Sailing On, Despite Dropping Lake Levels

By Cecily Sailer – April 2, 2012

While recent rains have done little to lift Lake Travis water lines—in fact, lake levels are lower now than they were this summer—boat owners, swimmers, and aqua-maniacs have no reason to shy away from shores and docks as spring gives way to trademark Texas heat.

Steve Hawks, general manger of the Austin Yacht Club (AYC), said business remained strong through the parched months of June, July, and August, and there should be plenty to splash about this year as well. In 2011, Hawks said, many people flocked to the lake early in the summer, fearing it might be their last chance to take a dip. “But once they saw what we’d done to keep people in the water, the activity was really high.”

To account for drought conditions last year, AYC moved docks to deeper water, constructed temporary boat ramps, and adjusted routes for boat races to keep courses safe. As a result, membership has remained strong and involved. “Our members weren’t happy about the drought, but they’re flexible,” Hawks explained.

The club’s youth sailing programs, which use smaller boats that don’t require deep water, are especially thriving. Last month, the club held its annual Youth Roadrunner Regatta, drawing more than 100 young captains and crews from Texas and beyond. The club’s extensive training and coaching programs for young sailors will continue through the hotter months.

As the weather turns warmer, the club’s main challenge will be convincing Texans outside Austin that Lake Travis is still a viable watering hole. “The impression is that the lake doesn’t have the water for sailing,” Hawk said, “but it does.”

So far, this year’s rains haven’t fallen within the drainage basin of the Colorado River, but Hawks, like all Central Texans, is still singing that shared drought-weary chorus: “We’ll take what we can get.”



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