The nice thing about renting a houseboat at most marinas across the country is that you don't need any prior experience to do it. Most locations are great about giving you the confidence to rent a houseboat by giving you a rundown of what you need to know and then of course being willing to help at a moment's notice and always being a radio conversation away if a problem or question should arise.
But for those who like to be a little more prepared and would like to get a more hands-on feel before they rent, Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas offers an Introduction to Houseboating class that is hard to beat.
My Kind Of Classroom
Last spring Houseboat magazine went undercover to evaluate the program that is being offered at the Bull Frog Marina at the north end of Lake Powell in Utah. Besides this location, the class is also taught at the Wahweap Marina by this popular houseboat rental giant on the opposite end of this beautiful and massive lake.
The weekend program for those new to houseboating includes hands-on instruction with an experienced pilot, two nights' lodging at Lake Powell Resort at Wahweap Marina or Defiance House Lodge at Bullfrog Marina, as well as discounts on powerboat boat rentals.
The class was taught by Kristin Kruschek, an office supervisor at Bull Frog Marina who is an experienced houseboater who has worked her way up through the company after starting her career at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas as an instructor in 2007.
Kruschek wanted everyone to get a start-to-finish feel of the process of renting a houseboat so she started the class in the rental office before relocating the group that included three couples and myself, to a rental houseboat to begin the orientation of all the houseboating systems.
"We went over the full instructions that we'd do for a regular customer including operating instructions and how to run all the systems," explained Kruschek following the class. "Then we took a tour of all the other houseboats that are available to rent to give everyone a feel for what is available."
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas offers over 50 houseboats that are available for rent in a variety of sizes at the Bull Frog Marina. At Wahweap-that is roughly a hundred miles by water from the other marina-there is well over a hundred houseboats to rent, providing clients with a wide selection to choose from.
"When I saw the class being advertised online I thought that if they're willing to take a few extra hours with me and let me see what it's really all about, then we'd be interested," said Michael Masters who was part of the class. "We felt everything was thorough and covered very well. I'm impressed with this class."
Kruschek took the time not only to explain the systems to everyone in the group as she covered the houseboat from bow to stern, but also to go into detail as well as give solutions to some of the questions that were being asked from the couples that varied in boating experience. Actually being on the houseboat led to plenty of inspired questions that renters might not think of before coming onboard.
"Everyone had a lot of questions, which was good and we were able to get those answered," says Kruschek. "We were able to give them some hands-on experience and it was great to get them involved."
After a thorough question and answer session, the crew was ready to get out on the water and away from the dock, which for those involved in the class was crucial for giving them the confidence to do it themselves.
"It's the fear of the unknown and I asked a lot of questions today about rookie mistakes and we found out it's actually quite easy," said Ray Kelly, who had never been to Lake Powell before or ever rented a houseboat. "Before we came I say we were 50/50 on renting a houseboat, but now we're 100 percent sure we're going to do it; this class was a great idea."
Everyone was given a chance to drive the houseboat, turn the boat and get a feel for how it drives. Another benefit to the class was the hands-on practice of beaching and anchoring a houseboat as well as being able to practice towing and securing a power boat that can also be rented from Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas.
"When anchoring there is a lot of work involved and we wanted to show how it should be done," says Kruschek. "Anchor lines tied to the back of the boat can be hard to visualize, so we wanted them to be able to see it firsthand."
The program's six-hour orientation course began in 2010 after talking to people at boat shows who were nervous about driving a houseboat and all that is involved in renting one.
"There is an intimidation factor," says Sales Manager Robin Marquis, who is involved with both programs that are being offered at the different locations on Lake Powell. "The training is the same at both ends of the lake; the only difference is the instructors and the different areas that are covered during the class."
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas offers guests a wide variety of houseboats with all of the amenities of home, including full kitchens, staterooms, bathrooms and luxury models that feature propane fireplaces, outdoor gas grills and hot tubs. And for some couples, seeing all that these boats have to offer further cemented their commitment to return and rent in the near future.
"We've been considering doing this for years, but we just weren't sure," said Masters. "But after today we went from somewhat likely to we're going to rent a houseboat on our own for sure."
Even with the wide range of experience, those who attended came away extremely happy because of the opportunity to attend the class. And being able to ask a lot of questions was a key factor to the overall success of the class on this day. For those who have been considering renting a houseboat, but just weren't sure if they could really do it, this class is for you. There might not be a better way to get familiar with the operations of a houseboat, besides of course renting one yourself.