Le Boat staff met us at the Westport locks on our arrival. This yacht would be our traveling companion for the next few days – the Horizon Escape 1350.
Picture Perfect Vacation on the Rideau with Le Boat
By Andy Adams, Greg Nicoll and John Armstrong with Robin Ball
If you haven’t cruised the Rideau Canal before, you have missed a special treat and even if you have, a vacation aboard a Le Boat Horizon 1350 can give you a whole new view of this magnificent waterway.
One of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously-operated canal system in North America. Traveling this sheltered waterway aboard Le Boat, we were able to relax and take in the spectacular nature, picturesque towns and historic locks of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is an impressive sight in Smiths Falls – many of the Le Boat fleet were back, being cleaned and awaiting the arrival of the next wave of guests.
There are 24 Lock stations and 47 Locks on the Rideau. Each lock has 3 to 4 staff members and usually washrooms, docks where you can stay overnight, sometimes launch ramps and other facilities to enjoy as you travel.
What will amaze you is that these locks are basically as they were originally built in the 1800s and are manually operated! The lock staff not only meet you as you arrive but they assist you as you lock through and they use the man-powered chain drive winches to open and close the massive timber gates to the locks.
Our vacation was relatively short. We all wished we had had weeks to explore and enjoy the Rideau Canal and lakes, especially given the perfect weather, but getting three (or in this case all four) Galley Guys together in one place at one time, restricted us to just a few days.
The Le Boat staff were totally accommodating. We arrived at the Newboro Lock around lunch time on our first day and we were met by the friendly and very efficient Le Boat staff. We left our car to Sandy, a member of the Le Boat staff who drove it back to their headquarters in Smiths Falls so we could pick it up later when we dropped the boat off.
While staying in Westport, we made the decision to go to the Scheuermann Winery and vineyard. Check out the full Galley Guy story in the May 2019 Canadian Yachting.
THE LE BOAT BOATS
Specially designed and built for Le Boat, we cruised on an Escape Horizon 1350 which is built by Delphia Yachts. The boat is 44 feet long overall [13.5 m] and weighs 9500 kg. The Horizon 1350 is a special design for cruising rivers and sheltered waters. It only draws 0.86 m in spite of its size. The beam is 12 and a half feet and the boat is powered by a Nanni diesel producing a mere 60 hp. The Escape Horizon 1350 is very easy to push, the Nanni diesel engine is smooth and quiet, and it seemed happiest running at 7 or 8 knots with a top speed of about 12. At most cruising speeds we were leaving almost no wake to disturb shoreline residents or cause any erosion. The boat is easy to steer, tracks quite accurately and has both bow and stern hydraulic thrusters that can spin the boat in its own length – a test the Le Boat Base Manager tried us out on as part of the orientation.
This makes it remarkably maneuverable for 44 feet, especially when docking or navigating in close quarters such as coming in or out of a lock.
Entering the locks at Poonamalie, you can see the Parks Canada staff turning the winches to open the timber gates on the lock.
You can also use the gears to spin the boat, and during our check-through we turned it around in the Newboro lock docks area that way.
We had the Horizon 3 model and there are Horizon 1,2,3,4 and 5 versions. All are basically the same 44’ hull but the Horizon 1 is primarily a boat for couples or with young children and it features a very big master stateroom with smaller cabin for two kids. The new 5 version has 5 cabins, each with an en suite head and a total of 8 single berths plus a forward double to offer sleeping accommodation for 10 easily.
Waking up moored at the lock at Beveridges, the Galley Guys greet the day by toasting with coffee.
Whichever version suits your group best, the emphasis is on spaciousness and comfort. The Escape Horizon 1350 includes a navigation system and both a lower helm in the saloon for driving inside, or an upper helm on the big flying bridge.
A secure and easily managed staircase takes you from the main deck level cockpit to the roomy ‘fundeck’ where the Galley Guys spent most of their time. The flying bridge is fitted with a large table around which to gather your crew for a glass of wine after a relaxing cruise and it’s the perfect place from which to admire the view or simply to sunbathe. There is a BBQ here too!
Our Horizon 3 had three bedrooms, each with en suite head for total privacy and comfort aboard. Then there was the saloon with the main galley and a generous dinette for meals (if you prefer not to be up top on the bridge).
The light and airy saloon and fully equipped kitchen has over-sized windows and opens up to a rear seating area through large sliding glass doors. This cockpit area has a huge bench seat and the backrest flips so you can face either direction. To ensure full season comfort, the boat has air cooling and heating.
Capt. John Armstrong at the helm on the flying bridge getting the check-out from Le Boat’s Base Manager.
Newboro lock to Westport is an easy run – no tricky navigating and scenic sheltered waters.
We had glorious weather for our trip and the village of Westport was a great spot for a first night. This sheltered and very pretty waterfront had a four-person dock staff including a Harbormaster who greeted us, guided us to a spot on the docks where we could connect to shore power and provided us with both a friendly welcome and answers to any of our questions.
While in Westport, we took time to visit the Scheuermann Winery for a delicious dinner. Look for a Galley Guys story in the next issue of Canadian Yachting on that!
This was the view as we approached the harbor at Westport for the first time.
After breakfast in Westport, we headed east passing through the Narrows and on to Portland. There are a few important facilities available in Portland including docks, a marina, local shops, a nice waterfront restaurant and more.
After our walking tour through Portland, we headed towards Rideau Ferry, stopping at Col. By Island to drop anchor for lunch. The water was cool and refreshing and we joined a few other boats that had also stopped for a swim in this sheltered area.
Galley Guy Greg Nicoll is standing in front of the Vanilla Beans Café Creamery, conveniently located near the docks. Westport seems to have more coffee and ice cream shops per capita than any other town I’ve been in!
From there, we cruised the past Rideau Ferry and on to Beveridges at the start of the Tay Canal. This remarkable waterway had been carved through some 11 km of tangled swampy land running north to Perth, Ontario which in the mid-1850s, was a bustling and wealthy community, but one that lacked direct water access.
The construction of the Tay Canal took far longer and cost twice as much as anticipated, and in the hot summers with clouds of insects, many of the workers developed malaria and died. The construction was a monumental task.
That was not why we chose not to go up the Tay Canal though. Rather, we wanted to pass through the locks at Poonamalie to return our Horizon Escape 1350 to the Le Boat head office in Smith Falls. From there, we were able to pick up our car and easily made the short drive to Perth for a most enjoyable shopping trip and photo session.
After spending a last night aboard the boat, we wrapped up our Rideau Cruise and headed back to the office and the daily grind that Galley Guys normally never admit to. Greg Nicoll, Andy Adams and John Armstrong were joined by our fourth Galley Guy, Robin Ball who kindly took many of the photos and made the trip easier and more fun for all. Le Boat runs a great operation and the Horizon Escape 1350 was very comfortable, spacious and easy to operate.
As probably Europe’s best bare boat charter company, Le Boat has had years of experience and they brought their best to the Rideau Canal to start their Le Boat business in North America.