Memories of Summer Sailing

By Kayla Anderson | Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Now that we’re experiencing the cold of winter, join me on a flashback to one of my favorite warm-weather activities on Lake Tahoe: sailing. If you’re planning a trip back to Tahoe in the warmer seasons, don’t miss a cruise or another adventure with Action Water Sports of Incline Village.

On a gorgeous sunny day in September, I joined small groups of people from all over the United States on the end of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe pier waiting to board the Sierra Cloud. We were all about to enjoy the weekend mimosa cruise with the unlimited beer, wine, champagne, hard seltzers and nonalcoholic drinks included in the price of the tour.  

Owned by AWS Incline (Action Watersports of Incline Village), the 55-foot catamaran has been sailing the alpine lake for 33 years, providing spectacular two-hour experiences to those who want the ultimate in Tahoe relaxation, spectacular views and a taste of East Shore history. Sierra Cloud’s season runs from Memorial Day weekend through September or whenever the weather starts to turn cold. The strong and sturdy catamaran is one of the only sailboats in the Tahoe basin that provides public tours on Lake Tahoe, holding 49 passengers and going out several times a day in the high summer season. 

After meeting our captain, Austin, and his two crew members, Kylie and Hannah, we were on the boat above the aquamarine water gliding away from the pier toward the East Shore. People quickly kicked off their shoes and found their places, either sitting in the main area or spread out on top of the nets, sunbathing. Within minutes we all had cold, fresh mimosas in our hands, and we were looking down and around the translucent water. 

“Don’t be fooled by the bottom,” Captain Austin said, as it looks like the skeg underneath the boat might hit the sand. “We’re 14 feet deep.” The clarity of the water, he explained, alters our depth perception.

The air temperature was 70 degrees and getting warmer, and with the bluebird day we could see all the way across the lake. Everything and everyone looked bright, bubbly and happy … or maybe that was just the mimosa talking.

“Can you go light on the OJ?” a woman lying on the nets politely asked. Kylie responded by tilting the brut above her cup just a few moments longer, showing her agility at being able to pour drinks without spilling a drop on a moving catamaran. 

The lake water was pure glass in the morning, which wasn’t ideal for sailing but was perfect for cruising. AWS Incline Business Manager Mary Higgins said that the afternoon cruises can be much more exciting since that’s when the wind tends to kick up, the boat going much faster when the breeze catches the sail.  

When we hovered near Sand Harbor, Captain Austin explained how deep the lake is, how you can see up to 75 feet down, and if it were drained it would cover an area the size of California at least up to your ankles, if not your knees.

“It’s basically a big, bottled water that we’re on top of right now,” he said. 

Austin shared other interesting tidbits about the area as we headed back and Kylie passed around a plate full of pineapple, cantaloupe and delectable little cinnamon rolls. Someone asked about fishing in the lake, and Austin explained that mackinaw, brook trout, kokanee salmon and brown trout are most common.

Along with the Sierra Cloud, AWS Incline rents ski boats and cruising boats and offers fishing charters every day at 6 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. (yet they are flexible on the timing). The captain will even clean and store your fish. AWS Incline also gives waterski, wakeboard and wakesurfing lessons, takes people parasailing and rents stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from the Hyatt beach.

The morning flew by, and we sailed back into the Hyatt pier, everyone raving about how amazing the mimosa cruise was. Even the staff seemed like they had a good time. Out of everyone I met at AWS Incline, their average tenure with the company was around five years. At the end of the tour, our gracious hosts thanked us for being there, and Austin confirmed it, saying, “Without you, we’d have to go out and get a real job … and we don’t want to do that!”

Private Tours on the Sierra Cloud

The Sierra Cloud is available for two-hour private charters and has hosted weddings, rehearsal dinners, vow-renewal ceremonies and bachelor/bachelorette parties. Day-after-wedding cruises are becoming more popular too. People have reserved the boat for corporate events, cocktail hours and birthday parties. One couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on the catamaran a few years ago. and they brought their own playlist, turning it into a huge dance party. They’ve come back every year since to relive the experience, always with their favorite songs. 

If you’re thinking a private cruise on the Sierra Cloud is in your future, book your cruise early. When the weather’s nice it seems like the Sierra Cloud is always sailing, either to show people a good time, to contribute to a good cause or both.

AWS Incline is active in the community, donating cruises to Pet Network fundraisers, the Incline Village youth soccer team and the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe’s Wine on the Water event. Reserve your dates and get ready to sail away.

(775) 831-4386

995 Lakeshore Blvd
Incline Village, NV

About the Author Kayla Anderson
Kayla Anderson is a North Lake Tahoe-based freelance writer who regularly contributes to the Sparks Tribune, Tahoe Weekly and Magazine.