BY LESLEE JAQUETTE
While beaching our 65-foot houseboat down a secluded arm of British Columbia’s Shuswap Lake, we sight a grizzly bear swimming to shore. Paddling leisurely, Ursus horribilis ignores us completely. He clambers up the beach, shakes like a dog and lumbers into the forest.
Houseboating on the Shuswap, as well as a number of other Northwest lakes, lends itself to this sort of spectacular, wildlife encounter. Beyond sightings of bald eagles, black bear and deer, houseboating offers vacationers the opportunity to cruise protected waters with a minimum of effort and a maximum of comfort.
In the Northwest, houseboaters enjoy all the comforts of home in combination with waterskiing, tubing, fishing, hiking and exploring. Scenic and protected waterways such as Shuswap Lake, Lake Roosevelt in Washington as well as Coeur d’Alene and Pend Oreille lakes in Idaho, invite people to experience an increasingly popular vacation option that makes inland boating fun and easy.
WHAT IS A HOUSEBOAT?
Houseboats are floating homes. Here in the Northwest we find houseboats that range in length from around 35 to 67 feet. They are rectangular houses that float on pontoons and are powered by two, outboard motors that propel the craft from 5 to 10 knots.
Usually houseboats come equipped with everything and more you would find in a nice, housekeeping cabin: barbecue, deck chairs, heads with flush toilets and showers, refrigerator, stove/oven, sofas, furniture and beds. These vacation homes also typically come with hot water, large holding tanks, lots of drinking water, cabin heaters, sunshades and swim platforms.
Twin Anchors Houseboats based in Sicamous on Shuswap Lake is Canada’s largest houseboat company. It provides a rental fleet of 70 houseboats. The manufacturing arm of the company builds more than 50 houseboats each year. It offers a range of rental houseboats that range from 44 to 67-feet in length and that can sleep from 8 to 22 people on vacations including three, four and seven night packages. On the Shuswap as on the other lakes, prices vary according to the season, which runs from April through October.
The newest and largest of Twin Anchors fleet, the 16 x 67-foot CruiseCraft III, offers all of the usual comforts plus a whole slew of amenities. These Goliaths also come standard with a hottub on the upper deck, fireplace, queen size beds as well as a full compliment of appliances including microwaves, trash compactors, washing machines and dryers. As if this isn’t enough luxury, these floating mansions also feature air conditioning, sliding boards, satellite dishes and Sony Playstation II!
Houseboating is a tremendous value for many reasons. The most obvious is that the boat is both hotel and transportation. Taken in conjunction with the comfort and amenities, houseboating is also a big bargain. If a family reunion of 22 people vacations on a CruiseCraft III during high season for seven nights ($3,400), the boat costs less than $500 per day or around $23 a day per person.
“A lot of people like to bring along family and friends,” said Kari Tolliver, creative services director for Twin Anchors. “They find that a houseboat is a fun, relaxing way to go camping with all the amenities of home. You don’t rough it, that’s for sure!”
Many houseboat companies, including Twin Anchors and Roosevelt Recreational Enterprises (RRE) on Lake Roosevelt, provide a huge menu of rental watertoys. If you don’t own a skiboat or personal watercraft (PWC), don’t worry – you can rent one – by the day or for the duration.
Other popular, rental “tag-alongs” include windsurfers, innertubes, fishing boats, knee and wake boards. These rentals include rope, flag and life jackets. Shuswap Marina, for example, rents 16 styles of tube including “bananas” and “floating hottubs.”
While most everything is supplied on houseboats, boaters need to bring their own pillows, linens/bedding, towels, personal items (sun screen and bathing suits) and provisions. Lest newcomers be concerned, skippering a houseboat is simple and straightforward compared to boating in saltwater. In addition, houseboat companies provide comprehensive checkout procedures. All questions as to systems operations, navigation and driving the boat are answered at this time.
Given houseboating is comfy and easy, let us look at several Northwest lakes that attract vacationers on a floating home getaway. Shuswap Lake, Lake Roosevelt and Lake Pend Oreille are by far the most popular “houseboat lakes” in the region.
