Close your eyes and imagine floating on a blow-up reclining armchair on a pristine, cool, clear lake under a sunny blue sky in 35 degree celsius temperatures. You're clutching an ice cold beer in your right hand and there's not a thought nor a worry in your mind or in your life...
Welcome to my Shuswap Lake house boating getaway!
With the Canada Day long weekend (a cherished weekend to get out and do something significant here in BC in the Summer without having to take too much time off work) looming, I decided back around February to make a move and book a house boat on Lake Shuswap, about 5 hours or so north-east of Vancouver. I contacted the Waterway Houseboats company purely on the strength of their website design which is really good, half expecting that there was going to be nothing left. After all, most house boating rentals in this district are completely filled six months or more out from the Summer season.
Luckily for me, however, I was able to secure a comfy, 10 sleeper Mirage 42 boat for the July long weekend period and the idea was in motion.
While we put the invite out to a large number of people, due to finances, schedules and whatnot, we eventually settled on a fantastic mixed crew of 12 for the weekend – Ryan & Corrie, Chris & Andrea, Me, TJ, Derek, Aaron, Amy, Picco, Robyn & Cass.
With Chris and Andrea using their expertise in taking care of the food situation on everyone's behalf (and I have no idea how any of us are ever going to be able to thank them enough), all that was left to do was to meet Saturday morning at the Waterways dock on the shores of Shuswap Lake in the gorgeous little town of Sicamous.
With everyone planning on heading up into the region Friday evening after work and staying around the Kelowna area before making the final trek to Sicamous early Saturday morning, I ended up staying at Andrea's parent's place with Chris, Andrea, Cassie and Aaron. The Franz's were very gracious hosts considering we landed on their doorstep late at night, cleared out their beer stocks and were gone again before they rose in the morning. Thank you so much for your hospitality guys!
Arriving at the dock, we all met up, got our vehicles in line ready for offloading gear at the dock, and then parking in the secure parking area run and monitored by the company's army of friendly Mexican employees – a great bunch of blokes. I went up and completed the whole payment, security deposit and wads of paperwork that needed to be done before boarding, watched the Captain's 15 minute instructional video on how to run the boat, and then headed down to the rest of the crew in the car park where we waited and waited and waited to be called up to board our boat – "Double Play".
Although it seemed like we waited an eternity to board, it must be said that the Waterways company run a pretty slick operation and we were underway with little hassle. With a stroke of luck, we managed to make it straight out of Mara Lake, and through the Sicamous narrows and the rail bridge while it was open. No more additional waiting – yay! Usually, you can cruise out under the rail bridge, but because of the larger than normal volume of snow last Winter, the runoff and therefore level of water in the lake system was high enough that the rail bridge needed to be opened for all vessels passing through.
With the mercury climbing, it goes without saying that once we were clear of all other boat traffic, we turned off the engine and jumped overboard in a ritual that would be repeated over and over across the next two and a bit days. While a little cool on the skin at first contact, the water was stunning and most of us had no problems repeatedly ascending the stairs to the top deck and proceeding to hurl ourselves off the side of the boat under our own steam, or utilising the cool slide that protruded off the back deck.
Between the time spent in the water, the time spent floating on various blow up aids on the water and the chowing down of cold cut meats, salad and bread rolls for lunch, we made our way ever so slowly towards the infamous "Nielson Beach" where we would beach for the night along with literally hundreds of other people. Noted for it's party vibe, we were keen to get on the beach and meet some other boaters and enjoy the gorgeous BBQ sunset atmosphere.
Surprisingly, there isn't really any sordid tales to tell from our first night on the lake. We all just had a great time relaxing and just appreciating the opportunity to be somewhere so beautiful and so far away from the grind we endure during the week. Some had their good time a little earlier (some would say a little too early) than others (love ya Amy), some chose to improve relations with boaters from other Provinces (just where did that Riders cap come from Picco?), and then there was that chap that crawled back aboard late at night with something scribbled on his torso. Aaron, what exactly is the update with "Karla 604".........??? Haha!
With the morning light penetrating the boat and the temperature soaring a little earlier than we probably all would have liked, we untied "Double Play" from the beach and headed to a sweet waterfall on the far shore of the lake where we again cut the engines, had our morning swim and got stuck into some brekky.
The rest of the day (Sunday) really just involved a whole lot of exhausting nothingness. It was soooooooo nice. Rather than type out a full description of "nothingness", check out the images below.
Sunday night, we escaped the noise and craziness of Nielson Beach, headed up "Anstey Arm" of the lake and chose to beach ourselves in our own little spot with a great beach area in the quiet region near "Four Mile Creek". A massive mexican feed, fire side "murder" games on the shore, a top deck dance party and a never ending poker game were on the cards for the evening and again, I think all revelers went to bed with full stomachs and happy souls. I chose to spend the night on the top deck sleeping under the stars which was an amazing experience.
You've all probably heard it all before, but away from city lights you get a real appreciation for just how many stars are up there and you get a sense of how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things... a feeling that consumed me as I drifted off to sleep.
Mosquitoes actually no, a dead-set party of mosquitoes hell bent on completing some extensive "blood work" on me, were what greeted me first thing Monday morning. I guess there was always going to be a flip-side to the amazing experience of being able to sleep under the stars.
With a long 4-5 hour cruise back to the dock ahead of us, we pushed off the beach at 8am and set about making a fantastic typically Canadian breakfast of french toast, bacon and maple syrup while on the go. All that was left to do then was pack up our gear and just laze in the sun as we made our way back to the narrows and back onto Mara Lake. Here we were put into a brief holding pattern (which obviously involved more time in the water), before being called into dock where we got all our gear off and packed back into our vehicles, completed all the security checks and paperwork and reluctantly waved goodbye to our friend "Double Play".
What adventure in 40 degree temps is complete without the obligatory ice cream stop? Yes, we all arranged to meet at a great little local ice creamery where we all got stuck into dairy delights of various types, shared some stories about our favourite parts of the past weekend and then said our goodbyes and hit the road bound for Vancouver once again. It was kind of a sad moment I have to say... but what an amazing time. There's little wonder that there's already murmurs of a repeat trip next year!
A MASSIVE personal thanks goes out to all my fellow crew who were nothing but a delight to travel with. A special thanks MUST also go out to Chris and Andrea for putting in such a magical effort making sure that we were all adequately fed throughout the weekend. Thanks guys!
Links & Credits
- All images // Rob Masefield
- Waterway Houseboats // waterwayhouseboats.com
- Shuswap Lake // shuswaptourism.ca
- Sicamous // sicamous.ca