What's houseboating like in 1991?
Most California houseboating lakes are down, although late storms could have a big impact. The worst-case scenario in northern California could see some lakes (including Shasta, Trinity, and Oroville) drawn down to their 1977 record low levels. At our press time, Lake Oroville, the source point for the California Aqueduct, is at 30 percent volume, and big dirt shoulders slope down to the water. But while shorelines look unappealing, there's still plenty of water for boating in these reservoirs. As of this winter, Lake Shasta still has more than 250 miles of shoreline, and even now its deepest end could submerge a 30-story building.
The water level of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta isn't affected by the drought. Astride the Colorado River, Powell and Mead are down less than lakes in California, and Havasu is full. As we went to press, gas prices weren't much of a cost factor. At Lake Powell, for example, an average one-week houseboat trip requires 100 gallons; the estimated increase in fuel cost over last summer's prices would be $23.
At the end of this article, we profile each houseboating lake. We recommend calling now to reserve, especially in the Delta and Lake Powell. Most marinas require a $250 to $500 deposit for confirmation. Then you have up to 45 to 60 days before the rental starts to decide if you want to cancel; before that deadline, you can get back your deposit minus a service fee.
What will it cost during high season this summer? Boat rental and gas average about $250 a week per person, based on a party of at least four. Low-season discounts cut 20 to 40 percent off the price.
What's new in houseboats?
New sleek-style boats are available at many marinas, but not all-ask ahead. Streamlined designs. The biggest innovation is the flying bridge, a second wheelhouse (steering wheel and set of controls) on the roof above the bow. From here the skipper can better see the dock, judge the shallows, and gauge the wheel's response by watching the wake and stern.
On some models, the upper deck is completely enclosed by fiberglass railing to keep toddlers from falling or possessions from blowing off. Many new boats also have replaced steel hulls with lighter, more fuel-efficient aluminum.
Size and speed. Once the 36-foot-long 6sleeper was the norm; now you can rent twin-engine houseboats up to 56 feet long that sleep 16 to 18. These bigger boats are newer and usually loaded with amenities, but a bit more difficult to pilot. And before you decide on a houseboat vacation you should ask yourself whether your crew will enjoy sharing a confined space for the entire trip.
Engines are now more powerful-up to 260 hp and some with jet-drive" engines. Most boats travel at 8 to 9 knots (about 10 mph), compared with the 5knot top speed of older boats. On the inside, all the gadgets. You may wonder what you had to give up when you left home. Microwave oven, VCR, penthouse bedroom, stall shower and tub, upper deck sun canopy, and a water slide off the stern are all possible options with the newest large, generator-equipped craft. Air conditioners are more common, and to eliminate a common grievance, many water heaters have a pilot light that can be relighted with a push-button.
Basics-booking ahead, what to bring Reserve early for best choice of boats and dates. Cancellations do occur at the last minute-at Lake Powell, often half the hopefuls on the waiting list get boats. Besides the equipment provided on the boat (you'll get a list from the marina), you may want to bring sharp knives, large cooking pots, wine glasses, and corkscrews. When you first board, you'll be given a run-through of boat equipment, supplies, and operating instructions. Boating safety in a low-water year Go over the waterway map with the person handling your run-through and ask about any boating hazards that may not have been charted at normal lake levels.
Houseboats draw about 2 feet of water. Don't tie up in shallow wash areas. Ideal moorage should provide at least 6 feet of water under the stern; if you're in a reservoir releasing water downstream, the lake could drop enough to strand you. Use the bank as a guide-if it's steep going into the water, it should be a safe moorage.
A houseboat is not an aerodynamic success. In a strong wind, retreat to a protected cove or inlet. At night, moor securely in case the wind comes up and pushes you adrift or onto shore. Rafting houseboats together can also be unsafe-a sudden wake or wind could cause boat damage. According to the Boating Safety Foundation, it's best (and sometimes the law) for children to wear life jackets whenever the boat is under power; make sure child-size jackets are provided. They also suggest establishing rules with children: no swimming without supervision, no diving off the top deck, no touching engine controls without adult supervision. For free boating -safety courses, call (800) 336-2628.
Major houseboating waterways
Here we describe the 11 waterways that have two or more marinas. We list lake volume only when levels were well below normal at our late-February press deadline. All rent year-round except where noted. Prices given are high-season rates per week.
ARIZONA Lake Havasu (Lake Havasu City). Narrow, 67-mile-long lake is set in the desert amid rolling mountains. In summer, water beats to 85" (air to 115"). South lake has scenic sculpted side canyons; Lake Havasu City has London Bridge, tour boats. Fishing for largemouth and striped bass picks up in spring, fall.
Reserve three to four months ahead. Blue Water Charters: (602) 855-7171; 10sleepers; $2,300. H20 Houseboats: (800) 242-2628; 8- to 12-sleepers; $1,795 to $1,995. Havasu Springs Resort: (602) 6673361; 8-, 10-, and 12-sleepers; $1,150, $1,565, $1,975.
