Friday, October 5, 2012


Now I have written a couple of blog entries about piloting the houseboat for Regis and the girls, and I hope you have enjoyed them, but it really was an interesting vacation, and for anyone interested, I will tell you something about it, in case you might want to give it a try.

Lots of Room for Everyone
The houseboat itself is large, comfortable, and easy to maneuver. I have never really driven a bpat before and I really did not have any problem. You can pilot it from inside if the weather is less than perfect, but if it is sunny and warm, there is a second bridge up on the 'hottub' deck. Although the boat is like a big RV on the water, it is outfitted with a real household refrigerator, stove and microwave. The kitchen is large and easy to work in with lots of cupboards. The bathroom is a real bathroom with an RV style toilet, but a full size shower and sink complete with vanity. There is a couch and a large dining table that both convert to LARGE beds, and as you read, the girls really did have room to line dance in the living room. There were two bedrooms and a sleeping loft, so with the beds in the living area this boat slept 10 with no problem, and sitting nine at the table worked well. We saw another boat that slept 14 that had four bedrooms and two bathrooms (Only one shower however). There was a hottob on the top deck, as well as lots of room to sit around and talk or heaven forbid, square dance. There is a large flatscreen TV and excellent sound system in the living room, and a car type stereo up stairs so your collection of music on the Ipod or Phone is easy to play. There is a slide from the top deck into the water that would have been used if the water was warmer – it looked like fun. And there is a full size barbecue on the front deck.

Come on board . . .
The boat worked well. It has a 3.0 litre inboard engine that started easily with little fuss, and pushed us along at houseboat speed. This means that nothing shifted, you could put your coffee or glass of wine on the counter and even turns did not move it. It is a dual hull pontoon boat so is amazingly stable. Even one morning steaming up river at full speed with a strong wind and whitecaps, we lost water out of the hot tob but not out of the wine glasses inside. The slow speed and stability means that even those susceptible to motion sickness forget they are on the water. The boat uses a battery and generator system and is completely automatic. Regular electric appliances work just fine, and you do not have to worry about using lights or power. When needed the generator comes on and recharges the batteries. They pull water from the river and treat it internally for cooking and showers, and it is then put back into the river so you have no holding tank filling up even with a crowd, and the septic held enough so that even with nine people for almost a week we had no problem.

Underway up the River
The Saint John River, above the Mactaquac dam is your highway, and you can go as far up river as Woodstock. There are some activities to do along the river such as Kings Landing and Trees to Go, but the main activity is the houseboat itself. The scenery up and down the river is beautiful, especially in October with the leaves changing colour when I went, but I suspect any season would have it's own unique benefits. The relaxing speed of the boat and the comfortable setting with good friends make the voyage the best part of the experience.

It is not an inexpensive vacation if you were going on your own, but probably compatible to renting an RV, but put together a group of family or good friends to share the cost and you can have a really reasonable adventure.

Writing the Blog
As I write this, I am sitting on the back deck of the boat in October. I am sitting in a lawn chair typing on my Macbook with a cold beer beside me. I pulled into a little cove at about 4:00 pm , tied up to two sturdy trees and it is now almost 7:00 pm, the sun is going down and I'm watching the river flow gently past. Life is good.

Kindness Of Strangers (New Brunswick)

Did you read my entry on the kindness of strangers? Well it happens in New Brunswick too.

Friendly Houseboats in Nackawic
Regis had everything carefully arranged, and she found a pub that we could have supper in when we got to Nackiwick New Brunswick, which was as far as we were going up the river. We pulled into a nice spot right in the beautiful waterfront park in the town, and soon after we got settled, another houseboat pulled in as well right beside us. We exchanged pleasantries, and discovered that they were actually from just down the road. Now one advantage of making friends with the locals is that they quickly gave an opinion about our dining choices, and suggested that since they didn't eat at the pub, suggested we give it a pass as well, and when we found out that the pub food is not prepared on site but ordered from the Pizza joint next door, their advice sounded wise. This left us with a dilemma . . . . what to do for supper?

The kindly Padre Ginny met at the grocery store suggested a couple of places across the river, and said he was willing to drive us over even though it would take a couple of trips, but he couldn't bring us back because he had a meeting. Nackawic does not have a Taxi, and since one of the members was suffering from an injury (hiking, not alcohol induced) the 20 minute walk was out of the question.

Our New Friends
As we discussed our options up on the Lido deck, our Houseboat neighbours overheard, and once more came to the rescue. Although they had come here in the houseboat, they had a vehicle at their house and were only too happy to take us to one of the 'approved' restaurants. They said that we were in New Brunswick now, and people were just willing to help out here.

