After I returned from a trip to Voyageurs National Park, friends asked about vacationing on a houseboat. My story on Voyageurs focuses on the park, rather than my personal experience. But in case you are wondering, along with my friends: Yes, I would do it again. And no, it was not as simple as unpacking in a hotel and kicking back.
Houseboat companies send you out with a guide to explain how it works; when you feel comfortable, the guide zips back to base via speedboat.
Despite the lesson, houseboating exposed my lack of boating chops. The beasts respond slowly to steering, so I often overcompensated at the wheel, sending the boat pinging this way and that. Navigation requires concentration. When we first tied up, I tried to secure the houseboat's lines with a feeble bow. Then I tied several knots too many. (The key is to make one strong knot that you can untie easily when it's time to depart.)
Let's just say that I was relieved to be traveling with my friend Teresa Sterns, whose considerable boating experience kept us on course.
But houseboating has perks, too. The floating homes provide cushy access to vast lakes and roadless lands. Imagine cooking in a full kitchen, complete with a refrigerator and oven, and refreshing after a long day with a shower — but still enjoying a campfire when night falls and checking for ticks because you explored deep into the wilderness. Great, right?
Our 44-foot version had a slide from the top deck, screen porch, sofa and nice eating area adjacent to the kitchen inside. There were four of us — Teresa, me and our daughters — and we each had our own bunk; the grown-ups got double beds.
Four companies rent houseboats to use in the park (ours was the friendly Ebel's Voyageurs Houseboats). Find them all listed in the park newspaper, at npg.gov/voya. You can overnight at a campsite in the park, too. But then you'd miss that hot shower.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.