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Houseboat Holiday
  Okanagan Valley Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

The first image that pops in to my head when I think of the Okanagan Valley is apples -- shiny red apples jiggling into position along an endless conveyer belt. Just like that, I grab one, twist a paper wrap around it and lay it neatly in a cardboard box. Now, I know not everyone boxed apples in their youth, but I bet the words Okanagan are synonymous with apples -- or plums, or peaches, or grapes -- in many people's minds.

It's a natural pairing, since everybody knows the Okanagan Valley is one of Canada's prime fruit-producing regions. In fact, 100 percent of the nation's apricots are grown here -- along with 60 percent of its cherries and 50 percent of its pears. However, as normal as the image is, and as impressive as these statistics appear -- especially when considering the region only covers 3 percent of British Columbia's total space --another picture, with equally impressive statistics, is developing. A picture of a radiant sun, brazen and unimpeded, burning bright over hills the color of dried corn husks, burning bright over lakes the color of turquoise and sapphire gems -- for two thousand hours each year!

This image is far from new. After all, the sun is the reason for the area's ideal fruit conditions. Except now, due to a well-marketed promotional campaign, the region's sunny disposition -- the sunniest in all of Canada -- is becoming known to the rest of the world. As a result, people are flocking to the region to retire, to change lifestyles, to play and to go houseboat cruising. Well, I've been on a cruise ship, a sailing ship, a fish boat, a catamaran, a rowboat, a canoe, a rubber raft and lots of ferries, but, I've never been on a houseboat. What do people do on houseboats, I wanted to know?

" During the day they explore Lake Okanagan's shoreline, or they fish or just plain sight-see." said the man at the rental outfit. "Some houseboats come equipped with a water slide. Both the kids and the adults love to slide into the lake for a swim. Two or three couples usually book a charter together and most of the time they just lounge about the upper deck and socialize. At night they can either moor at a full service marina and check out the nightlife in town or they can beach the craft in a secluded cove and have their own private get-together. "

Can just anybody operate one of these boats? " Well, we review your boating experience before every charter to make sure you understand how everything works. Once that's completed, you're the captain! "

The boats have full kitchens, bathrooms with showers, stereos, barbecues, dishes, pots and pans. The only thing I need to bring, then, is food, bedding, a lounging chair and suntan lotion?

" Bring binoculars and a camera, too. You never know. Ogopogo may decide to put in an appearance. Ogopogo is Canada's Loch Ness Monster", he explained with a smile.

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