It is an impeccable bluebird summer morning on Lake Tahoe when my wife, Charlotte Semmes, and daughter Penelope and I arrive at the Action Water Sports cabana on the dock by Incline Beach. We are about to embark on the “Sierra Cloud,” a picturesque 55-foot catamaran with two large sails and plenty of room to relax.
Wednesdays until Sept. 26 | 9:30-11:30 a.m.
“Sierra Cloud” | Incline Village, Nev.
As we board the vessel with 20 other blissful sailors, Penelope looks around cautiously. It is her first time on a boat and although she is excited for the day’s adventures, she isn’t quite sure about all this flying-above-the-water stuff yet. She remains tightly glued to her mother as we cast off across the crystal-blue waters of the world’s second largest alpine lake.
Soon after setting sail, a bleached-blond in a trucker cap and dark sunglasses starts singing a song on his “Keep Tahoe Blue” sticker-covered guitar. Although he may be 47 years old, he looks 25 and his smiley, generous energy is positively contagious. This is Darin Talbot, better known around The Lake of the Sky as “Mr. Tahoe.”
“Everything’s better on a boat,” he croons in a smooth, mellow voice reminiscent of Jimmy Buffet.
After a brief safety announcement, the crew begins serving mimosas, beer, soda and water to the passengers. Later on, we’ll be treated to delightful fruit and cheese plates of which Penelope will consume a significant portion of the blueberries on hand, crying out in panic every time one nearly escapes to roll overboard.
“I may be the most obsessed man about Tahoe,” says Talbot in between songs. “Keep in mind, 75 percent of what I say is true; the other 25 percent is a blatant lie.”
He begins to rattle off facts about the lake as if he were telling you details about his four lovely children. The passengers who can name the square surface area of Big Blue are treated to a prize of a free compact disc of his original songs and stories about our region’s history.
In the distance, the rolling mountains of South Lake rise up in a perfect vista. The smoke has shifted south and the skies are finally clear. Patches of snow still dot the northern aspects of Mount Tallac and Freel Peak as we sail onward.
We cruise by Sand Harbor and up along the protected East Shore until we reach the historic Thunderbird Lodge. All the while, Mr. Tahoe sings and tells stories as we enjoy the view and the soft, cool morning breeze that moves us steadily along. When he is not playing aboard “Sierra Cloud,” Talbot is the co-owner of Around Tahoe Tours with his brother Chris, a well-known photographer in the area; they shuttle visitors from around the world to “The Seven Sacred Sites of Tahoe.”
“It’s not just me up there singing songs,” he says. “It’s really a well-thought-out performance and an entertaining show. People love it.”
During the winter, Talbot takes off for Costa Rica for a few months. In May, he posted a laid-back new song entitled “Costa Man.” The video went viral in the land of Pura Vida making him a virtual celebrity overnight.
“It will be interesting to go back down there after all this,” he says. “I’m just hoping it leads to a few more free beers and a few new friends.”
As the cruise makes its way back toward Incline Village, Penelope and I crawl over the netting to the bow of the boat. We look between the lashings into the swirling teal waters below. Although Penelope was nervous about falling through when we first started out, she now confidently leans her chubby chin over the edge of the deck with a beautiful smile on her face. She looks at me as if to say, “This was a good idea, Dad.”
That expression of gratitude is all I need to make this the start of another picture-perfect day in paradise.
Action Watersports offers “Sierra Cloud” cruises daily, including a Thunderbird Lodge cruise Thursdays through Saturdays. | awsincline.com