Lake Powell/Glen, Canyon N.R.A. (Page, Arizona). At 60 percent volume, down 61 feet. This 186-mile-long lake still has 1,900 miles of shoreline with 96 major red rock and white sandstone canyons. The drop in lake level has resulted in lengthened ramps (including new marina at Stateline), white canyon walls, and more beaches; obstacle islands add 1 hour to Rainbow Bridge trip. Striped bass fishing is good (try San Juan arm); also walleye or largemouth or smallmouth bass. Reserve 6 to 12 months ahead. Some 350 houseboats (none with flying bridge). Call ARA Leisure Services: (800) 528-6154 or (602) 278-8888; 6- to 12-sleepers; $1,055 to $1,910.
Clair Engle (Trinity) Lake (Weaverville). At 38 percent volume, down 120 feet. This deep, pine-sheltered lake with 87 shore miles sits above 2,000 feet by the Trinity Alps. Dirt roads extend beyond ramps to docks. Lake is half Shasta's size but has much less boat traffic. Excellent rainbow and brown trout fishing.
Reserve two months ahead. Some flying bridge boats. Cedar Stock: (916) 286-2225; 6-, 10-, and 12-sleepers; $795, $995, $1,425. Estrellita: 286-2215; 8- to 12-sleepers; $750 to $2,175. Recreation Plus: 266-3432; 6- to 12-sleepers; $650 to 1,450. Trinity Alps: 286-2282; 6- to 12-sleepers; $825 to $1,950.
Lake Don Pedro (Sonora). At 50 percent volume, down 90 feet. Set in digger pine and blue oak woodland, this lake's 165 shoreline miles include deep coves with glassy waters popular with water-skiers. Try for catfish in the shallow arms, king salmon and rainbow trout in deeper coves. Reserve four months ahead. Good selection of boats with water slides, generators. Lake Don Pedro Marina: (209) 852-2369; 10sleepers; $1,495. Moccasin Point Marina: 989-2383; 10-sleepers; $1,300.
Lake Oroville (Oroville). At 30 percent volume, down 245 feet. Oroville bas dropped the most of the houseboating lakes, yet its steep sides mean it hasn't lost much of its 125-mile shoreline (but you can't boat up as far into the lake arms). Reserve a month ahead. Good selection of boats, some with flying bridge. Bidwell Marina: (916) 589-3152; 10- and 14sleepers; $1,650, $2,450. Lime Saddle Marina: 877-2414 or (800) 834-7517; 10-, 12-, and 16-sleepers; $1,540, $1,725, $2,395.
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Stockton). The drought has caused no drop in levels along the Delta's 1,000 miles of waterways, which remain popular with water-skiers. You can escape the speedboats' roar in the jigsaw of 60 islands and tule-lined sloughs. In spring, try the shallows for catfish, crappie; in fall, try for bass (or dangle for crayfish). A good guide: Hal Schell's Dawdling in the Delta (Schell Books, Box 9140, Stockton 95208; $27.95).
Reserve four months ahead. No flying bridge boats (they can't clear low drawbridges). Herman & Helen's: (209) 951-4634; 4- to 14-sleepers; $795 to $1,795.
King Island (916) 238-2303; 10-sleepers; $1,400 to $1,680. Paradise Point-Seven Crown: (209) 952-1000; 6- to 10-sleepers; $1,050 to $1,550. Take Five Houseboats: (209) 948-1712; 8-sleepers; $1,045.
Shasta Lake (Redding). At 30 percent volume, down 140 feet. Shasta is the largest reservoir in the state (15,000 surface acres). Squaw Creek and Pit River arms offer shelter from afternoon winds, but watch for snags in Pit arm (no obstacle buoys, but new free topo map shows obstacles; pick it up at any marina). For skiing, mouth of Pit and Jones Valley area are calmer; Sacramento River arm has warmer water (good for swimming). Fish for 22 species: Pit arm offers lively action for smallmouth bass; rainbow and brown trout fishing in McCloud arm is best in spring.
Reserve two months ahead. Wide selection of boats (6- to 18-sleepers; $1,060 to $2,795), including flying bridge styles. On the north shores: Antlers Resort: (916) 2382553. Holiday Harbor.- (916) 238-2383, (800) 776-2628. Lakeshore Resort: (916) 238-2301. Lakeview Resort: 223-3003.
Shasta Marina: 238-2284. Sugarloaf Marina: 243-4353. On the south shores: Bridge Bay Resort and Marina: (916) 275-3021 or 800) 7529669. Digger Bay Resort and Marina: (916) 275-3072 or (800) 752-9669. Jones Valley Resort: (916) 275-7950. Packers Bay Marina: 245-1002. Silverthorn Resort: 275-1571 or in California (800) 332-3044.
NEVADA, ARIZONA Lake Mead, Lake Mohave (Las Vegas). Reservoirs are managed jointly. While level of 26,000-acre Mohave is normal, 128,000-acre Mead is down about 45 feet (75 percent volume), limiting how far up the arms you can boat. Three-fingered Mead has 822 miles of shoreline marked by red sandstone buttes; Mohave has 250 miles and snakes into a high-walled gorge. At Mead, try Echo Bay for striped and largemouth bass, colder waters at Mohave for rainbow and cutthroat trout.
