Gail Buckley: [Summary Text Here]
Let me start with a confession: I think the title of this article is misleading. Every houseboat vacation is special! Here at Lake Powell, there’s so much to see and do, it’s just amazing. But there are still fun and easy ways to make your houseboating excursion even more memorable—and custom-tailored to your group and your interests.
Go for the Hoodies
These days, it’s really easy to jump online and order custom-imprinted apparel and accessories. I love seeing a houseboat where everyone’s wearing their own “Smith Family Reunion” t-shirts or however they print them up. (I’ve seen some customized even more, where on the back, they’ll be labeled “Grandmom,” “Grandpop,” and “Little Pete.”) Some houseboating groups come to the lake to celebrate a success from their jobs, so company-themed goodies carry the day. And there’s more than t-shirts: you can do hoodies for chilly evenings, kerchiefs, koozies, water bottles, pretty much anything. They don’t cost much when you buy them, but they sure seem priceless when you’re out on the lake.
Plan a Theme Night
This is one I’ve always enjoyed with family and friends. You can do something like “Around The World” (one of our “stops,” for example, featured Mexican food, costumes, and props). I’ve seen houseboaters stage a “Pirate” theme, complete with eye-patches and a playful Jolly Roger flag. Some have done a “Survivor”-themed outing, replete with crazy challenges; whoever loses is out the next night. (And no, they don’t get “voted off the houseboat,” LOL!)
Speaking of TV-show-inspired themes, one of my favorites is based on the popular game show, “Minute to Win It.” In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, it features family-friendly contests, using common household items, that must be completed in 60 seconds or less. I still remember one in which our “contestants” had to tie an empty tissue box behind them, and shake their hips to try and get three ping-pong balls to fall out! Needless to say, be sure to shoot video of stuff like this; it will have you laughing for years to come. It’s easy to search the web for different ““Minute to Win It”-style games. And be sure to bring prizes for the winners. For the adults, our prizes might be a nice alcoholic drink; for the kids, they might be coloring books, floaties, or beach balls.
We’ve also done cooking competitions: Everyone votes to determine who made the best meal of the trip. We’ll give away prizes (such as funny pot-holders); it’s also easy to make a printed award or trophy such as “The Golden Skillet.” For more ideas about cooking and meals, be sure to check out my other article devoted exclusively to that subject.
Go for the Gold
Here’s a fun idea that goes beyond the houseboat. Stage a family Olympics event! At Northlake where I’m based, there are lots of beaches where you can do track-and-field events. Of course, there’s always swimming. But you can invent your own Olympic games, including water skiing, wakeboarding, and water-sliding—remember, every single houseboat that we rent at Lake Powell includes its own slide.
Get Closer to the Heavens
If you think the opportunities to enjoy nature’s wonders at Lake Powell stop when the sun goes down, you need only look up to see how wrong you are. Especially here at Northlake, where we pride ourselves on our seclusion, there is simply zero light pollution. If you haven’t been here before, prepare to be dazzled by the brightest, most star-packed skies you’ve ever seen. Bring a telescope; even binoculars are great. Check online to see if your trip overlaps any of the year’s meteor showers. And before you come here, be sure to download any of the popular sky-gazing apps for your smartphone or tablet. They’re fun and educational, too: Simply hold your device up to the sky, and you’ll be shown which constellations and planets are where.
Pack activities for imperfect weather
Sometimes, especially in spring and late fall, it can get rainy or windy here at the lake. So be sure you bring things to keep you occupied when you’re inside the boat during off weather. All our houseboats include a DVD player, so bring some movies. Load your phone, tablet, or iPod with music; you can plug in and play tunes. (Since we’re far from big cities, don’t count on radio reception for your entertainment.) Pack games for the kids—and adults. We like to play board games and card games; cribbage tournaments are popular among my friends.
And of course, read! Bring books, load books onto your devices, and bring books for the kids. I like to bring magazines, too: Just before a trip, I’ll raid the impulse aisle at my local supermarket, and stock up on carefree reading that’s enjoyable in any weather.
Jim Knapp: [Summary Text Here]
Houseboating is so much fun. You get to enjoy the beauty of Lake Powell, and the company of family and friends.
But what if you want, well, more? As a proud Lake Powell veteran, I can tell you about some of the things I’ve seen, and done, that go beyond the ordinary houseboat outing. Some of these just might inspire you…
I’ve seen lots of family reunions here at the lake, with big groups all decked out in matching t-shirts. There are Hawaiian nights (read my colleague Gail Buckley’s article about theme nights for more details) and tropical nights and so on, but my favorite has got to be Pirate Night.
This isn’t hard to do. But it’s a lot of fun. The costumes can range from the traditional to the grown-up. Similarly, the beverages can range from the kid-friendly soda-grog to the yo-ho-ho bottle of rum. Can you say Arrrrr?!
These are common here, too—but that doesn’t make them any less fun. If you want to make one yourself, just get a big roll of sheet plastic (such as Visqueen), and unfurl it on a steep beach. Get it wet—many people bring a pump and/or generator just for the purpose—and off you go. I’ve seen water slides run 100 feet or more! It’s like your own private theme park.
