Have a Southern Houseboat House Party
The American South has some of the best yachting in the world but you can’t rent a self-drive yacht unless you have boating experience. A family-friendly houseboat, by contrast, can be rented by any responsible adult for an unforgettable cruise of a southern lake or river.
Just a few of the South’s house boating hotspots are: the St. Johns and Mississippi rivers, , Kentucky and Cumberland lakes, Lake Lanier, the Florida Keys and Lake Norris, the largest of many impoundments on the Tennessee River system where many houseboat fleets are found.
Move on board and unpack once. You now have a movable lodge with complete kitchen, one or two bathrooms and beds for four to 14 people. The top deck is for sunning. Fish from the lower deck. Light the barbie. On rainy days, gather in the spacious “living room” to read or play Monopoly. Put the kids to bed, then sit on deck to stargaze. Cruise all day or just nudge the bow up on the beach and go ashore for a nature hike.
Depending on the waterway, you might anchor out in the middle of nowhere or dock at a marina that is part of a complete resort with activities, restaurant and nightlife. Kentucky Lake is the home of a living history park, Land Between the Lakes, where “pioneers” role-play as if the year is 1850.
Costs range from under $800 for a six-sleeper houseboat, mid-week in low season, to $5,000 or more for a 12-sleeper houseboat in high season. Other charges may include insurance, food, a refundable security deposit, fuel for the engine and generator, dockage, linen rental (although you can bring your own) and a cleaning fee.
Checking in, you’ll get a complete briefing on operating the boat, anchoring, docking and navigation. Learn about height and depth restrictions for this vessel. You’ll sign an inventory and be responsible for anything on that list that is broken or missing when you return.
What should you look for? Houseboats rented from reputable firms are in good condition and have charts and U.S. Coast Guard-required safety equipment on board. Things to bring include your own first aid kit according to your family’s needs, binoculars, guidebooks and nature ID books, a stargazer app, food that’s easy to prepare on board plus rain day fun such as books, board games and DVDs.
In choosing a boat look at how many it will accommodate, not just sleep. “Sleeps 12" may mean six double beds with no single bunks or kings, and little privacy. Some bunks are ideal for children but too short for adults. Cuddy cabins don’t have stand-up head room. There may be enough tableware for 12 but don’t expect a dining table and chairs to seat a dozen. And how many showers can the water tanks provide?
About the Author
Janet Groene is a columnist for Houseboat magazine and an experienced boater who develops easy galley recipes posted weekly at http://www.BoatCook.blogspot.com
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