Meg McKinney Simle
These little ladies cool off with glasses of lemonade in the houseboat's full kitchen.
Whew! August can be miserably hot. So wipe the summer sweat off your face with a weekend frolic on the lake. Here, waves roll right up to your front door--the door of your houseboat, that is. You get the best of both worlds in these vessels: at-home ambience and an inviting, water-drenched destination.
Near Hot Springs, Arkansas, Lake Ouachita (WASH-it-tah) encompasses 1,000 miles of shoreline and stretches more than 40 acres. It's safe to say that this is a lake of oceanic proportions. Dive in.
Friday--Choose Your Ship
Hill's Lake Escape at Brady Mountain Resort helps visitors do just that. The company provides a fleet of 20 houseboats for you to choose from. The largest is the six-bedroom 83-footer. This mammoth ship comes equipped with a satellite dish, full kitchen, water slide, wet bar, hot tub on the top deck, queen beds, and showers. Well worth the expense, it's like having your own personal cruise ship minus the room service and lido deck. The value season at Hill's, August 18 through September 28, allows guests to rent a weekend houseboat for less than the normal cost (rates go down from $3,299 to $2,799). The 83-footer sleeps a total of 14. Six couples can rent it economically.
Less expensive houseboats include the two-bedroom 45-footer, which offers one queen bed, one queen sleeper sofa, one full bed, and one bath for $699 for the weekend. The six-bedroom 66-footer also sleeps 14 people. It has a hot tub, slide, fly bridge, 20-foot canopy, six beds, and two baths for $1,599.The staff at Hill's Lake Escape gives renters a quick course in motoring their weekend water home. After a few basic details and a 45-minute informational video, you're ready for the ride.
Because the rental company doesn't provide bedding (except for two pillows and a comforter per bed) or groceries, make a stop at the local discount store to fill your needs.
Or let someone else do the shopping. For a minimum $100 order, Don's Country Butcher will deliver (groceries only) to your chartered boat. A $25 service fee is added to the total. Don's carries an assortment of meats, including bacon-wrapped filet mignon and spareribs. Fax in your order two days prior to arrival at (501) 767-3549, or call (501) 767-5801.
Dotted with small islands, Lake Ouachita offers everything from scuba diving (where you can see remnants of a sunken city called Buckville) to fishing. Two basic dive shops can supply your needs: Lake Ouachita Dive Center at Brady Mountain Resort ( 760-1500) and Scuba & Archery Center ( 623-7062).
Christen your first evening on the lake by slicing into a grilled steak. Then it's time to settle in. Bedtime beckons sweetly on a houseboat. You'll feel like a baby in a big cradle as rippling waters nudge against the boat. It's a great way to drift off.