THE GENERAL RULE OF BOAT TRAVEL is green-right-go and red-right-return. It sounds simple, but sometimes I have a hard time figuring out whether I’m coming or going! Coloured buoys mark the channel and, as I navigate my impressive 45 ft. rental yacht downstream towards Ottawa, I steer left of the red markers. The Rideau River stretches before me, its glassy surface offering a mirror image of the ragged shoreline and a cloud-mottled sky. Smart homes and farms slip past, the landscape becoming more civilized, but no less-interesting, as I get closer to the Canadian capital.
My wife and I are travelling aboard a Le Boat Horizon Cruiser that is so expansive we don’t have to interact if we don’t want to – but, of course, I do cherish her navigational input. Our smartly-designed vessel comes with four double-bedded berths, ensuite bathrooms with showers, a spacious fully-equipped, semi-stocked galley and a dining area with big windows allowing plenty of natural light. The upper sun-deck has a barbecue, wrap around seating and lounging chairs. Bridge controls can be switched from up top to below in case of poor weather.
For such a large yacht it is surprisingly easy to operate even in the narrow locks, with side-thrusters and an ingenious wrap-around bumper system, and the boat’s speed is capped at 10 km an hour to control rambunctious skippers such as myself. I was surprised to learn that no experience or boating license is required, just an orientation at departure.
For 50 years Le Boat has allowed visitors to access Europe’s most spectacular waterways. Rivers that were once the continent’s lifeblood now offer a unique way to discover each country. Unlike river cruising, however, with Le Boat you set your own course and encounter things at your own pace. There is no worry about finding accommodation; our cruiser is like a floating villa, offering all the comforts of home and we have settled in beautifully.
We also thought about a journey through the elegant beauty of France’s waterways, setting a course through vineyards, sun-drenched lavender fields and the beguiling villages on the Rhône or Saône rivers. Perhaps you would prefer the dramatic beauty of the Scottish Highlands; a Caledonian Canal cruise will take you through the misty lochs and rugged valleys of the Great Glen. Le Boat also allows access to the delightful lagoons of Italy, the lowland canals of Holland, and the lakes and rivers of Mecklenburg and Brandenburg in Germany. The River Thames flows past Southern England’s colourful gardens, while Ireland’s River Shannon offers great fishing and even better golfing. Stop in quaint villages, explore medieval churches and castles, or visit a waterside pub. Doesn’t it all sound wonderful?
In 2018, Le Boat brought their luxury cruisers to North America and the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We found this cruise fascinating from a historical point of view and quintessentially Canadian in every way. As in Europe, you can set your own itinerary, enjoy the optional bikes and kayaks on board, hop off at restaurants and attractions and, at day’s end, moor your boat at the picturesque Parks Canada lock stations. Besides a smattering of locks to keep the boater busy, there is little to interfere with the quiet enjoyment of the landscape. We find the pace of our journey wonderful; the changing scenery and characters we meet lead to new adventures and discoveries around every bend.
IF YOU GO: Always consult a travel advisor and check out www.leboat.ca for cruises in Canada or Europe.
Written by Jamie Ross for Cruise & Travel Lifestyles (Summer 2019).