European self-drive recreational boating company Le Boat has announced plans to launch its first North American base of operations in 2018 on Ontario’s historic Rideau Canal. The Rideau Canal, which opened in 1832, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Canadian National Historic Site as well as a Canadian Heritage river. It is 202km (125 miles) long with 47 locks and is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America.
Le Boat said it will be investing CA$16 million in Le Boat base infrastructure that includes the length of the canal from Ottawa to Kingston. It will open in the town of Smiths Falls, “Heart of the Rideau Canal,” with a fleet of 16 Horizon cruisers, which are designed to meet Ontario maritime and Le Boat customer requirements. The fleet will expand to at least 32 cruisers over the next five years. Booking will begin in spring 2017, with the boating season officially launching in May 2018 and running through October every year.
According to Cheryl Brown, managing director at Le Boat, a Le Boat survey of its customers – including respondents from the U.S., Germany, and the UK – found demand high for Eastern Ontario and the Rideau Canal. At least 88 percent of European respondents said they would travel to Ontario for a boating holiday, with the numbers rising to more than 91 percent among U.S. customers.
To facilitate the ease of handling for new and experienced boaters alike, the Le Boat Horizon is equipped with bow and stern thrusters for easy maneuvering into and out of locks, Le Boat said. It is also completely bumpered for safety and has a capped speed at 10km an hour for the Rideau.