SUN TRAVEL STORY: 5-STAR HOUSEBOATING ON LAKE POWELL

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Vacationing Large in a Five Star Houseboat
Canadian boats let Lake Powell visitors put on the Ritz

TORONTO SUN FEATURE ARTICLE. NEXT STORY IS A FEATURE ON THE SAME SUBJECT (BUT WITH A BOAT BUILDING INDUSTRY SLANT)
First class on Lake Powell
Posh pampering on board Canadian-built luxury houseboats


By STEPHEN WEIR, TORONTO SUN
Sun, June 4 / 06 If the plush deep padding of the houseboat sofa wasn't already absorbing your Speedo covered derriere; you'd probably be on your keester anyway. The shocking beauty of the sword-edge cliffs that line the famous Utah/Arizona watercourse will stagger even the most jaded holiday boater.
There are places along the Lake Powell Canyon system that are so narrow you can lean out from either side of the upper deck of the rented five-star houseboat and touch the smooth 200 metre tall walls. So abrupt are the sandstone cliffs it is only at noon that the sun will light the flybridge of your $10,000 US a-week-floating condo.
A super-sized Bald Eagle lazily circles above in the scorching desert updrafts; hungrily eyeing the Canadian tourists stewing in the upper deck hot tub. Reclusive desert bighorn sheep look down at the boat and shake their massive curved horns in derision at the sheer decadence of your slowly drifting aluminum Taj Mahal.
"Sorry to disturb your commune with nature sir," whispered the chef dressed in Man from Glad whites and wearing a heavily starched foot tall toque. "The lake trout has been cleaned and will soon be served. The wine has to come out of the cellar to breathe. Have you had the time to decide what vintage you will want uncorked?"
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. What French wine goes with blue-corn-and-pumpkin-seed-crusted Arizona rainbow trout anyway? Even though there is no basement in the boat, the chrome edged galley does have a deck-high wine cellar, and the chef, flown in from Las Vegas for the weekend was prepared to stand in 30 C heat as long as it took to choose the wine du jour!
Lake Powell meanders 230 km south from Utah to Arizona. Situated at the top of the Grand Canyon, the man-made lake with its 3,220 km coastline, is the world's number one houseboat destination. In fact, the breath-taking beauty and the relative ease of boating on Lake Powell are credited with kick starting both the concept of five-star American houseboating vacations and the luxury houseboat building industry in British Columbia.
Imagine an on-the-water vacation aboard a 25 metre long houseboat that comes complete with central air, a corporate sized hot tub, a wine cellar and a theatre-style entertainment centre. Hire a captain, fly in the aforementioned Las Vegas chef and let them mollycoddle you as you fish, wakeboard, and take in the stunning scenery of America's desert frontier.
It is safe pampered adventure travel from the comfort of a craft that is more opulent than a rock star's suite at the Ritz. Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas rent most of the houseboats on the waterway, and the best craft in their inventory are built here in Canada.
In 2005 the marina took delivery of a fleet of luxury aluminum houseboats built by British Columbia's Twin Anchors Marine (Canada's largest houseboat builder). Each unit has a fireplace, waterslide, wet bar, 17-bottle wine cooler and six staterooms. Even though an "Odyssey" rents for about $10,000 US a week -- about $11,400 Cdn. (fuel, Seadoos, insurance, crew, taxes, food and French wines are extra), the Canadian boats are in constant demand.
"About 70% of what we build each year goes to Lake Powell, but you will see a lot of our boats in California, Oregon and Washington States," said Twin Anchors President Greg Kyllo. " The demand for quality in houseboat has really evolved over the last 20 years -- In the beginning it was the guys seeing the houseboat as a floating trailer to fish and party on. Now, with the luxury craft you are getting cruise appeal, families or groups of friends willing to spend a thousand to two thousand dollars a day to live large out on the water."
And, while the big boat sure beats a week on Gilligan's Minnow, it is the vista outside that makes it all worthwhile. Up until 1963 the Colorado River was a big stream at the bottom of the Glen Canyon (a stripped down Grand Canyon). With a growing demand for both power and drinking water the US government created Powell by blocking the canyon with a giant dam. After it was built it took a dozen years to fill the new lake to the edge of the cliffs.

This century the lake levels are way down due to a seven year drought and the unquenchable thirst of southwestern USA. Still the lake's main channel is 100 metre deep allowing boaters to see balancing rocks, the famed Rainbow Bridge (the planet's largest natural bridge), pinnacles, buttes, arches and stone amphitheaters. The cold clean waters, the clear blue desert skies and the red sandstone rock formations means that there a million Kodak moments out on the water.
Of course the boating liveries know that not every tourist wants to sell the farm for six nights on a floating mansion. There are large houseboats that rent for hundreds rather than thousands of dollars a day. Best yet, when you are onboard a bargain boat and the chef asks you what goes well with blue-corn-and-pumpkin-seed-crusted trout tell your husband it's Canadian beer!


BOTTOM LINE -- MORE INFORMATION

-Lake Powell Resorts & Marina, Aramark Region Office, 602-331-5200 or visitlakepowell.com.
-Twin Anchors Marine, 250-836-3028 or
twinanchors.com.

CUTLINES: Top - We found a hidden canyon off the main channel - the perfect private spot to anchor and spend the night
Bottom - The deckhand brings coffee to couple in hot tub
Photos by Stephen Weir

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