Getting out on Tahoe ... by motor, sail, paddle wheel.
Among the pleasures of a visit to Lake Tahoe is getting out on the water. Four commercial vessels offer regularly scheduled day and evening excursion cruises. You can relax, learn some history, eat a snack or meal, and drink in the scenery. Take a jacket or windbreaker.
A pair of paddle-wheelers
M.S. Dixie. Built in 1927, this 114-foot stern-wheeler worked on the Mississippi River before coming to Tahoe. It began making round-trip excursions from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay in 1971. Dixie carries up to 360 people: an open-air top deck has bench seats; enclosed first and second decks have cocktail bars, tables, and chairs. A taped narrative gives brief historical anecdotes about the lake.
During 2 1/2-hour daytime runs, the grill serves sandwiches and hamburgers. Departures: 11, 2, and 5. Fare: $8 adults, $4 ages under 12.
The 3 1/2-hour evening trips (limited to 220 passengers) include a steak dinner and dancing to live music. They depart at 7. Cost is $24.50, including meal; reservations are advised.
Season: May through October. Write to M.S. Dixie, Box 1667, Zephyr Cove, Nev. 89448; (702) 588-3508.
Tahoe Queen. This 140-foot paddle-wheeler made its debut in 1982. It carries up to 500 people on cruises to Emerald Bay from Ski Run Marina, 5 miles west of Stateline on U.S. Highway 50. The boat has an open top deck with benches and two enclosed lower decks with bars, tables, and chairs.
On 2-hour day cruises, sandwiches, hamburgers, and other lunch items are served from the grill. Departures: 11, 1:30, and 3:45. Fare: $9 for adults, $4.50 for children under 12.
Evening 3-hour runs ($12.50, limited to 250 passengers) leave around 7:30; reservations are advised. Dinner menu selections range from shrimp cocktail for $5 to steak and lobster for $18.
Season: year-round. Write to Lake Tahoe Cruises, Box 14327, South Lake Tahoe, Calif. 95702; (916) 541-3364.
A motor cruiser and a trimaran
Sunrunner. This 65-foot, two-deck motor cruiser carries up to 92 passengers on narrated sightseeing trips along the west shore. Top deck is open; on the lower deck, beverages and snacks are served.
The boat leaves from Tahoe Boat Company Marina in Tahoe City, just north of the junction of highways 89 and 28. Departures: 11, 1:30, and 3:30. Fare: $8 adults, $4.50 ages under 12.
A 2-hour cocktail cruise (one drink, snacks; $10) leaves at 6 daily except Sundays; reservations are advised. A champagne and continental breakfast cruise ($10) runs Thursdays through Sundays at 10. You can also book private parties.
Season: May through October. Write to North Tahoe Cruises, Box 7913, Tahoe City, Calif. 95703; (916) 583-0141.
Woodwind. A three-man crew handles the sails aboard this 41-foot trimaran, on the lake since 1973. Stereo speakers pipe music during the 1 1/2-hour trips (maximum 24 passengers); the skipper provides background on the basin's history. You can sit on cushions on deck or in cabins fore and aft. Beverages are available.
It sails from Zephyr Cove on the Nevada shore, 4 miles north of Stateline on U.S. 50. Departures: 11:30, 1, 2:30, 4. Fare: $8 adults, $4 ages under 12. Evening champagne tours ($14) leave around 7. Reservations are advised.
Season: May through October. Write to Woodwind, Box 1375, Zephyr Cove, Nev. 89448; (702) 588-3000.
Photo: Paddle-wheeler Tahoe Queen churns past the banks of Emerald Bay
Photo: On M.S. Dixie, captain gives navigation lesson to aspiring helmsman
Photo: Trimaran Woodwind carries up to 24 passengers on 1 1/2-hour excursion cruise