Reserve four months ahead. Some flying bridge oats. Calville Bay: 10-sleepers; $2,295. Cottonwood Cove: 10-sleepers; $2,395. For both, call (702) 565-7340 or in California and Arizona (800) 255-5561.
Echo Bay and Lake Mohave Resort: (800) 752-9669; 6- and 10-sleepers; $1,495, $1,975. Willow Beach Resort: (602) 7673331; 14-sleepers; $2,500.
NEW MEXICO, COLORADO Navajo Lake (Farmington, New Mexico). This 35-mile-long, 15,000-acre high-desert lake has cold waters swimmable by midsummer. Great fishing for kokanee salmon, rainbow and brown trout. Season: April to September. Reserve four months ahead. Some flying bridge boats.
Navajo Lake Marina: (505) 632-3245; 10sleepers; $1,325 to $1,495. San Juan Marina: (303) 883-2343; 6- and 10sleepers; $970, $1,425.
WASHINGTON Franklin Roosevelt Lake (Grand Coulee). This 150-mile-long lake on the dammed Columbia River has dry, sage-covered southern shores, lush forest on north shores. Lake has 32 fish species, including kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, walleye. Reserve six months ahead. Good selection of boats, including flying bridge styles.
Lake Roosevelt Houseboats, Kettle Falls Marina: (509) 738-6121, (800) 635-7585 in Washington; 10/12-sleepers; 1,845. Lake Roosevelt Vacations, Keller Ferry Marina: (509) 633-0201, in Washington (800) 648-5253; 10- and 13-sleepers; $1,595, $1,785.
For solitude: lakes with a few rentals In California, try Bullards Bar Reservoir (Nevada City), Emerald Cove Marina, (916) 692-2166. Englebright Lake (Marysville) has Skippers Cove Marina, (916) 639-2272. Lake Berryessa (Napa) has Markley Cove Resort, (707) 9662134. Near Sonora, there's Lake McClure, with Barrett Cove Marina, (209) 378-2441, and the marina at New Melones Lake, (209) 785-3300. Lake San
Antonio (Paso Robles) marina may operate; call (805) 472-2313.
In Oregon, try Lake Billy Chinook (Bend), Chinook Water Chalets, (503) 546-2939. In New Mexico, Elephant Butte Reservoir (Truth or Consequences) has Elephant Butte Marina, (505) 7445486. On the Wyoming-Utah border, Flaming Gorge Reservoir has the Lucerne Valley Marina, (801) 784-3483.
If you own a view, watch wildlife, or want to satisfy the amateur astronomer in you, a spotting scope might be just what you need. More powerful than binoculars but less than astronomical telescopes, spotting scopes let you observe Jupiter's moons or the tail feathers of a distant hawk. Several kinds of scopes are available, most in the $200 to $600 range. You'll find the best selection of scopes in camera or sporting goods stores.
Mirror, refractor, porro, roof prism: what's the difference?
Mirror scopes are compact, coffee can shaped instruments. There are two main designs to consider. Both transmit lots of light to the eye (more light means sharper images) and are great for star-watching. The Schmidt-Cassegrain type is sharp to the edges and has a wide field of view, but its secondary mirror can easily be knocked out of alignment. Fortunately, you can realign it yourself.
The Maksutov type is simple, rugged, and the best choice for packing around. Refracting and roof prism scopes share the classic, straight profile you see in the photographs at left. Refractors are more durable and transmit more light. Roof prism scopes tend to be lighter and smaller; the most compact scopes (including the small one shown at far left) usually use a roof prism.
Porro prism scopes have a characteristic dogleg in the barrel (see photograph above right). They're usually of high quality, with good light-gathering ability.
A word about eyepieces
A scope's eyepiece-the part closest to your eye determines magnification. A 20-power 20x) eyepiece, for example, magnifies the image 20 times. Most scopes come with a 20x or 30x eyepiece. Zoom eyepieces have a wide range of powers built in, so you can scan the ocean at 15x or so, then zoom in to maybe 45x to get a better look at a whale or an otter. They're usually not quite as sharp as fixed-focus eyepieces, but the best zooms have become so good in recent years that it's often difficult to tell the difference. Eyepieces on some scopes are interchangeable, while others are not (especially in waterproof scopes). Ask when you shop. If you buy a scope with a noninterchangeable eyepiece, go with a zoom.
Also remember that the more powerful the eyepiece, the less light it transmits and the more difficult it is to get a sharp image.
If you wear glasses, buy a scope with long (versus short) eye relief so your eye can be farther from the eyepiece. The higher an eyepiece's power, the shorter its eye relief. Anchoring your scope, taking pictures Spotting scopes can't be hand-held; they're designed for use on tripods. A good tripod remains stable when holding a scope at eye level. To test before you buy, try the tripod at maximum extension with a scope at maximum magnification.
A camera adapter ($25 to $50) can make almost any spotting scope into a telephoto lens for 35mm cameras. But you must have a rock-solid tripod; a cable release; clear, windless air; and fast film, since at high magnification the spotting scope's effective aperture will be very small.
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|Date:||Apr 1, 1991|
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