“Towards you, towards you, pull it towards you,” my father yells to my mom, referring to the tiller that sits on her lap. We’re aboard my dad’s 22-foot Catalina, sailing at a good 10-knot clip across the cobalt waters of Lake George on our way back to his dock. Mom’s steering, dad’s barking orders, and I’m on the bow of the boat, ready to jump onto terra firma, but first I have to listen to my parent’s banter, a routine I’ve witnessed far too many times.
“What the hell are you doing? Aim for the house,” my dad bellows, pointing to a small white house that stands on the hillside above our dock. My father’s voice always seems to rise a notch or two in volume every time he steps foot into his sailboat. That’s usually what happens to former Lieutenants in the Navy. They resign their commission in the military, buy a small boat of their own, and quickly ascend to the rank of Admiral. Nevertheless, my mom always remains as cool as the water in this lake, easily gliding the boat into the dock without a scratch. Once the lines are tied, she stands up, and ends with the tag line, “not bad for a Bronx girl.” “Yeah, not bad,” my father mutters back, forgetting that Mom also taught him how to drive.
Those two paragraphs are the first words I ever wrote on Lake George, for a magazine called Endless Vacation back in 1996. Both my parents are gone, but I have incredible memories of our family sailing, paddling, and boating this 32-mile gem in the Adirondacks. And I continue to create new memories. This week, I’m traveling with my brother Jim as we kayak around the Sagamore, boat with Ron Miller aboard his 1971 Lyman, and take a paddlewheeler cruise aboard The Mohican.
I’ve been sailing the waters of Lake George before I learned to walk, or so I’m told. Growing up in these sylvan surroundings, I took its beauty for granted; the verdant mountainside that slopes to the lake’s edge on either side, the pine-studded islands that provide perfect anchorages for boaters, the narrow width that’s easily mistaken for a long rambling river. Working as a travel writer, I’ve had the good fortune to visit many of the world’s most famous lakes—Tahoe, Como in Italy, Taupo in New Zealand, Lucerne in Switzerland, but given the choice, I’ll take Lake George on a weekday (on summer weekends, the influx of motorboats and jet skies makes the lake seem a lot smaller). It’s the reason why “Sailing Lake George” topped my list of “5 Family Adventures Not Soon Forgotten,” my most recent article on the lake in a March issue of The Boston Globe.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.