From Their Boat
Oh, we finally decided on Chinese take-out recommended by our Houseboat neighbours and they took Regis across the river to pick it up. We did spend a very enjoyable evening sharing our take-out dinner with them, but they brought a very handy bar size liquor dispenser and chocolate bars for desert. Another example of the “Kindness of Strangers”. Way to go New Brunswick!

The Captain Does not SQUARE DANCE!

Out On The River
When I volunteered for this trip, I promised to stay out of the way and not interfere with the “Girls” fun week on the houseboat. I went so that none of them had to worry about being 'responsible' for driving the boat. Besides, I really wanted to drive the houseboat.

What is rockin the boat?
I quickly discovered that just driving was not that easy. The 'bridge', such as it is, is right in the main cabin next to the dining room, so you don't get a nice quiet 'bridge' to pilot the boat. Now there are advantages to this. Your coffee comes quickly in the morning, and when the boat starts rocking badly in perfectly calm water, you do not have to go look for the problem, you can see that it is just the line dancing going on in the living room - when all eight of them sashay one way the boat does tend to participate in the dance.

Tying up the boat
I also discovered that the captain's duties do go beyond just steering the boat (Silly me . . . ). I discovered that my 'deck hands' were actually more of the 'deck fluff' variety and it was me that had to jump ashore when we chose a spot to stop for the night and tie the boat to a couple of sturdy trees. They were willing to throw the ropes to me but balked at jumping ashore to do the actual tying. When the table wouldn't come apart at bedtime to convert to a bed, I had to do it, and of course when the hot tub sploshed out in the wind, I was on deck to fill it again and get the temperature up to the suggested 110° required by Karen.
Square Dancing on the Lido

I did draw the line in the sand (We were actually pulled up on a lovely sandy beach in Nackawic) when I was asked to take part in Sharon's impromptu Square Dance lessons that started up on the 'Lido' deck because they couldn't convince the attractive EMO guys to come back and fill in for Elayne's bruised rib they were asked to attend to.


Boating With The Girls

Boating with the Girls
Ok, now retirement is all about finally having the time to try new things, challenge yourself, take chances and test your limits. Well, my latest adventure was probably my most adventurous. Regis, always looking for interesting things to do, found an advertisement in a 'tourist' magazine for a houseboat rental on the Saint John River. Now some of her ideas don't go very far, but this one proved popular and in no time she had nine girlfriends willing to go with her.

The Captain at work
I don't know what I was thinking, but I suggested that I would go along to drive the boat so they could all 'party' without having to worry about a “Designated Driver”. If it has an engine and a throttle I want to try to drive it, and since I liked the narrow boat in England I thought this would be fun. I should have realized when no one tried to talk me out of it that I might be in trouble. After all I had been in the house during their “serious” book clubs (I didn't know that much wine was involved with reviewing novels), and I had heard about some of their “get-a-ways” in Cape Breton. This wasn't one group, it was a combination of three groups, a book club, a Monday coffee group and some family & friends thrown in for good (or bad) measure.

Line Dancing on the Boat
Now I have never piloted a boat. In England I was designated “Engineer”, and Master Mariner Brother-in-law handled the difficult piloting duties, but he did let all interested parties a chance to man the tiller, and I only hit one other boat during my turns, and Regis was assured by the company that it wasn't difficult to pilot the boat, so I figured I could handle it. It was in the wide part of the river above the dam, and it was off season so I could learn to drive the boat without endangering other mariners too much. I even went so far as to take my 'Pleasure craft boating licence'. The interesting thing was that I worried about getting the licence and didn't really think about actually piloting the boat, but once I actually passed the test and had a piece of paper in my hand that said I could actually legally drive the boat, I started to think about all they things I didn't know. Which side is starboard again, where do you get fuel, how big was the holding tank going to have to be with nine girls wanting a shower every morning, where were we supposed to tie up every night . . . . . .
Sharing the fun

No problem, the “Boat Rental Folk” gave me a 10 minute course and when he asked if I knew about piloting a boat , and I said I had only helped with a narrow boat in England, but had driven RVs and trucks, he said “No Problem, you'll be fine!”

Walking the Plank
Actually it is pretty easy, and the boat is well suited to the river. It is an aluminium pontoon boat and I was told to just run it gently ashore, tie it to two trees and all would be good. It is no speed boat and you don't need worry about fuel, oil or even water. Back out, point it where you want to go and keep it steady until you get to the next night's mooring.

Filling the Hot Tub
And the “girls” genuinely appreciated my sacrifice and I was waited on and thanked by everyone for driving them. As I write this, we are safely tied up in a little cove along the river. The boat is nosed into the shore just like I was told to do it, and as I write this, the boat is rocking to line dancing. Now it is only the first day . . . . . . .