Battle of the Bands
Sure, all our houseboats have stereo systems. But some of our guests like to create their own music. While the guitar-around-the-campfire sing-along is pretty commonplace (but again, no less fun!), I’ve seen people pack—and set up—entire rock bands! Personally, I think that’s a ton of work; just a drum kit is a project unto itself. But I have to admire the people who do this. Many set up stage on the top deck. The more ambitious ones will actually set up everything on a beach. I’m not sure how they pay their “roadies.” Perhaps in beer?
The Ultimate Get-together
When I first sat down to write this article, I was trying to think of a good unique experience that I could share firsthand. And then it hit me: I got married here at Lake Powell. (And then my wife hit me, for taking too long to remember it!)
It was an event. Personally, I will tell you it was awesome. We had eight houseboats. Nearly 100 guests. (Remember, our 59-foot houseboats sleep 12.) We were out on the lake for about five days. For those who didn’t stay aboard a houseboat, we’d shuttle them to the wedding beach via powerboat. That was how we got the preacher here. (He had a ball hanging out with us after the ceremony was over.)
We packed 12 chairs per boat. We rented one of those big shade tents. We brought potted plants to adorn the altar. We selected the beach where they filmed the movie Maverick. The bridal party was dressed formal—yet barefoot. It was, in a word, awesome.
I’m not the first—or only—one to get married here at Lake Powell. We actually host a lot of weddings. We offer catering. We have a special events coordinator to handle it all. I’ve even seen big weddings which have used generators on the beach to power the equipment (the houseboat gennies can’t handle that stuff), and even employed our tour boats (such as the Canyon Princess) to shuttle the guests to the ceremony.
If you’re thinking of tying the knot here, you could do a lot worse.
But What About the Weather?
In mid summer, it rains here almost every day. You can get dumped on. And there’s no real “indoors” to escape to.
It rained on my wedding. The winds kicked up. The guests hung onto our big tent to keep it in place. We all got soaked. And a half hour later, the rains were gone, the beach was steaming in the sun, and I said “I do” to my new bride.
We both wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Robert Knowlton: [Summary Text Here]
You’ve marked those days on the calendar. You’ve made the reservation. You’re ready to go houseboating! What could be more fun?
How about: Houseboating with planned activities?
Here are just a few ideas from my houseboating vacations with families and friends. This list is by no means exhaustive; consider it a springboard for more great ideas of your own:
Beach You to It!
The first thing you want to do when you houseboat is to find a good beach to call your own. It’s not only where you anchor; it’s also where you play!
I think the simplest beach games are the most fun. If you haven’t played it, try ladder ball: That’s where you toss a bola (two balls connected by a short string) onto a plastic ladder to score points. You can get a set cheap on Amazon; heck, you can make your own for free.
Then there’s cornhole. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, the visual might: Picture one of those flat boards you’ve seen at carnivals; the object is to toss a beanbag into the hole at the end of the board from a distance.
The joy of these games is that they’re so easy, anything goes. I’ve read, for example, that in cornhole, “the ugliest person goes first.” I’ve also read that all of these can double as great drinking games (beer Frisbee, anyone?), but don’t quote me on that.
If you’re looking to work up more of a sweat, there’s no better beach sport than beach volleyball. You can set up a badminton net, too. In fact, some of our beaches here are so big, I’ve seen people set up soccer games. That’s “European football,” but why stop there? My friends and I have often played American football, in the form of flag football (where, instead of tackling, you need to yank a Velcro flag off an opponent’s belt).
Choose your captains, and then divide your teams to be evenly matched, and by that, I mean “by skill level, not size.” I distinctly remember one game in which all the small guys beat all the big guys!
Plan on spending some of your time in the boat, because rain showers come and go here at the lake. All our rental houseboats can play DVDs, so be sure to pack a few movies to choose from.
Watching a movie, even with friends, however, doesn’t provide much opportunity for interaction. That’s why I recommend that you bring playing cards, board games, things like that. I like games like Catchphrase, Pictionary, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit; they keep everyone connected and having fun.
Of course, you’ll want quiet time, too. That’s what books and magazines (including those on your phone or tablet) are for, along with things like crossword and word-search puzzles.
What About the littlest ones?
For extended families (like mine) with little kids or toddlers, you need to accommodate them—and their parents. The smallest ones will need a “pack-and-play” or “play fortress,” as well as someone to watch them. Knowing that you can’t leave the little ones unattended, be sure to offer some break time for beleaguered parents, sort of an “I’ll watch the kids this time while you’re on the hike” type of arrangement.
That said, who doesn’t know a kid who doesn’t love to play on the beach? Pack lots of sunscreen, bring a shovel and pail, and turn them loose!
About the Experts
Gail Buckley - Gail Buckley’s houseboating adventures date back to the 1980s, when she and her husband would visit the lake several times each year with friends. In 2010, she turned her love into a new career at Lake Powell; today, she’s the Boat Rentals Manager for Northlake at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas
Jim Knapp - Jim Knapp first moved to Lake Powell more than 25 years ago; today, he’s the Director of Boat Rental Maintenance for Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas. A factory-certified mechanic for numerous top marine powerplant brands, he’s also a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain for 100-ton craft.
Robert Knowlton -Robert Knowlton started his career at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas as a seasonal worker during college more than six years ago. Today, not only is he a full-timer—he’s the Director, Southlake Boat Rentals, based at Wahweap Marina.