“But what is there to do for 4 days on a houseboat vacation?” I asked Dalene and Pete one day when we were chatting on Facebook planning our upcoming trip to New Brunswick. “You just relax,” Dalene answered in a somewhat surprised that-was-a-stupid-question tone.
I was skeptical.
Relax…that seems easy, right? For most people it is, but I’ve always had a personality that I don’t relax well. I love the idea of relaxing, reading a book while staring out at the waves crashing on the beach, but I rarely ever do it. I’m just not good at actually doing it. I never nap, I don’t get enough sleep, I always want to go, go, go and have a purpose every day – it’s just how I’m wired.
When I have any free time you’ll find me on my computer working normally chasing this thing called ‘success’. It’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed in the past decade, the more and more I work on running my own blog and business, the less I put the laptop or phone down. I think that’s pretty normal of all entrepreneurs. But the more and more time I spend in this industry and as I watch it grow, I come to the conclusion that I don’t need to be the best. In fact, I actually love being in the middle when it comes to success.
So maybe it’s time to slow down a bit and learn how to relax.
Re-evaluating What’s Important
I really started to consider all of this last October when I got the call from Pete telling me Dalene had just been diagnosed with leukemia. I was in shock. I still remember wandering around Winnepeg in a daze, re-evaluating every life decision I made. Pete and Dalene spent the next 9 months in an incredible fight against cancer. This turn of events was like a body slam to their nomadic travel life and business that obviously made them re-evaluate life and travel.
As they turned their whole lives upside down I tried to support from afar. In that process they made a myriad of adjustments and shifted priorities to things that were less about work, more about slowing down, and really spending time and energy on what was important in life.
I consider myself really lucky to get to travel with them again and more importantly it was a chance to really put into motion what they had learned for the last 9 months; how to relax, enjoy the moment, and spend precious time with friends. Renting a houseboat in New Brunswick for 4 days was a great starting point.
How to Rent a Houseboat in New Brunswick
I’ve traveled on/in many different types of transportation around the world, but houseboating had eluded me until now. It’s not a real well known way to vacation in the US, so I was excited to give this life on the water a try.
We pulled up to the docks in Mactaquac Provincial Park and the big boats were tied up in a row. We were in one of the large boats – the Woolastook. I walked onto the boat and went through the screen door, in front of me was a ‘great’ room about the size of my little studio apartment; a large kitchen with an island, full-size appliances, and plenty of cupboard space. There was a large table and a couple of couches and even a fireplace. Yes, a fireplace. This was a pretty luxurious boat.
Paula from Lakeway Houseboats showed us around the boat pointing out the 5 bedrooms, and 2 extra beds and 2 bathrooms. And this was all on the main ‘floor’. The boat we were in slept 14 people, however I honestly think the perfect size for such an group adventure would be 6 to 8. However if you have kids who don’t mind sleeping anywhere – you could easily do a big family trip with 14 people if you wanted to.
Upstairs was the ‘party’ deck with a huge open deck with hot tub, bar, a table to sit out and eat or play games, lounging chairs, and of course a slide.
What to Pack for a Houseboat Vacation?
Make a big grocery and liquor stop in Fredericton before you get on the boat as there aren’t many other places to get supplies once you are cruising. The kitchen is well stocked with pots/pans and with pretty much everything you would need. You will need to bring drinkable water – enough for the whole trip. The water on the boats is filtered – but it’s filtered river water and they suggested you bring your own water.
There are a couple of ice chests on the boat where you can keep more drinks, which is nice since the refrigerator seems to fill up fast! Just remember to pick up ice before you get on the boat in the Mactaquac harbor where you get on the boat.
You’ll need to bring your own towels and sheets for the boat too! Lakeway does rent out sheets, but not towels, so just be prepared with your own towels at the least.
And of course bring games, cards, movies, and music (the electronics on the boat are quite modern and you can easily hook up laptops). Do consider that you are on the river in some remote places, so you don’t always have an internet/cell connection at all times. It’s nice to unplug for a while, however if you must be connected (like we had to be), then consider using a mobile wifi device for connectivity. I rent wifi devices from Telecom Square and you can have 5 to 10 devices connect to the mobile router which is great for group vacations like this!
Oh Captain my Captain
Of course the first question every one has about a houseboat is are they hard to operate and do you have to have prior boating experience to do it? A week before we left Pete got his Canadian Boating license (aka Pleasure craft license) online. Yes, online. For $50, you can do online study of approximately 3 hours, take practice tests, and then have 2 chances to pass your real test online. Once passed, you get a license emailed to you as well as one sent in the mail 3 weeks later. It sounds pretty simple huh?
The houseboat we had (the largest one), was about the size of a large RV/bus, and the river was wide and deep so it was pretty simple to operate. You are never going fast – after all it’s a pleasure craft!
Is Houseboating Safe?
