This was something Farmer John has talked about doing pretty much ever since he was in high school and went on a houseboat with friends. It had never made it onto our vacation calendar, so I made it work this year as something extra special for the big 4-0.
I chose Lake Billy Chinook mainly because it is the closest lake to us with houseboats. It would have been fun to go to Lake Shasta, Lake Powell, or Lake Havasu, but I wanted our friends and family to celebrate with us. So, the closer the location the better.
I had never stayed on a houseboat and had no idea what to expect. I was amazed at how little information I found about houseboats. Earlier in the year we took a two week trip to Europe and I was able to find all kinds of information on pretty much any topic. I was taking my kids to an entirely different continent, trust me I looked up odd things, and always found an answer. A houseboat just a few hours from home, though, I could find almost nothing about.
My basic tip: Think of it as you would an RV. The refrigerator is similar, flushing the toilet is similar, sleeping arrangements are similar. It’s a floating RV.
There are two options for renting houseboats at Lake Billy Chinook. You can rent them through Cove Palisades State Park or through Lake Billy Chinook Houseboats, which is what we did. The state park is closer and does not require driving on a windy, sometimes with no barrier road, along a steep cliff. The view is beautiful, though. My kids said it reminded them of the Grand Canyon.
WHERE TO SLEEP?
This boat was listed for sleeping 14 people. It easily held 14 of us.
Top Right: A bedroom of sorts with good sized bunks
Top Left: Also in the “bedroom” a pull out couch/bed
Bottom Left: Bunks in the “hallway.” They were a bit short, probably too short for most adults. But, we had plenty of kids wanting to sleep there.
Bottom Left: 2 pull out couches/beds in the dining area.
Up the ladder was a room with a completely padded floor. It easily held the 5 of us.
I was impressed with how roomy the kitchen was. It was definitely more comfortable than the dinky kitchen area in our fifth wheel.
Bottom Left: There were 2 refrigerators and 2 freezers. They didn’t work particularly well.
Bottom Right: On the boat was a fold up table. It wasn’t bolted in one place, which was nice. We moved it around as needed. On a boat that holds 14, it would have been nice to have 2 of these tables. But, then I suppose one would be in the way a lot of the time.
The boat we were on had been newly remodeled. I peeked in one of the other boats and saw this. It was certainly outdated, but the layout was the same.
I heard these boats were old boats from a more popular lake that got new boats. They were a bit dated. However, price wise they were much cheaper to rent than the fancy boats on other lakes. Having never been on a houseboat, I can’t compare whether the price difference is worth it. Or, if we had just as good of time as we would have on a more expensive boat.
2 Bathrooms were on the boat
Left: The bathroom near the back of the boat had a toilet & sink and was similar in size to an RV bathroom.
Middle & Right: The main bathroom, though, was huge. It had a shower, toilet, sink, counter space and lots of storage.
The ladders to the top level were pretty close to vertical with small rungs, not ideal for young ones, elderly, or pregnant bellies. But, there’s no reason you have to go to the top level so it wasn’t a problem.
DRIVING THE BOAT
FUN & GAMES
Mid week we stopped by the service dock to get gas and empty the holding tanks.
At the end of our trip, the gas & propane were filled and we were billed for all that we used. Our bill was around $400. That seemed a bit steep considering we didn’t drive the boat much, but we did use the generator every day and the refrigerator and bbq ran off propane.
After the red vines were gone, I used the bucket to mix together Bear Lake Trail Mix I found at Chef in Training. It was good, but dang it, I forgot to add the Bugles. And, I couldn’t find pretzel m&m’s so I subbed with crunchy m&m’s. I also used birthday cake teddy grahams instead of chocolate chip ones.
One day I made Mandarin Sailboat Jello Treats. They were so good, I meant to make them again later in the week, but never got around to it. Click here for directions and a downloadable file for the sails.
Left top & bottom: I have never made Italian Sodas, but stumbled across the idea not long before leaving on our trip. So, I bought all the stuff and I’m glad I did. They were definitely a fun daily treat. We used Club Soda, Half and Half, and Flavored Syrups. I mixed the ingredients in my blender with ice, then topped it with whipped cream. So good!
The boat did have a blender, but I brought my own so I used it for mixing drinks.
The boat also had cups and coffee mugs in the cupboard. I just didn’t know what to expect, so I brought our own.
The syrups were great. We used them in the Italian Sodas, as well as coffee & cocktails.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?
Yep. It was fun.
I’m not sure a whole week is necessary. But, we certainly kept busy the whole time. A weekend trip seems like it wouldn’t be long enough.
Since I couldn’t find much information prior to going, I wasn’t sure how things would work out. It was kind of difficult to get in contact with the company. I sent them an email, and got no response back. They didn’t always answer the phone, even during typical business hours. However, I can’t say enough great things about all the employees once we were there. Everyone was super friendly and very helpful. We came back to the dock a few times throughout the week dropping off and picking up friends. Every single time someone came and asked us how things were going. We needed more toilet paper. No questions asked, he quickly ran off and brought us more. A glass pan lid had cracked, he came back with another pan and lid. Questions about fishing, they answered. The door was sticky, within minutes it was fixed.
Also, all the stuff listed as items on board, they really had. Plenty of dishes and serving bowls. The bbq worked well.
All in all, a great week spent with friends playing in/on the water.