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Play on Washington state lake


 Jet Skis Ahoy staffers show renters the ropes on Washington's Lake Chelan.
BRIAN J. CANTWELL/SEATTLE TIMES
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 9/23/2012

BY BRIAN J. CANTWELL

The Seattle Times

LAKE CHELAN, Wash.

--Here are three games you can play on a half-day outing aboard a rented motorboat as you explore this fjordlike lake, one of Washington's favorite spots:

Barbie's Dream House: Which classic lakefront cottage--or log-cabin mini-mansion--will be yours after you win "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Baa, Baa Big Sheep: Which soaring lakeside promontory dotted with Ponderosa pines and Glacier Peak pumice is most likely to have at its tiptop a bighorn sheep silhouetted against a clear blue sky? (Bring binoculars.)

Driftwood Dodge'em: Kind of self-explanatory. Whoever rams a floating log loses.

My wife and I had plenty of time for all three when we rented a 171/2-foot Bayliner runabout from an outfit called Jet Skis Ahoy and motored 21 miles up Lake Chelan and back.

Lake Chelan in summer is all about fun on the water, and you can take it by degrees: Swim from a sandy beach at a public park, paddle a kayak or paddleboard, or rent a personal watercraft and zoom around like a mad hornet. Or go the whole banana and rent a motorboat.

If a teenager or two are part of your retinue, towing them around on water skis, wakeboards or tubes will likely keep your crowd pleased.

You can stick to the calmer lower lake, called Wapato Basin, where you'll have plenty of fun-loving company.

Or you can do as we did, pack a picnic and go exploring beyond the resorts, putt-putting past the checkerboard slopes of apple orchards and vineyards to where shore-hugging vacation homes thin and it's pretty much just you and the 1,400-foot-deep lake. (Favorite factoid: Mountain-ringed Chelan, from a Salish word meaning "deep water," reaches almost 400 feet lower than sea level.)

Beyond Manson, on the unbuilt eastern shore of the 50-mile lake, look for landmarks such as 5,400-foot Red Butte, Fourth of July Mountain and Poison Creek. To the west: Devils Backbone and 7,200-foot Stormy Mountain.

Our loosely defined goal was Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park, on the western shore, with a small-boat marina. (It's the lake's northernmost point reachable by highway.)

"You can get to Twenty-five Mile in about an hour, and you can get there and back on a tank of gas," said Jeremy Shull at the boat-rental counter.


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We rented from Jet Skis Ahoy, 1230 W. Woodin Ave., Chelan. Service was good, other than losing our telephoned reservation. On a weekday that wasn't a problem. 509/682-5125, jetskisahoy.com. Renters must be at least 18, with a credit or debit card and driver's license. Younger people can pilot the boat under certain conditions.

RENTAL RATES: For four hours on a weekday, our foot Bayliner cost $145 plus tax and gasoline charges. The rate goes up $20 on weekends. We motored about 42 miles and used eight gallons of gasoline (out of a 22-gallon tank). Total bill: $198.07.

Weekend rates for personal watercraft start at $45 for one hour at Jet Skis Ahoy.

RENTER'S TIPS

Inexperienced? Rental docks provide basic orientation. You'll be required to read and initial a motor-vessel rental safety checklist issued by the state.

Check what comes with a boat. Some have canvas bimini tops for shade, a nice feature on a hot day. Jet Skis Ahoy offered wakeboards, towing tubes (for up to three people), kneeboards or water skis for no extra charge with a boat rental.

Get more information about moorage at Twenty-Five Mile Creek and other state parks: parks.wa.gov/boating/moorage or 360/902-8844.

MORE INFORMATION

Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce: 800/424-3526 or lakechelan.com.