now’s the perfect time to start planning and preparing for your summer adventures, so you don’t take up any of your fun time with last-minute surprises. Here are some ways you can start getting ready now, so you can enjoy the ultimate carefree, fun summer.
Lake Pend Oreille is on the rise, and that means it’s almost time to get out on the water. But whether you’re looking to powerboat, paddleboard or sail this summer, there are a few key things to get started on now so you can take advantage of the season as long as possible.
First things first, if you’re winterizing a boat and haven’t made a summerization appointment with your boat mechanic already, now’s the time.
If you need to have your boat serviced and launched, time’s ticking. The longer you wait, the farther out you’re going to be hitting the water. “The sooner the better,” explains Erica Dunn of Big Lake Recreation in Sandpoint. “At our shop, we are a minimum of two weeks out once mid-May rolls around. In June, that jumps up to three to four weeks as we get closer to the Fourth of July holiday. The boat shops in the area are always doing their best to get folks on the water as quickly and as safely as possible, but the amount of work to do can be overwhelming to the schedules we run with the staff we have. I recommend folks contact their boat shops for a service appointment no later than the second week of May.”
When it comes to getting your boat serviced and prepped for the season, there are several important things to check and even service annually so you’re safe and prepared for getting out on the water. Checking for deterioration on everything from the exterior to dock lines and pipes, deck leaks, checking engine oil levels and making sure your navigation equipment is working and safety items like fire extinguishers and flares are up to date are just a few of these things.
“Every boat is unique in what service it needs on an annual basis, but a basic check of safety systems (bilge, blower, etc.) and making sure your impeller is in good condition are items that customers often forget,” adds Dunn. “In addition, a regularly scheduled drive service can help avoid long-term damage or spendy repairs.”
When it comes to personal watercraft and paddle sports like kayaks and paddleboards, you’ll want to do servicing/inspection of parts as well to make sure everything is safe and water worthy. Dusting things off and getting them out of storage now will save you time and frustration once June rolls around and you’re ready to be out playing. As you’re prepping your boat, personal watercraft or paddle sports, don’t forget to take a look at your life jackets, making sure they’re in good condition and that you’ve got plenty for family and friends who might be joining you on board.
If you’re new to boating or need a little brush-up on the rules of the water, a boat safety course is a great way to get confident for the coming season, and now is the perfect time to fit one in. BoatUS has a free online course that is approved by Idaho State Parks and Recreation, and it’s simple to register and complete.
While you’re prepping your boating equipment, don’t forget to take a look at your dock (or consider your boat storage options for the summer so you’ll have easy access to the lake). Inspect your dock decking and frames for any needed repairs, and if you have one, make sure your boat lift is functioning properly. Now’s also the perfect time to get the canopy on your boat lift.
Planning ahead for everything—from service to where you’ll keep your boat and water toys over the summer or how you’ll transport them—will make sure you’re ready to go when the first nice boating day hits. Just remember, “Always plan in a little cushion for the unforeseen, as boats like to have surprise challenges that require extra time and care in the shop,” warns Dunn. “Be kind to your boat mechanic—they're working hard to set you up for a great summer on the lake!”
It’s no secret that Sandpoint and North Idaho are getting busier and busier—our secret paradise is not so secret anymore. That means everything from camping to boat rentals and watersports lessons take a little more advance planning than they used to.
If you’re looking to rent a boat on a particular weekend or day this summer, Pat Holland of Action Water Sports recommends booking as soon as possible, as the most popular boats get booked fast during peak season. “Many of our clients book a full year in advance to guarantee their favorite boats are available,” he explains. They offer everything from wakesurf boats to pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, so if you don’t own one, you can still get out and have some fun.
“We can't guarantee a last-minute booking for our most popular boats during peak season, but with nine boats and four jet skis it is worth giving us a call at 208.255.7100 to see if something is available,” explains Holland. They also make it easy to go online and book if you know when you’re looking to rent; there you can access boat availability and easily complete your reservation.
Same goes for boating and watersports lessons like wakesurfing, skiing and wakeboarding, which Action Water Sports also offers. The earlier you book, the better chance you’ll have of getting the time and day you want. “It is best to book as far in advance as possible, but if your schedule is flexible, we usually can fit you in within a couple of days' notice,” says Holland.
If you’re looking to camp this summer, it’s already getting a bit late to reserve a spot (most of the good one’s go even a year or six months in advance), but it’s still worth checking. You might catch a cancellation, or there are a number of places that offer spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. Doing a bit of research and checking out reviews, websites and campground information before you head out can save you a lot of frustration and disappointment in the end.
Whatever your summer plans might be, now’s the time to get started planning and prepping for an exciting season ahead, so you don’t miss one day of all that summer in North Idaho has to offer. After all, we’ve only got a few short months to make the most of it. Happy summer adventuring!