The Shuswap, with 600-miles of shoreline in the shape of a poorly written “H,” is the unquestionable monarch of Northwest houseboat lakes. It is located in the interior north of the Okanagan about 350 miles of highway driving from either Vancouver, B.C. or Seattle. More than 500 rental houseboats, available through a dozen or so marinas and operations, ply the lake’s four, fjord-like arms. Houseboating is so popular, families and groups often reserve a vessel more than a year in advance.
Dozens of marinas and 30 marine parks dot the perimeter of the lake that is encircled by the 7,000-foot peaks of the Monashees. Protected by the mountains, Shuswap Lake offers calm conditions, warm water (76 degrees F.) and consistently warm, sunny weather (80 – 100 degrees F.) seven months of the year. Scores of sand beaches and dozens of bays, invite houseboaters to pull-up for an hour’s picnic or overnight moorage.
The Shuswap is also famous for spectacular fishing. Here anglers fish for sockeye, Chinook, coho and pink salmon returning to the Adams River at the northwest corner of Shuswap Lake Arm. Anglers come here from all over the world for trophy rainbow and lake trout. Kids enjoy the fishing for kokanee or small, landlocked salmon.
In addition, the communities of Salmon Arm, Sicamous and Sorrento provide all the civilization any one could want in the form of shopping, lodgings, RV parks and tent camping, golf courses and attractions. In late August the annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival attracts thousands to a three-day event that features an eclectic assortment of music.
Lake Roosevelt, located in northeast Washington, is a second houseboat mecca. Situated in the heart of the Coulee Dam National Recreation Area, the lake is 150 miles long with 630 miles of shoreline. Also known for its calm, warm waters and summer temperatures ranging up to 100 degrees F., the lake boasts hundreds of secluded beaches, coves and inlets.
Those boating on Lake Roosevelt often enjoy abundant wildlife (elk, eagles and deer) by day and the Grand Coulee Dam laser light show, on the world’s largest projection screen, by night. Indeed, lake communities offer a full menu of amenities and activities that range from camping and moorage to dining, golfing, historical and natural sights to casino gaming.
Located near the hub-city of Sandpoint, Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille offers houseboaters an unadulterated wilderness experience, said Terry Whitney, co-owner of Pend Oreille Houseboat Rentals. A deep lake (1,100 feet), Pend Oreille is 43 miles long and provides boaters with 111 miles of shoreline. Here, too, in this warm, dry climate, houseboats are available April through October. The community of Sandpoint offers every conceivable necessity including fine dining, shopping at world famous Coldwater Creek, golfing and outdoor play.
MESSING ABOUT ON HOUSEBOATS
We hope you are intrigued with houseboating. If you are attracted to luxury “camping” onboard an amenity-laden floating cabin, chances are you also appreciate happy, tired kids, fresh caught trout on the ‘barbi” and lingering sunsets.
“Houseboating provides people with a great way to spend time on the water with their family,” said Whitney. “Houseboats themselves are a comfortable staging venue from which people can explore the wilderness, enjoy watersports, build bonfires, fish or kayak as well as indulge in total privacy.”
SHUSWAP LAKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Twin Anchors Houseboats: (800) 663-4026 or (250) 836-2450; www.twinanchors.com.
Tourism Shuswap: P.O. Box 1670, Salmon Arm, B.C. V1E 4P7 (800) 661-4800; email@example.com; www.shuswap.bc.ca
Waterway Houseboats: (800) 663-4022 or (250) 836-2505; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.wwhb.com.
LAKE ROOSEVELT, WASHINGTON
Lake Roosevelt Houseboat Vacations: (509) 738-6121 In Washington (800) 635-7585; email@example.com.
Roosevelt Recreational Enterprises: (800) 648-5253; www.colville-tribal.com/RRE.
LAKE PEND OREILLE, IDAHO
Custom Services Boat Rentals: COEUR D’ALENE LAKE, IDAHO
(208) 772-7412 or 771-0107; customservicesbylin.com/
LAKE BILLY CHINOOK, OREGON
Lake Billy Chinook Houseboats, Inc.: (541) 546-2939; www.lakebillychinook.com
BY LESLEE JAQUETTE