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Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009 10:00 pm

It's around noon on a Monday and Del Snyder is sitting on the bow of his houseboat in a lawnchair in the shade of an awning. He looks ahead to a long narrow stretch of the Delta, the levees lined with trees on one side and parked motorhomes on the other.

"This is the place to be at the end of the evening," he said, leaning back in his chair. "Throw a steak on the barbecue, have a couple of beers and you're ready to rock."

The 57-year-old Snyder wakes up on the water and goes to sleep on the water. He cooks in a narrow kitchen with running water, coffee pot, stove and refrigerator, even though everything sways a little when the occasional boat roars past his anchored digs. His dining table doubles as a TV stand, too. And the fishing poles hung on the ceiling and the American flag over the window are part of the decor. For Snyder, this is a way of life.

It's a way of life that others can only experience for three summer nights and a price tag starting at $1,050.

With over 1,000 miles of waterway, dozens of sloughs, islands only accessible by boat, fishing and swimming holes, scattered sandy beaches and marinas at every turn, it's hard to explore the entire Delta during one Saturday out on the ski boat. Houseboating offers a way to get around in comfort. Ask any longtime Lodian, and chances are, they've taken at least one houseboating trip on the Delta.

While houseboats are a summer staple, most houseboat rental companies in the area have gone out of business or at least stopped offering rental services in the past few years. Seven Crown Resorts at Paradise Point Marina off of Eight Mile Road in Stockton is the last place to rent houseboats on the Delta. Brian MacLeod, who works at Seven Crown Resorts, says houseboats are still as popular, especially for family events.

"We're usually booked solid through the weekends," MacLeod said.

College students, too, he said, are also big renters. For $1,050 for three nights, six people can sleep inside, and more can camp in tents or sleeping bags on the roof. With 10 students pitching in for the rental, it's just over $100 a person.

College students often scope out the party spots, like Ski Beach and Lost Isle, MacLeod said, while others rent them for fishing trips or to park the houseboat in a quiet hole all weekend.

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"It's a blast," said Maureen Hourahan, as she prepared to clean houseboats that had just been docked after being rented for the weekend. "People come back exhausted because they have so much fun."

The rental houseboats aren't as luxurious as some of the houseboats you might see on the river. The rentals are single stories, don't come with water slides on the roof and there are no luxury master suites. The sleeping areas bunk beds with foam mattresses covered in a plastic material, as are the couches and other interior seating areas. Still, the running hot water, the flushable toilets, full kitchen, decks around the perimeter and roof access make renting a houseboat one of the most convenient ways to outside and relax.

Even though houseboating is more than a weekend vacation for Snyder, the houseboating way of life is still as fun as people think. He's cleaning up his white and tan striped 1974 Silver Queen that still has its Nashville, Tenn. stickers to prepare for an upcoming party aboard his the decks of his houseboat. He'll untie his Silver Queen from the Wooden dock and drift down the Delta with cold beers in the fridge and friends and family on board.

"It's like camping, only a lot easier," Snyder said. "You can take your camp spot with you."

Renting a houseboat? What you might want to bring along

Linens
Mattresses are made of plastic, so bring enough bedding to sleep comfortably, including pillows, pillow cases and sheets. Those sleeping on the roof need to bring complete bedding. Some pitch tents, but Seven Crown Resorts says it's often too warm for a tent so guests end up not using them.

Food
Bring everything you want to eat with you. Many marinas have markets for basic items, and there are many restaurants located along the river.

Swim stuff
Even those who say they won't want to swim may be tempted to jump in on a hot day. Be prepared with sunblock, water shoes (for muddy beaches), beach towels and swim suits.

Toiletries
There is a bathroom with a toilet and hot shower, so don't forget your bath towels, soaps, shampoos, etc.

Extra ice chest
All houseboats come with 178-quart ice chests, but you may need more space. The indoor refrigerator can't keep meats and perishables if the outside temperature reaches 90 degrees, so you'll have to keep them in the ice chest.

What comes with a houseboat rental?


Air conditioning
A generator
Full kitchen, including a microwave
A gas barbecue, propane included
178-quart ice chest
Refrigerator
Bathroom with shower
Large sundeck and deck chairs
Source: Seven Crown Resort

The cost rundown for renting a houseboat on the Delta

Crownship
Sleeps 6
Summer rates:
$1,050 - 3 days, 2 nights
$1,350 - 4 days, 3 nights
$1,750 - 7 days, 6 nights
Value rates start from $750 beginning September.

Summit
Sleeps 10
Summer rates:
$1,350 - 3 days, 2 nights
$1,700 - 4 days, 3 nights
$2,000 - 7 days, 6 nights
Value rates start from $1150 beginning September.

Source: Seven Crown Resort

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