Self-drive boating company Le Boat has hopped the pond with its first North American program, which will launch on Ontario’s Rideau Canal in 2018.
The Clearwater, Fl.-based company is investing $12 million to get a fleet of 16 self-drive vessels up and running along the canal between Ottawa and Kingston in Canada. The plan is to expand the fleet to at least 32 cruisers over the next five years, according to Le Boat.
Customers can begin booking the Canadian self-drive experience beginning in spring 2017, with the departures slated to run from May through October each year, starting in 2018.
The 125-mile long Rideau Canal first opened in 1832 and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It has 47 locks along its route and is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America.
Le Boat said it expects to attract thousands of vacationers from the U.S., Canada, Germany, France and other countries to the Rideau Canal region.
According to Cheryl Brown, Le Boat’s managing director, Le Boat conducted a survey of its international customer base, and 88% of European respondents said they would travel to Ontario for a canal boating holiday, and more than 91% of U.S. customers said they would.
The 40-year-old Le Boat operates a fleet of 900 self-drive cruisers in eight European countries. All the boats are outfitted with kitchens, showers and bathrooms, and sleeping areas. No experience or boating license is necessary, and an orientation is provided to first-time renters. Le Boat provides guests with suggested itineraries.