FOTOS INC: Speaking of summer vacations …

When photographer/reporter Mark Brett talks about summer holidays, memories of the infamous Houseboat Holiday from Hell emerge.

This time of year I’m often reminded (usually by my wife who hasn’t forgiven me yet) about what has become known as the infamous Houseboat Holiday from Hell.

It was supposed to have been a five-day, relaxing (albeit very expensive) getaway on Shuswap Lake.

Supposed to be.

Arriving at Houseboat Headquarters just outside of Salmon Arm, with our supplies and a sick kitten, we were anxious to hit the open water.

Shuswap Lake does not actually have a lot of “open” water. While nearly 90 kilometres in length, its widest point is only five kilometres.

And, as we learned during our five-minute, in-depth briefing, the lake, not to be outdone by Ogopogo, has its own monster.

Affectionately known as Shuwaggi, it reportedly lurks somewhere in the depths.

Anyway, back on board with all our gear stowed (nautical term), beer in the fridge etc. it was time to get the show on the road.

Sliding into the captain’s chair on the top deck and firing up the engine, which in our case was a small outboard, we slowly leave the moorage site.

Fortunately the rental guy had thought to untie us from the dock prior to our departure.

Leaving the marina area and keeping to the left of the buoy we come across another vessel heading to shore on our starboard (right) side.

As I remembered from when I was a kid, boaters always wave to each other, however I’d never seen any as enthusiastic as this couple who were actually waving both arms.

Just as I was about to remark to my wife about the friendly tradition we came to a grinding halt in the rocky, shallow water.

Oops, wrong side of the buoy.

Repeated attempts to dislodge the vessel were initially unsuccessful.

In the meantime there was a steady stream of boaters going past, some laughing, others pointing and all of them shaking their heads.

Thankfully, just before calling in a Mayday to Houseboat Headquarters on the two-way radio, we were free.

Okay, lesson learned.

While there didn’t appear to be any serious damage (no leaks) the motor didn’t seem to be working as well as it should, although we were eventually able to reach our maximum cruising speed of one-to-two knots.

Six hours and a couple of kilometres later we decided to find a spot for the night.

After pulling up on shore and staking the moorage lines I had a look at the motor and realized the pretzel shape of the propeller caused by the rocks, explained its earlier problems.

A quick call on the radio to Houseboat Headquarters and arrangements were made for a new one to be delivered to our location in the morning.

With time to relax and after spending a quiet evening on deck, it was off to bed. The gentle rocking of the boat and sounds of water lapping against the hull quickly did their work.

That lasted until about 1 a.m. when the boat broke free from one of the moorage lines, winding up sideways on shore.

Working for an hour in the pitch blackness with only a flashlight, we were finally able to secure the vessel and the rest of the night passed without incident.

The following day the new $50 prop arrived and the technician checked off a box on what appeared to be a running tab. Hmmm.

Day 2 dawned bright and sunny and we were off. No problems. We found a place for the evening, this time solidly on shore.

Relaxing on deck after supper, all of a sudden there was a crackling on the radio (something I learned earlier always preceded bad news).

Sure enough.

Houseboat Headquarters was reporting a violent storm heading in our direction and we were instructed to move to a new location.

Once there, all we could do was watch the approaching wind and rain and then it hit.

The first huge wave punched the boat so far up on the beach only a small part of the stern, which quickly flooded, was still in the water.

Sitting inside with the kitten wrapped in a towel, eventually the pounding of the water took its toll and I had to go outside and do something, anything.

At one point I found myself waist-deep in the lake holding a rope tied to the boat.

Still not sure why.

At some point the storm blew over. However, inadvertantly, the upper hatch above the sleeping quarters was left open, and everything was soaked from the rain and pounding waves.

In the daylight, the carnage on the beach was testimony to the fierceness of the storm and it took many hours of work by crews to get the boats, including ours, back in water.

Thankfully there are few other memories of the rest of the holiday, with the exception of finding out how Horsefly Cove came by its name.

These days when we talk about summer holidays, house boating is rarely mentioned and the likelihood of that being an option is about the same as if you know where freezes over.

Mark Brett is a photographer and reporter at the Penticton Western News


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