Le Boat was at council Monday evening presenting a wind-up of its first year in Smiths Falls and on the Rideau.
By all accounts it was good.
The first question Lisa McLean, marketing manager for Le Boat, answered (one that many who have boated on the Rideau for years asked) was why don’t those who rent Le Boat need to have a licence? Ontarians require an Ontario Boaters card McLean acknowledged but Le Boat renters “don’t require a licence or previous boating experience. We can check you out and have the authority to say you’re competent. Passengers take a one to two hour training session on the boat — how to drive, safety procedures — and we take you through the first lock.” McLean said at the completion “we are confident we can say you do not need experience or a licence.”
With that question out of the way, McLean went on to answer Councillor Allen on how the boats handle. They have bow and stern thrusters, she explained, so that with literally the push of a button the boat moves sideways (good for parallel parking?). “Hit a button and the boat moves right or left. You don’t need to know how to reverse or manoeuvre, just line up where you want to go and hit a button.”
She added these aren’t speed boats, they only go 10 km/hr. which is a calming and easy way to cruise. “You can take time and enjoy the surroundings.” And you can drive from either the top or bottom deck.
McLean said Le Boat has a fleet of 940 as well as a 50-year history of sailing the rivers and canals in Europe. The 16 boats that arrived in Smiths Falls last year were brand new, built in Poland, put on ocean liners and shipped to Montreal; from there they came overland and were stored under wraps until the spring kick-off.
First passengers in 2018 were a military couple from the United States; McLean added that many vacationers came to the Rideau instead of the Muskokas last year, many from western Canada, some from Germany, Australia, South Africa, the UK and France, with people driving from Toronto, Oakville and up from the US, too.
On average, there were six people per boat, the average night stay was seven, the most frequent a three-night visit. The months of July and August were sold out, McLean said, and Le Boat is already “exceeding expectations” for this year.
Exciting for 2019 is the addition of four more boats to be based at a satellite mooring in Seeley’s Bay, three of them with five bedrooms and five bathrooms each.
Asked how Smiths Falls could further accommodate the new-to-the-town company, McLean made some suggestions: shuttle bus services to Seeleys’ Bay, and to and from Ottawa airport.
Councillor Alford noted that the business was a good investment opportunity. McLean explained that after a three-year building period in Smiths Falls, investors will be able to ‘buy’ the boats.For more information, go to https://www.leboat.ca/en