Houseboating with My Pirate Pals

Lake Oroville State Recreation Area is located 75 miles north of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range.

The lake has 167 miles of tree-lined shore and is considered one of the best bass fisheries in the western United States; it is also home to Chinook salmon, catfish and rainbow trout. The earthen dam which formed the lake, built in 1968, was then the largest in the world.  It is the second biggest reservoir in California, supplying water to the San Francisco Bay Area and is also the state’s chief watershed area.

For the past few years, we’ve taken our grandsons to Lake Oroville for a day of cruising on a patio boat.  This trip I had a clandestine caper planned, but kept it secret from the boys.  Since the kids were fans of Pirates of the Caribbean, we would commandeer a houseboat. They should have suspected something was up when I asked them to pack their pirate gear, e.g., swords, skull and crossbones flag and water guns.  The staff of Forever Resorts was happy to go along with my escapade.  When we arrived at the park entrance, the ranger peered into the car and asked, “Is this the pirate crew we’ve heard about?”  My grandsons looked quizzically at each other, smiled and nodded.  We checked in at the Marina and unloaded our supplies.  My buccaneer buddies and I headed for the dock.  Our son-in-law was our designated captain, so he snuck off to attend “Houseboating 101,” which provides an operational and safety lesson.  Meanwhile, the boys, led by me, began the adventure.   As the staffer welcomed us to the patio boat, I called out to my gang, “Avast, me Hearteys, fly the flag, show our colors!”  A mock look of concern crossed the face of our soon-to-be-prisoner.

In a booming voice, I advised her to take us to the largest vessel.   At the next pier a beautiful, two-story, 59-foot long houseboat awaited our boarding.  “Take her, me Mateys,” I bellowed in my gruffest pirate voice followed by a vigorous “Aargh!”  The children scrambled aboard with a mixed look of astonishment and amusement at my order.  We explored the boat and the grandkids were amazed and delighted; eyes wide with wonder.  We raised our pirate flag, shouted “Shiver me timbers” and toasted each other with apple juice.  They couldn’t believe what we had done, but after the two oldest became concerned about walking the plank if caught, I had to let them in on the secret. We weren’t going for a few hours on a patio boat, but were about to spend an entire weekend on the very houseboat that we had “seized.”


My Pirate Pals


The weekend was a delight: three days of sunning, reading, playing games, canoeing, hiking, exploring beaches, cruising inlets and coves, interspersed with cooking, barbecuing, cold beer, napping and, of course, fishing


Great Catch!

The highlights of every day included swims in the lake, cannonballs off the side of the houseboat and zooming down the 10-foot high slide off the second deck into the water.


Slide Launch

The top wildlife experience was when we watched a bear cub swim across the lake and scamper along the shoreline.

Bear Cub

Bear Cub

If a grandparent’s obligation is to provide good memories for their grandkids, mission accomplished.

All Things Related

The Lake Oroville State Recreation Area offers a wide variety of outdoor activities including boating, camping, swimming, water skiing, picnicking, horseback riding and hiking. It is a popular bass fishing destination, hosting several tournaments each year. The recent rain has the lake water levels up substantially.  The melting snowpack will also add significant amounts of water to the lake.  As a result of the precipitation, the wildflowers are out early and in abundance. Visit their website at

Highway 70 Bridge


Trans-generational vacations are among the fastest growing market segments in travel. We found houseboating to be a perfect fit for us. It’s also a great way to travel with friends and share the expenses. Today’s houseboats are fuel efficient, have minimal impact on the environment, are easy to maneuver, well designed and very comfortable with all the features of home. Think of it as a floating condo fully equipped with bedrooms, full kitchen, TV, bathrooms with showers, satellite TV, plus safety features including GPS, life preservers and first aid kit; many are ADA accessible.  The Lake Oroville Marina is managed by Forever Resorts ( They rent ski boats, patio boats and floating campsites as well as houseboats. The facilities include a fuel dock and a convenience store for last minute needs, e.g., groceries, fishing tackle and license, bait, souvenirs and boating accessories.  There is also a snack bar.  Forever Resorts has 11 different houseboat rental locations, including five in California, two each in and Nevada and Arizona and one each in Texas and Missouri; all dedicated to being “clean and green.”  Nearly one third of houseboat trips are planned by first-timers, so try it. Special packages, rates and military discounts are available. For further information and reservations logon to or call 1-800-255-5561.

59′ XT


Safe travels and enjoy the journey…

Howard Hian

Thanks to the various websites for information.  Before you go please check details, dates, hours, rates and availability; some restrictions may apply.  Photos courtesy of Pirate Pals.

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