Every once in a while, you set off on an adventure thinking you know what to expect and then are blown away by the experience. When we booked a Le Boat staycation on the Rideau Canal last summer we discovered that everything we thought we knew about the Rideau Canal, boating, and how to staycation was wrong.
Here’s the thing – when you hear the word “staycation” you tend to think about a lower cost vacation close to home, something a little less exciting, with a little less oomph. But that’s where the Le Boat vacation went off the charts. This is no ordinary vacation – a Le Boat getaway means you are living on luxury yachts, with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a five star resort.
For seven days, we fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the boat, and wakened to the call of the loons while a light mist rolled over the water. It was breathtaking.
I could go on and on about what it’s like to lay back and sunbathe with a glass of wine in hand, or lounge on the sundeck like a wealthy billionaire, but I won’t. Here’s what we learned about ourselves, Le Boat, the Rideau Canal. This vacation will be hard to live up to.
Novice Boaters Welcome
Before heading out on Le Boat, we knew less than nothing about boating. We’d canoed and kayaked, but that’s about the extent of our knowledge. When we picked up our boat in Smiths Falls we had a brief lesson on the ins and outs of the yachting lifestyle and then we were on our way. We’d chosen the Horizon 5, with room for up to 12 people, which was good because over that seven days we had all of our children, their significant others, and my in-laws on the boat, all at the same time. Oh, and let’s not forget the dog.
Driving the boat was so easy it was very similar to driving a car. We cruised from Smiths Falls to Rideau Ferry, with a detour to Perth and then on to Seeley’s Bay, and by the end of the vacation we felt like we were real boaters, ready for the open water.
The Expectation: I will crash the boat and end up paying for it for 100 years.
The Reality: Anyone can drive a Le Boat cruiser, even someone who doesn’t know how to parallel park (ie. me).
Embrace the Luxury
I’ve always thought of boats as being a wee bit dark, damp, or dreary, but Le Boat boats are bright, spacious, and airy, and include everything you could possibly want to see in a boat – including air conditioning. Every guest room has an adjacent bathroom, and boats can accommodate between 5 and 12 people, so we were able to bring our entire family of six, along with significant others.
I was impressed by the little extras, like the number of outlets and USB ports, and the stereo system was awesome. Perfect for lazing around on the sun deck and tanning.
The Expectation: The boat will be dark and damp and will feel cramped.
The Reality: Le Boat boats feel like a bright, airy, floating cottage with plenty of space to roam, even for 10 adults.
Discover Your Backyard
Like I said, we aren’t strangers to the Ottawa area, but exploring a community by boat is so much fun I now know why so many people are into boating. We arrived in Smiths Falls after the locks had closed, so we spent the night moored on the canal in Victoria Basin. A short walk to the downtown and we were dining on authentic Eastern European fare at My Place Restaurant and watching a performance at Bowie’s live music venue.
It was so much fun to have a delicious meal and then walk back to the boat where we played cards and chatted on deck late into the night.
Smaller boats can travel the Tay River to Perth, but we took a taxi from Rideau Ferry. We ate at Michael’s Table for dinner, and then popped by for breakfast at Peter’s Restaurant the next morning, but there were plenty of other restaurants to choose from downtown. And lots of shops to explore, too…
The Expectation: We’ll be stuck eating canned beans and hot dogs on the boat.
The Reality: The boat has a full barbecue on the sundeck (a.k.a. the fundeck), but the Rideau Canal passes through so many charming small towns with lots of cute cafés, shops and restaurants to experience.
The Rideau Canal is Awesome
Who would have thought that something that was built nearly 200 years ago would still be being used today? Each lock was like a little detour through history. It was cool to watch the lockmasters as they opened and closed the locks knowing that the operations are essentially just as they would have been 200 years ago. While a few of the locks have been updated to automatic lifts, most are still operating using the same technology that was part of the original design. People aren’t wrong when they call it an engineering marvel.
Tip: Some locks have trails that take you along the waterfront, and when there is a community nearby, a walk or bike ride from the canal is the perfect daytime excursion.
The Expectation: The Rideau Canal is going to be boring.
The Reality: Just locking through a lock is an adventure in and of itself. Parks Canada staff are friendly and love to chat while you’re lowering or lifting in the lock.