Unpublished correction: The name of Higgens Point is misspelled in this story. This information is from the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation.
What if they held Memorial Day weekend and nobody showed up?
It happened, at least Saturday on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
In waters that typically would be brimming with activity, aluminum patrol boats from the Kootenai County sheriff’s marine division had the waters almost to themselves.
An occasional cabin cruiser lolled past. Other than that, the only activity was a sailboat regatta near Arrow Point.
It appeared most boaters had taken to heart both the bad weather and the urgings to stay off the flood-swollen lake.
“Of course, if the weather gets better they’ll be out,” said Sgt. Dan Soumas, motioning over the prow of his 28-foot launch into strangely open water.
Still, marine deputies in three boats had their hands full Saturday.
There were “deadheads” to be marked - logs that had floated into the middle of the lake and were listing hazardously beneath the surface - booby traps for unwary craft. Soumas would ease the sheriff’s boat alongside, while Deputy Kody Wright marked them with a bright orange flag.
They said it would be at least two weeks before much of the drifting debris was out of the water. Until then, fast boating and water-skiing will be dangerous.
In addition, marine deputies were patrolling bays and checking up on flooded public boat launches. At Mica Bay, for instance, water had receded but still covered much of the parking-lot restrooms.
This limited access at popular put-in points around the lake played a big role in keeping folks off the water. Only launches at Mineral Ridge, Higgins Point, Third Street and in Harrison were open.
“So you can launch at a couple of different places, then come out here and dodge the deadheads,” Soumas said, surveying underwater signs at Mica Bay’s Boater Park.
Just before 1 p.m., Soumas’ radio crackled with a call from the Coast Guard. One of the Arrow Point regatta members, the captain of 33-foot Asturia, had an emergency back home in Lewiston.
Soumas and Wright raced to where the Asturia was drifting with another sailboat and broke the news that the captain’s nephew had died in a fire.
They spent the next hour organizing a crew to tow the Asturia to a safe harbor, then ferried the Lewiston resident to his car.
Heading back to Coeur d’Alene, the patrol boat stopped to mark two more deadheads, one an entire tree bobbing up and down almost imperceptibly on the lake surface. Even when the lake is almost deserted, Soumas said, there’s plenty to do.
“We’re always needed,” he said. “People are at their lake homes. I think back over the years, people have heart attacks, fallen down the stairs. We’ve had to do boat evacuation.
“A lot of the things we do are outside of normal law enforcement,” Soumas said. “But we have to be ready, because you never know.”
, DataTimesILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition.