Tuesday,  September 28, 2021  2:54 am

On location: PAX finds a "private paradise" in ON's Rideau Canal with Le Boat


On location: PAX finds a "private paradise" in ON's Rideau Canal with Le Boat
PAX's Nancy Benetton-Sampath steers one of Le Boat's self-driving cruisers through Ontario's Rideau Canal. (Pax Global Media)
Nancy Benetton-Sampath

Vice-President, Media / Executive Manager

Le Boat’s campaign, “The Ultimate Summer Boat Trip: Bring on Brighter Days," invites guests to experience the freedom to cruise the watery highway of the UNESCO-approved Rideau Canal and stop wherever and whenever the fancy takes.

“We’ve had enough of restrictions, and it’s time to holiday your way,” states the luxurious boating holiday company, which began its Canadian operations in May 2018 with a head office in Smith Falls, Ontario, and 16 brand new Horizon Cruisers

Today, Le Boat’s local fleet includes 24 boats with more to come, a clear sign of the company’s growth and success so far in Canada.

“We have seen that despite COVID, Le Boat’s popularity has grown," said Lisa McLean, Le Boat’s National Marketing Manager for North America. "It is a great COVID-safe boating option because you are travelling in your own little bubble. We’ve seen a huge growth of Ontario and Quebec customers wanting to travel close to home and choosing Le Boat as their choice of travel." 

Le Boat’s marketing and promotional efforts have been focused on growing awareness of its unique boating concept from a domestic product perspective.

“We may not realize what we have in our back yard, and that we have this beautiful UNESCO site that is visited by people all over the world. This time has given us the opportunity to explore what we have," McLean added. 

A perfect post-lockdown escape

With this in mind, PAX embarked on three-night sailing with Le Boat, from Aug. 7-10, along the Rideau Canal aboard the Horizon 2. 

This vessel sleeps up to five guests and features two cabins, two en suites (perfect for teens), an outfitted galley kitchen, and a top sun deck with spacious seating with a table, a barbecue hot plate, and sunbathing area. 

Other models sleep between seven and twelve guests and so there are lots of opportunities for you and your clients to travel with your bubble.

Your clients may choose a three or five-night short boating break or a seven to 10-plus night vacation.

Le Boat provides sample itineraries based on the number of days booked, but all guests have total freedom to go where they want and when they want.

No need to pack the kitchen sink

Le Boat’s comprehensive inventory list gives you a good idea of what is available and what you will need to bring.

Horizon 2 saloon (Le Boat Canada)

Le Boat’s fleet comes equipped with everything you would find in a typical vacation rental, including a fully-equipped kitchen, towels, linens, plus safety equipment, and technical support.

Fuel is charged based on consumption, but boats leave the dock with a full tank and you only pay for what you use. (Kayaks and bicycles are extra).

Le Boat offers a range of optional extras such as bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. (Pax Global Media)

For food, we kept our breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus simple and took advantage of the barbecue on the top deck where we enjoyed dinner a fresco. 

For added convenience, Le Boat also offers a grocery stocking service.

No boating experience required 

Piloting the boat was surprisingly quite straightforward.

“We rent all the time to first-time boaters,” McLean said. “More than 50 per cent of our customers have no boat license or boating experience." 

All customers must go through an in-depth safety boat training and safety orientation prior to departure, mind you. 

While we were nervous about operating a 40-foot vessel with no prior boating experience, Le Boat did an excellent job of calming the waters by providing online safety videos for us to watch prior to our arrival, plus a hands-on safety orientation soon after our check-in at the Smith Falls base. 

Our Le Boat trainer accompanying us through the first lock.

All hands were on deck during this comprehensive orientation to the boat, its equipment, and features, which concluded with a driving lesson. 

Once our proposed route was finalized, our Le Boat trainer accompanied us through our first lock where we handled the ropes on our own.

Going through Narrows Lock, Rideau Canal (Pax Global Media)

The Rideau Canal is 202 km of scenic waterway with 24 historic lock stations and 47 locks. 

Going through the locks is fun and easy and Parks Canada staff is always there to lend a helping hand. 

Our Captain quickly mastered handling the boat (the bow and stern thruster made maneuvering easy) and we were off to a good start.

Navigating through Rideau Canal

Travel trip: use the Navionics Boating Marine & Lakes app for user-friendly and accurate guidance along the route. 

The Le Boat adventure

The experience is a great opportunity to disconnect children from electronics and enjoy the peace and serenity of a private paradise. 

Our journey took us south towards Lower Rideau Lake, Big Rideau Lake, and Upper Rideau.

And as we made our way downstream, the scenery was pristine and ever-changing from cottages along the shoreline to private islands to different flora and fauna (excellent for bird watching). 

Our first over night stop, Beveridges Locks, is an area that features some of the best wildlife viewings on the Rideau. 

Here, we had dinner and enjoyed views from the top deck and finished off the evening making s’mores and meeting fellow boaters around the campfire prepared by Ian, the Lock Master. 

Overnighting at Beveridges Locks. (Pax Global Media)

The next morning, we awoke to the sounds of boaters heading out early to go fishing. 

After a pleasant walk to upper Beveridges Locks and breakfast, the lock gates were opened and we casted off on a three-hour cruise to the Village of Westport, where we transitioned through Narrows Lock from Big Rideau Lake to Upper Rideau Lake.

Upon our arrival, we approached the Westport Municipal Harbour where the Harbour Master welcomed us from the dock and guided us to our parking spot for our overnight stay. 

Arriving at the Village of Westport. (Pax Global Media)

The afternoon was spent exploring Westport’s charming Main Street along the waterfront and shopping boutiques. 

That evening, Le Boat arranged a dinner reservation at family-owned Scheuremann Vineyard and Winery, which offers a serene and rustic dining atmosphere with ample outdoor seating, vineyard views, and a wine tasting area. 

The delicious wood-oven pizzas and perfectly-prepared rib steaks are highly recommended.

Delicious wood-oven pizzas. (Pax Global Media)

The following day, we reached Colonel by Island (aka Long Island). 

There was no room at the public docks, so our only option was to tie up to a mooring ball out on the water. 

While this presented a challenge for our crew of newbies, we successfully accomplished our mission and finally secured our boat. 

This is a popular place to swim and cool off (and we did), as well as hike the island, kayak or simply relax. 

After a memorable afternoon, we finally made our way to our final stop: we arrived at the small village of Portland located on Big Rideau Lake

This quaint stop offers several unique stores, including antiques and collectibles. 

For foodies, the Forfar Dairy Cheese store is a popular destination for its wide variety of cheeses and other locally produced products such as jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces, and rubs and spices. 

For active visitors, the Cataraqui Trail runs approximately 103 KM and is a great spot for walking or biking.

As our boating adventure ended, we felt a sense of accomplishment and great teamwork as we successfully navigated the Rideau Canal. 

Le Boat’s service and attention to detail, along with the warmth and assistance from the boating community throughout our trip, made this an adventure one to remember.

Le Boat & travel advisors

Product training:

Le Boat offers trade webinars and marketing support to help drive travel agents’ awareness of and interest in this type of holiday.  

Additionally, Le Boat works closely with travel advisors to offer consumer webinars to their top clients.

Peace of mind:

Le Boat has stepped up in these challenging times to offer a flexible booking policy. 

You can book your clients with confidence knowing that you can cancel up to 48-hours before departure with Le Boat’s Go Boating With Confidence policy

This policy also includes Le Boat’s new COVID Safety Charter and COVID refund guarantee.

Travel advisor bookings: 

For its Canada and Europe boat rentals, Le Boat pays commissions to travel advisors.

Another benefit is the fact that the company’s Canada office is the one travel advisors contact to book their clients to any Le Boat destination.

Book your groups: 

Le Boat can arrange flotillas for large groups and multi-family travel.  

For example, for a twenty-person group, three to four boats are recommended.

“It’s fun to travel in a flotilla," said McLean. "We’ve had many families travel because they still want to be in their own social bubble. They’re travelling with friends and family, but each of them has their own boat, so they still feel like they’re social distancing, but still travelling with other people.”

 Le Boat is also pet-friendly and welcomes furry friends to join the crew.

Now on sale

Le Boat’s 2022-23 season is now on sale: book early and save up to 25 per cent when paying in full at time of booking.  Save up to 20 per cent with deposit.  

All new 2022 and 2023 bookings are covered under Le Boat's Flexible Booking Policy and the company's COVID Refund Guarantee if booked before Oct 1, 2021. Early Booking offer ends Oct 1, 2021. 

What’s on the horizon for Le Boat?

With Le Boat’s growing success in the Canadian market, eight more Horizon cruisers are expected to enter the market in 2022.

Le Boat also told PAX that it is investigating additional canals in Ontario as part of its expansion plans. However, no concrete decisions have been made just yet.

For more information on Le Boat's boating vacations, click here.

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