17 things you must know before renting a houseboat
- VIDEO THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN BY HOUSE BOAT RENTAL COMPANY - The instructions by the houseboat rental agency is very fast considering the enormous responsibility it is to operate a 75+ foot boat. After experiencing house boating for the first time I was surprised at how many very important things we needed to know were not covered or that were skimmed over quickly, such as how & when to turn the generator on, trimming the motors, how to keep the boat steady pointing up the beach while your family digs the holes in the sand to bury the anchors, the angle and depth of the anchors, etc. I recorded the entire instruction / over view on my iPhone and was very glad I did. There are many important details that are vital to operating the boat, safety and preventative steps that they go over very fast.
- HAVE AN EXPERIENCED BOAT DRIVER - I am lucky that I grew up around boats. My parents have a house on the Harbor and have always had a boat. I have been driving boats since I was a teenager. I was able to navigate the 75+ foot houseboat, keep it straight on the beach in the rough wind and current while anchors were secured and park it at the docks. I cannot imagine someone "learning" to drive a houseboat and feeling comfortable or creating a safe conditions for their family.
- ANCHORS MUST BE BURIED VERY DEEP IN "Y" FORMATION - This is so so so important. Did I say so important? Dear hubby though he'd bury the anchors fast, aka shallow, and hook it on a rock in the sand. Um. NO. Do NOT do this. The anchors WILL pull out, sending your houseboat to quickly drift sideways into the beach causing alot of stress and anxiety! There aren't short cuts when it comes to anchors and the sudden strong winds. The anchors MUST be buried deep, positioned in a wide "Y" shape to hold the house boat. The winds come up very suddenly with a strong current that can tip your boat over if not secured properly.
- YOU CAN STEER FROM THE MAIN HELM OR DECK TOP BUT NOT PARK FROM THE DECK HELM - keep the controls in neutral, then push the button on the top deck to switch the steering controls from the main helm to the top deck helm. I loved steering from the top deck, much better view and fresh air:)
- READ THE NEWS ABOUT THE LAKE YOU ARE PLANNING TO VISIT - Not to alarm you, but to inform you of the potential dangers on the lake. Avoiding potentially dangerous situations is vitally important for a fun safe trip. Since many people drink and party of vacation, this is often cause for accidents when driving speed boats and houseboats. Judgement is off. People don't wear life preservers because they have a false sense of security. When we were on the house boat, we were told we didn't need to have the emergency radio to shore on, as It was to be used in an emergency. One night, I had the radio on as there were very very strong winds and literally waves on the lake and a strong current, pulling the anchors out of the sand, pushing our boat sideways onto the beach. We were in a panic, the boat seemed as if it would tip over. There were so many other frantic calls from many houseboats. Specifically, panic calls by a house boat named "Shamu." Evidently, the house boat Shamu hit a rock during the night, sending 14+ passengers flying off the boat into the dark lake! OMG. Can you even imagine? All we heard were frantic calls, then silence. Nothing. Then the operator came on saying "people in the water, we need to know where you are. Hello, Shamu are you there?" "Hello Shamu?" No response. I hope those people were found and that they could all swim. It must have been very hard to find them in the dark and hopefully everyone was okay. You are NOT supposed to drive the house boat at night, because you literally cannot see anything, let alone large rocks under the water. They do have flags near the rocks but they are not visible at night. Driving home, we googled news about the lake to find out what happened to those people. I was shocked to read all the news stories about people losing their lives, boats colliding, accidents upon accidents, boats capsizing, people losing their arms and legs in boating accidents the Lake Powell. Google the news about accidents on the Lake Powell so you are knowledgeable, take it seriously and avoid trouble.
