Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight.

Summer days on Lake Pepin often feature dozens of white triangles, sailboats gliding across the largest lake on the Mississippi River.

Sailing is hugely popular and the marinas at Lake City and Pepin are filled with sailboats. Those who don’t own a sailboat can always experience the wind and waves with Capt. Derrek Polt and Sail Pepin.

“We go out four or five days each week,” Polt said. “We offer four time slots each day, but if somebody calls in advance, we’ll do a custom time slot and book around that for the rest of the day.”

Polt earned his captain’s license by working for a sailing company in the Florida Keys where he lived on a boat in the harbor. After he worked enough sea days, he completed a challenging exam with the Coast Guard to complete his license.

People travel from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, as well as North and South Dakota to go out on the water with Sail Pepin. They board Polt’s 1997 Hunter 31-foot sloop which features a bathroom, galley, living space, and two bedrooms.

“The average wind on Lake Pepin is 9 miles per hour,” Polt said. “With a sailboat like this one that is made for light wind, you can get out pretty much any day and do some sailing.”

He explained that the “boat will get going just fine in 3 to 5 knots,” he said. “It’s sweet spot is 7 to 12. From 12 to 17 you are really cooking. We’ll sail up to 25 or 30 knots.”

Polt also gives sailing lessons. He especially enjoys working with children and youth groups.

Strong wind causes the Dragonfly to heel or lean as it gains speed across the open water of the Mississippi River's Lake Pepin. Steve Gardiner / Rivertown Multimedia
Strong wind causes the Dragonfly to heel or lean as it gains speed across the open water of the Mississippi River's Lake Pepin. Steve Gardiner / Rivertown Multimedia

“I want to introduce people to sailboats,” Polt said. “I want people to see that this is intimidating, but it is not impossible. If you are interested in this, you can spend a lifetime mastering it, but the entry level is lower than you would expect.”

Sailing captured Polt when he was very young. “There was something about being on a sailboat that was soothing and calming and drew me to it,” Polt said. “Every day I would want to go out to the lake and hang out on a sailboat. It pulled me to it, and I haven’t been able to get away from it.”

If you go...

  • Name: Sail Pepin
  • Address: 400 First St., Pepin, Wis.
  • Phone: 715-442-2250
  • Website: http://sailpepin.com
  • Email: info@sailpepin.com
  • Hours: Morning, afternoon and evening sailing trips
  • Cost: Adults/teens $65, Children $55