Lazy days in a room with a view

August 2010 News Bruce Munro -

Sensory overload aptly sums up our fabulous long weekend on stunning Lake Wanaka aboard the houseboat MV Lady Pembroke.

The lakeside trees are at the height of their golden late-autumn glory when our family vehicle draws up at the Wanaka marina where Graham Tompkins, the builder of the four-berth luxury houseboat, and its present manager Russell Allan, who works for the UK-based owners, are waiting on the vessel's gangway.

My wife and I, and our four children, have been eagerly anticipating this adventure for several months, so only take a few minutes to relocate the boot-load of bags, food and oddments to the catamaran.

What first strikes me during the familiarisation tour is the size of the 16m by 7msteel-hulled houseboat.

That, and the comparative smallness of the two shiny chrome levers with which I am supposed to steer and propel the whole 22-tonne kit and caboodle.

Russell assures me a current driver's licence is all that is required, and it seems like no time at all before the demonstration and test drive are over, Graham and Russell have disembarked, and I am doing it for real.

There is a coarse colloquialism which I discourage my children from using.

"... ," I think as I try to get comfortable with how the two 60hp high-thrust Mercury outboard motors respond to the throttle levers.

" ... , ... ," I think several more times, body tense and eyes on stalks, as the split-screen radar depth finder and GPS map gleefully record the trail left by our somewhat wonky progress up the lake.

Navigational aids include a shoulder-height cardboard-backed map marked with felt-pen crosses pinpointing safe havens.

We hope to reach Mou Waho (also known as Harwich or Pigeon Island), but as the late sun threatens to disappear behind Mt Aspiring we chose to divert to the closer mooring of Fisherman's Bay at the north end of the peninsula.

The beauty of Lake Wanaka and the grandeur of its surrounding geography does not touch me until the next morning.

When it does, it shakes me hard.

Lady Pembroke has four bedrooms in addition to an open living, kitchen, dining area, a bathroom and toilet.

I wake to the sound of our two youngest boys setting up a game in the lounge, so sneak from bed to check they are warm.

My noble parental intentions, however, are hijacked by the scene beyond the boat's windows.

Instead, I snatch my camera and step outside.

Our cove is still steeped in the black and steel grey of pre-dawn, but across the lake the unseen sun stretches peach-coloured fingers along the tops of the barren mountain range.


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