- STAY AWAY FROM CRAZIES - I always tell my kids, "if it feels wrong, it is wrong." There are so many people speeding on wave runners, speed boats, jet skis who seemed like it was their first time. Stay far away from them. My kids (and dog) were paddle boarding as a group of teenagers sped by on wave runners. They looked out of control to me so I made my kids come in closer to the houseboat, away from them. Seconds later, I see the teens lose control and literally fly off the wave runners. Too much chance for accidents. It's easier to move or wait for them to be done.
- HOUSE BOATING IS BASICALLY CAMPING - I am not one who enjoys camping. But I thought I'd try house boating since I would have a hot shower at the end of the day. I am a germafobe and like things really clean and neat. On the houseboat, this is literally impossible. I had to give up trying to keep the floor clean or keeping the sand outside. The houseboat is small, even though it sleeps 12. It was camping disguised as a house boat but still super fun!
- BRING MORE DRINKS THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED - It gets really hot out there. No markets. The only mini mart is at the docks when you check in. $5 ice, reg. $1 elsewhere. No healthy foods, just processed foods found at 7-11.
- ASK HOW MANY REFRIGERATORS - Our houseboat had 2 larger refrigerators which was excellent. I had food for 6 people, 4 meals per day, drinks, snacks.
- ASK IF THERE IS DRINKING WATER ON BOARD - Our houseboat had filtered water to drink. Can't imagine if it didn't.
- MULTI PURPOSE FOOD - Space is very limited. Double up on using food for multiple meals so you use less space and less waste. For example, I made extra lean ground turkey burgers for dinner and then used the left overs for egg scramble the next morning.
- WINDS ARE VERY STRONG AT TIMES - This is an understatement. I cannot stress this enough. They did not warn us of potential red flag winds coming up. The chaise lounges literally blew off the top of the boat. We hiked a mile to retrieve one. The other was long gone. White water currents, strong rip tides. You must be anchored and parked in cove to be protected from the winds.
- GET SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS WHERE TO PARK YOUR BOAT - the map they give you is very general and vague. People advised us to park on a beach at "Castle Rock" but all the rocks can look like castles, it's subjective. It is key to Look for a cove that is protected from the wind and current. You don't want to end up searching for a spot all day esp. when houseboats are slow 5mph. If you have a speedboat, take that to look for spots and a private beach. You must be anchored and set up before dark.
- BRING TENTS - after you find your private beach, protected from the wind and current, pitch your tents so you have an extension of space. Use the houseboat for showering, eating, etc.
- FISHING LICENSE - My mother in law, hubby, and kids wanted to go fishing. You need a fishing license, it's $30 and only adults need it.
- BRING COOKWARE, COFFEE CUPS, ZIP LOCK BAGS, WATER SHOES, SUNGLASES LEASH & HAT - If you like to cook, bring your own pan. If you love coffee, bring your own mug. The pans they had were horrible and I don't like sipping coffee out of plastic cups. Bring food storage containers or zip lock bags for left overs. Protect your feet. Many of the beaches have lots of sharp rocks. Bring water shoes. Sun super hot. Bring a hat or two. Put your sunglasses on a leash.
- BRING EXTRA ROPE AND ANCHOR - They only provide 2 anchors. One for each side of the boat. A 3rd anchor in the center would help stabilize the boat.
- LOOK UP - Many people were camping at the base of huge rocks which looked beautiful until you looked up. Above them was evidence that the pile of rocks they were camping at fell in an avalanche from above. Yikes!
- CHECK DEPTH UNDER SLIDE - Because you park the houseboat up on the sand, it may be very shallow where the slide is on the back of the boat. Check this or you could hurt your legs. Some beaches on the lake had sharp rocks, or hard compacted sand, other spots had soft sand. Some beaches were very shallow, other beaches had a drop off providing more depth for the back of the boat / slide area.
If you do decide to go House Boating, remember these tips, they will come in handy. All in all, yes, I would go again and be more knowledgeable and prepared 🙂 The positives out weight the challenges, but there are serious consequences if you're not prepared. The vast lake and serene beauty are truly a must-see experience.
Happy Fit Family Travels!