Houseboating tips

In our Summer 2010 issue, Frances Backhouse explores the charms of Sorrento, a peaceful, artistic community of 1,400 that sits adjacent to Shuswap Lake. While the writer finds there’s plenty to do and see on shore, the sprawling “X”-shaped lake itself remains the area’s undisputed star attraction. With approximately 380 kilometres of shoreline, the Shuswap is a renowned houseboating destination. Hundreds of vacationers set out in the floating luxury RVs each summer for a few blissful days of sun worshipping, barbecuing, swimming, and exploring.

If you’re planning your own houseboating adventure on the Shuswap, here are a few tips to help make it an enjoyable one:

  • Brush up on safety. The rental providers on Shuswap Lake conduct orientation sessions with every group heading out on a houseboat. Don’t let yourself start day dreaming about sipping slushy drinks on deck or testing out the waterslide because you will, before long, need to know how to operate the boat’s many systems. It can be embarrassing to have to radio in for assistance while all the other, more attentive, captains listen in.
  • Take it slow. Houseboats typically chug along at speeds between eight and 16 kilometres per hour. Pushing the engine to accelerate beyond that will burn a lot of fuel but won’t make the boat go much faster, explains Matt Taylor of Shuswap Houseboats. “It’s a big lake but you don’t have to see all of it,” he adds.
  • Prepare for a rainy day. Most Shuswap visitors enjoy sunshine-saturated days but in the event that storm clouds roll in and you need to hunker down in the cabin, make sure you’re armed with books, board games, cards, tiddlywinks—or whatever suits you?to help pass the time. You’ll also discover whether you brought the right houseboat mates!
  • Explore on shore. Taylor, who has spent 10 years cruising the Shuswap, recommends the three-kilometre walk to Hunakwa Lake in pretty Anstey-Hunakwa Provincial Park, at the tip of Shuswap Lake’s northeast arm. He also suggests tying up at the dock in Salmon Arm and wandering the city’s streets and beaches. There are many other interesting communities along the lake also worth exploring, including Sorrento.
  • Shop and float. For a unique shopping experience, sidle the houseboat up to one of the floating stores in The Narrows, where the arms of the lake converge. “Everyone likes to hop off to buy a magazine, find a T-shirt with a dirty saying on it, pick up an ice cream, or rent a Sea-doo,” says Taylor.
  • Tie up securely. To avoid setting adrift overnight and ending up in an unexpected game of bumper-boats, make sure you’ve secured your houseboat before heading to bed. “That doesn’t mean you have to run yourself halfway up the beach and get stuck,” explains Taylor. The boat should be anchored to strong trees or to stakes pounded firmly into the ground. Make sure the lines are tight and you’ve left enough space between other boats. Among Taylor’s top recommendations on where to spend the night: the north side of “The Narrows,” where the lake’s arms meet; the big, white-sand beaches at the ends of Anstey and Seymour Arms; at Albas where a marked trail leads to a waterfall.
  • Keep it under control. It sounds obvious, but make sure there’s always someone at the wheel steering when the boat is in motion. Your houseboat may feel like a steadfast barge, but wind and waves can quickly move you off course.

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