You get an orientation before they give you the keys and then you are on your own! You do have the cell number for Larry at Lakeway Houseboats, so if you ever do have a question or issue you can reach him. However, we decided to go a step further and make our own little safety video one particularly hot afternoon! And no – we weren’t drinking when we did this…surprising huh?!
How Do You Know Where to Go?
We had an orientation with Larry and he provided us a number of maps of the river and the possible landings for our 4 days. Landings are basically somewhat shallow banks in coves that you can simply pull up to and ‘beach’ the pontoons. Then you simply tie the boat to the shore via 3 stakes that are in the boat or to sturdy trees. Most of the times we were able to find trees to tie up to.
When Larry was showing us how to position the stakes, we asked if we had to know how to tie proper knots, and he pretty much brushed it off with, “if you know how to tie a shoe, then you can tie up the boat.” I don’t know that it was quite that simple, but it certainly wasn’t hard, and we never lost the boat! The coves the maps suggested to ‘park’ in were pretty calm and protected from the wind so we never really had any issues with parking or the tie-ups.
What is there to See and Do?
Well – beside the scenic banks of the Saint John River – not much. But that’s not the point. The point is to relax, enjoy being out on the water, and soak up the sun with family/friends.
However, we did make a few stops on our trip. First was at Kings Landing. No, Cersie did not come out to greet us, but some British settlers did. Kings Landing is a living history museum with original buildings from the period of 1820-1920. It’s a representation of rural New Brunswick during the 19th and early 20th century when British loyalists left America after the Revolutionary War and settled in Canada – a more British friendly environment. It was a fun and fascinating walk through history.
We also stopped at Nackawic to see the world’s largest axe …because like a car road trip, houseboating also lends itself to wacky riverside attractions. Plus Nackawic was a great place to stop and get more grocery supplies too; you can easily walk to the store from the harbor.
You can also tie up and do a few very short hikes in areas like Wheelers Cove. We hiked to a waterfall one day. (about a 10 minute walk), however the waterfall was more like a tiny little trickle!)
If you love birds you’ll also see ducks and loons that will be curious about your boat and will hang around for food. I don’t recommend feeding them, but they are fun to view.
However the main thing to do is to enjoy and get in the water! Swim, sit in the hottub, or just float. There is no anchor tied up to the houseboat, so if we wanted to swim off the boat we’d just go out to the middle of the river somewhere, turn off the engines, and float and swim.
How To Get the Most our of Your Relaxing House Boat Vacation
The key is to treat it like a real vacation – one where you just slow down and relax. You don’t have to fill every moment with activities, just slow down and float.
Pete, Dalene, and I love a good competition. When we stayed in Mexico every night we’d play games and it reminded me of my childhood when that was one of my primary goals…games. We played some old favorites, and Dalene and Pete taught me some new ones. But nothing beat sitting up on the top deck, floating along and playing games!
Eat and Drink Well
Pete was not only our pleasure craft captain, but he was also the chef. The house boat had a nice grill on it so every day we’d grill food and have a feast! And be sure to indulge a bit, forget about the calories and just enjoy some old favorites. The three of us were giddy when we made root beer floats one afternoon! But most of the time we just had great summer menus full of grilled food, salads, and fresh fruit. It reminded me of my summers when I was a kid again.
Spend Your Energy Wisely
This is one of the things that Dalene really taught me on this trip. She would remind me that “You have to deal with a body that only has so much energy per day. Energy management is the new time management. Evaluate each day and how you are using that time. Taking time to calm your soul is just as important as eating well or exercising – but it’s just as important to your well being, but people overlook it.”
So with that in mind we made sure we didn’t pack too much into each day, we relaxed, played games, sat in the hot tub and did nothing. Maybe this ‘nothing’ itinerary was why I loved the houseboating so much.
Surround Yourself by People You Love
The boat is big, but it’s still cozy – especially if you have a big group, so make sure that you are with people who you love and really enjoy spending time with. Pete and Dalene are like family to me, so to have this time together felt like I was in the comfort of home. It didn’t matter if we were sharing limited space on a boat – we all get along great, share the work, and enjoy work and play.
How to Take a Houseboat Vacation in New Brunswick
License: Get your pleasure craft license here
Lodging: You’ll need lodging in Fredericton likely the night before you leave on the boat. Check out the Crowne Plaza Fredericton and the Delta Hotel. Both are located on the River and it’s easy to explore Fredericton from there.
Read reviews of the Crowne Plaza Fredericton
Read reviews of the Delta Hotel
Grocery Shopping: There are a couple of large stores in Fredericton – try Sobey’s or the Atlantic super store. Don’t forget to buy water!
Houseboats: Lakeway Houseboat Rentals Website
Lakeway Houseboat rental rates change with the season. Cost in the summer for a 4 day mid week rental is aprox. $2640 CAD. But if you wait until the off season, you can rent the same big boat for $1650 CAD. And if you have 8 to 14 people on it, that’s pretty economical.