Be the captain of your passage to adventure


Find the ignition switch. Master the gearshift lever. Rev up the throttle. You now are ready to captain a houseboat, taking your family, friends and even your dog on a cruise along the historic and picturesque Rideau Canal.

The Rideau Canal runs from Kingston, where Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence River, north for 202 kilometres to Ottawa, connecting a series of lakes and rivers with 27 locks. Opened in 1832, the canal was built as a military supply route, but ultimately was only used for commercial barges and steamers, and eventually for pleasure boats.

In 2007, the Rideau Canal was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, along with such landmarks as the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Acropolis in Athens and India's Taj Mahal. The award is a tribute to the engineering feat that saw the construction of a waterway through swamps and rocky, scrubby wilderness. Now the well-travelled tourist route is known for scenic parks, quaint towns and quiet bays.

Heather and Robert Heins, owners of Big Rideau Lake Boat Rentals in Portland, Ont., manage seven boats for single-day cruises and for trips of four to seven nights. With each boat rental, they also dispense safety tips, navigational charts and free advice on such marine subjects as the best docking sites for a great lunch and the best bait shops.

Typically, houseboaters take off for a week, cruising at a leisurely eight to 10 knots per hour (about 15 to 18 kilometres per hour) and covering sites along the Rideau Canal. The boats are wide, lumbering floating chalets complete with barbecues, air conditioning, small kitchens and a variety of sleeping arrangements.


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