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By Cara Hollis

Do they make superhero capes for dinghies?  Because if they did, the dinghy affectionally known as Darlene, would deserve one.  Darlene’s primary job with Clean Up The Lake is to serve as the surface collection point for divers to deposit the trash they bring up from the lake floor. Her usefulness has gone far beyond simply hauling trash. She has hauled people, equipment, videographers, and has battled the elements of every season. She has earned her place in the hearts of all her Clean Up The Lake team members, and every person she meets.

Darlene is 10 feet long by 5 feet wide and was donated to Clean Up The Lake by a local community member and at first, the team was not sure how they were going to use her.  But as the size of the litter problem in Lake Tahoe became more apparent Darlene’s purpose came into focus.  She was big enough and stable enough to handle the weight and volume of the hundreds of pounds of trash that was being found daily.  She was quickly put into service as the trash collection point on the water and she proved to be as invaluable as she is reliable.  

But her value goes far beyond just holding and transporting trash.  She is a favorite dive start location for freedivers. Once the scuba divers are in the water and out of the way, the free divers can launch themselves out of Darlene to begin their work.  Darlene is even there for them at the end of a long day to provide a restful place to enjoy being towed back to the support boat by kayakers. When low water levels make some dive sites inaccessible to larger boats, Darlene is there to shuttle volunteers and gear back and forth in addition to her trash collection duties. On extra busy days, she is a source of solace and alone time for volunteers that just need a quiet place to eat their lunch and take a nap during their surface intervals.

All of these qualities make Darlene a valuable member of the team. As with all superheroes she is not without her foibles.  Her temperamental nature becomes apparent when she is being dragged around the lake by Skeeter, the jet ski.  Some days she would plane behind Skeeter at 20+ miles per hour and the jet ski driver could make good time and reserve energy for the remainder of the manual labor that day.  Other days, she forced Skeeter to tow her at 3 miles per hour. Making long cold days on the water even longer. No rhyme or reason, just her “mood” that day.

Temperamental or not, Darlene was there for 69 of the 81 dive days on the 72 Mile Clean Up.  Some days she needed air.  Some days she needed patches.  Some days she even faced 2-3 ft storm waves. But she never wavered.  With a little TLC from the team, she was there to carry trash and to take care of dedicated volunteers and hard-working divers.  Darlene is a dedicated member of the Clean Up The Lake Team, and they love her for it.  Now, where is that cape?

For more information about Clean Up The Lake please visit us at If you would like to help us keep your favorite lakes beautiful, a link to make a tax-deductible donation to Clean Up The Lake 501(c)3 can be found here