A Beginner’s Guide to Operating a Houseboat

If you’re nervous about piloting a houseboat for the first time, you’re not alone. Luckily, when you rent a Forever Houseboat, you don’t just show up and get the keys. Vacationers receive a houseboat manual and instruction guide for their specific boat after making a reservation. This gives first-time pilots plenty of time to study the manual and watch instructional videos before their houseboat vacation. Read everything over thoroughly and your family will think you’re a natural on the water.

Getting Started

Forever houseboats are designed to be on the move. When you rent a houseboat on a vacation to Lake Mead, Lake Powell or Lake Mohave, you can glide through the water without ever leaving your lodgings. Our houseboats have twin engines; one on the starboard (right) side and another on the port (left) side. Both engines are located at the back of your houseboat.

To start your engines,
·      Turn the blower on about five minutes prior to starting the engines.
·      Turn the port side engine key slightly to the right. You will hear a sound.
·      Push the control button. A light should come on.
·      Turn the key to the right to start, just like you would with a traditional car.
·      The tachometer should move up, indicating that the engine is on.
·      Repeat the procedure for the starboard engine.

Behind the Wheel

Piloting a houseboat is like driving a car – with a few important differences. First, your houseboat has two sets of gauges on your control console; one for each engine. Most of what you’ll see on the helm will look familiar. There are tachometers to show speed/RPM, fuel gauges, and levers that act like gas pedals for each engine. There are also switches on your helm that control things like lights and appliances. This is your boat’s equivalent of the light switches and fuses in your home. Turn them on when the kids need lighting in the cabin, at night, or when you’re cooking breakfast.


The mechanics of steering your houseboat are straightforward and simple. Use the steering wheel to guide your boat to the left and right. Your helm will also have a lever to reverse course (back up), which can be a bit tricky compared to moving forward. The main thing to remember is that your houseboat is much larger than your car, so steering isn’t as responsive. Expect a delay of a few seconds. Forever Houseboats also have a “Captain’s Flying Bridge” that allow steering from the top deck. Pilot from this deck only in open water. Engines must be turned on from the main helm, which should also be used for docking, near the shore and in narrow areas.     

Remember the first time you got behind the wheel? There’s always a learning curve to driving a new type of vehicle, so don’t expect perfection your first time out. Luckily, the team at Forever Houseboats is here to help you get started on your houseboat adventure. Study your houseboating guide in advance, relax, and follow our instructions to have an easy and enjoyable time on the water. Book online today or call 1-800-255-5561 for information.