The Little-Known Joys of Cruising in Kansas

When we tell folks we sail in Kansas, they are never quite sure if they should believe us. With deep roots in America’s Old West, Kansas is more likely to be associated with prairie schooners—a nickname for covered wagons—than schooners with keels and masts.
Author:
Publish date:
 The sun sets over Clinton Lake, one of Kansas’s most popular destinations for sailing. Photo by Marciana Vequist

The sun sets over Clinton Lake, one of Kansas’s most popular destinations for sailing. Photo by Marciana Vequist

When we tell folks we sail in Kansas, they are never quite sure if they should believe us. With deep roots in America’s Old West, Kansas is more likely to be associated with prairie schooners—a nickname for covered wagons—than schooners with keels and masts. Nonetheless, amid the endless miles of wheat and grazing cattle, the Sunflower State is also home to two-dozen lakes and reservoirs worthy of a weekend sail.

 Boats snug in the marina on Perry Lake

Boats snug in the marina on Perry Lake

They don’t call it the “Windy Plains” for nothing: Dodge City, Kansas, is the windiest place in the United States. However, the best lakes are farther east, near Emporia, Lawrence and “the Little Apple”—Manhattan. We sail our Hunter 26 on Melvern Lake, a 6,930-acre reservoir between the small college towns of Ottawa and Emporia that was created by Melvern Dam in 1970. Other nearby lakes, like Clinton Lake in Lawrence and Perry Lake near Manhattan, also offer great open water for sailing. Both host several regattas each year, welcoming everything from cruising sailboats to catamarans to windsurfers.

 A breezy day aboard the author’s Hunter 26

A breezy day aboard the author’s Hunter 26

When I think about cruising Melvern Lake I recall feeling very different from the people around us. Just because you can sail in Kansas doesn’t mean that many do, and my family and I were often aboard the lone sailboat in a sea of speedboats and jet skis. As young newlyweds, my husband and I spent many weekends out on the boat, escaping the sweltering summer heat during a sailing season that runs from April to November. Although Melvern provides 10 miles of open water, we would often lounge for hours in land-locked coves, sundrenched and at peace, save for the occasional water skier.

 A typical view of shore from the water

A typical view of shore from the water

Even in Kansas, things can get exciting. Sometimes on a hot, humid day, typical of a Midwest summer, we would go for a sail in an attempt to cool down. The wind would suddenly change—also typical—and before we knew it, we’d be heeled well over, bracing ourselves in the cockpit as cocktails went flying. Grinning from ear to ear, we’d make our way back to the marina, feeling like seafarers a thousand miles from the sea. Afterward, at our local hole-in-the-wall, Whitey’s, where you can find the best pizza in town, we’d share sailing stories with the locals who could hardly believe we even owned a sailboat. After an icy cold beer or three, it was clear why even for the sailors in Kansas, “There’s no place like home.”

Editors note: We’re happy to report that 1,500 of SAIL’s faithful subscribers reside in Kansas

 The breeze kicks up on Melvern Lake

The breeze kicks up on Melvern Lake

Photos by Kelli White and RamseyMohsen.com

Related

IMG_0173

Electronic “Flares” for Cruisers

The United States Coast Guard requires that all boats operating in coastal waters or on the high seas carry a selection of visual distress signals. Almost invariably, such signals include the pyrotechnic type, either handheld or fired from a flare pistol, but surely there are ...read more

M2-HOOK-TOP-AND-CHAIN-1

Gear: M2 Chain Hook from Mantus

Stay Hooked Chain hooks on anchor snubber lines tend to fall off when you least want them to. Not so this latest example from Mantus. The M2 Chain Hook is secured to the chain by a simple elastic strap, so it won’t come off when the snubber loosens. Made from corrosion-resistant ...read more

shutterstock_349918991

Successful Surf Landings with Wheels

“Ready to take the dink ashore?” Never had those words invoked as much anxiety as when my husband, Jeff, and I first moved to the Pacific Coast. Why? Because we had exactly zero experience with dinghy surf landings, and the possibility of being flipped upside down along with our ...read more

Sail2010_597

How to: Find Good Values on Charter Vacations

So, you want to find a great deal on your next charter vacation? Sure, you can scour the internet, hope for Black Friday deals or ask friends. But an even better way to find good prices on charter boats is to go to a boat show. Not only do charter companies like The Moorings, ...read more

leadphoto

Know How: Dinghy Modification

The rigmarole of stretching a cover over a dinghy in choppy water prior to hoisting it on davits can become a very wet business if you’re not careful. Leaning right over either end, trying to stretch a cover over the bow and stern pods can quite easily result in a head-first dip ...read more

25980

Catnapped Aboard a Racing Multihull

It was after midnight when I realized my daysail with Tony Bullimore aboard his giant record-breaking catamaran, Team Legato, was not going to plan. The big cat was en route for a December dash from England across the Bay of Biscay to Barcelona and the start of a drag race ...read more