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The Great Waterway
From THE EMC - Thursday August 4, 2011.
Experience taste of history with Rideau King lock and canal tours
By ASHLEY KULP Staff Writer EMC News
What better way to enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer than spending it on the water, soaking up local history. That's exactly what those boarding the Rideau King Lock and Canal Tours can come to expect.

For the past three years, Steve and Linda Flewitt, owners of Aylings Marina in Merrickville, have been offering the popular tours of the canal on the nearly 50-year-old Rideau King, a large 50-foot boat originally built in Manitoba during the 1960s. For the Flewitts, owners of Aylings for 16 years, offering the boat tours was a natural progression.

Experience the rich history and gorgeous landscape of the Rideau Canal with the Rideau King Lock
and Canal Tours. From Monday to Thursday each week from May to September, the Rideau King, above,
a large 50-foot 50-passenger capacity boat offers tours stretching along the canal from Ottawa to
Westport. Photo by Ashley Kulp.

We live on the water at the marina, so it's really quite a part of our life, Steve admitted. According to Steve, the reason behind the tours was due to the increased interest in the Rideau Canal, especially when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We thought as soon as the river became a World Heritage Site and UNESCO endorsed, more people were interested in seeing the river for what it is and why it was deemed world heritage, remarked Steve during a recent interview with the EMC prior to the Rideau King setting off for the day from the Merrickville locks.

There are both entertaining and educational elements to the tours and along the way, guides point out interesting facts about Colonel John By, the builder of the canal. Some of the history is quite interesting and we show the wildlife on the river and points of interest, Steve said.

We explain the working of a lock and how it floods and raises water. As were going along, theres always something of interest to notice, he added. Though based in Merrickville, the Rideau King, with captains Jacques Ribot and Robert Hadley at the helm, travels through many of the locks in the area and offers a variety of day trips from May through September, with helpful staff offering up maps and interesting tips along the way. On Mondays, the boat departs from the Merrickville locks at 9 a.m. and travels up to Ottawa, passing through the locks of communities including Burritts Rapids, Kemptville, Manotick, before ending at Hogs Back in Ottawa. After each tour, a comfortable coach will return visitors. The boat goes every day except Friday. No matter if there's two people (on board) or were at capacity with 50, it goes, Steve stated. On Tuesdays, the Rideau King reverses its trip, leaving at 9 a.m. from Hogs Back and traveling back through the locks where it will reach its destination of Merrickville. Once again, a coach will be ready to drive visitors back. We use a coach to bring people back to make them comfortable, Steve commented. Wednesdays see the boat off from Merrickville to the picturesque village of Westport. Before getting there, the Rideau King will travel through the Kilmarnock, Edmonds and Old Slys locks, through Smiths Falls and ending up at the Narrows locks. Transportation will be made available to visitors. On Thursdays, the boat will travel from Westport to Merrickville in the reverse order. On each day trip, lunch is included.

A popular feature of the tours recently added includes a Sunday Summer Music Rideau Canal Tours that regularly include live entertainment by Hard Pushin Papa and Bradley Smith for a three hour excursion. In offering the music tour, it's another group of people we can open these tours up to, Steve said, adding that the boat tours would like to reach all generations. Not available for a tour during the week? No problem as every Friday, Saturday and Sunday the boat is opened up for special events and corporate meetings. People can even get married on here, Steve stated, adding he's had a few weddings onboard. However, he added that the Saturday time slot will soon be filled as another tour is planned.

Aylings Marina owner Steve Flewitt, who operates the tours, chats with boat captain Robert Hadley, prior to
departing from Merrickville recently. For the past three years Steve and his wife Linda have been making the
tours available to local residents and tourists. Photo by Ashley Kulp.

A unique feature of the Rideau King Lock and Canal Tours is their length, said Steve. Most tour boats offer tours that are an hour or an hour and 15 minutes. Because this is a day-long cruise, we go through a lot of people and they get to meet each other, say hello and become friends, he explained. We go all day and right now, nobody else is doing that. Plenty of importance has been placed on the ultimate comfort and safety of the guests. The main level of the boat includes a spacious dining area and with tables and chairs an screened-in windows, giving guests the opportunity to get out of the sun and enjoy a beverage. A bar area (for refreshments and snacks) and two washrooms are also on the main level. Up top is the best view of the boat and a seating area has been installed (complete with a sunscreen to protect from the rays) so people can be put there and be out of direct sunlight and enjoy the view, Steve noted. Guests can feel secure on the tour as the boat has been fully inspected and approved by Transport Canada for safety.

And with lots to see along the waterway, Steve said the tours have been set up to be value-added. You're not going to see something twice because the boat isn't going out and coming back. You're coming back by coach, he commented. Because you're not repeating the trip, a lot of people do double trips and come from Ottawa on Tuesday and take the tour, stay in a bed and breakfast in Merrickville on Tuesday night and then go on the tour to Westport on Wednesday. They can see different parts of the canal in two swipes. It's like a mini-vacation and for some people that's quite exciting, Steve added, noting that the canals landscape constantly changes. Taking the tour from Ottawa to Merrickville, visitors can view the over $1 million homes along the water, but that changes on the other end from Merrickville to Westport, where there is more country and cottages. Most people coming out of Ottawa (for the tour) never get on the river to see it and enjoy it, so this is a great way to see the water.

Due to the flexibility and variety of tours, many decide to take the tour again and again. It is a great experience and makes for a good day...

There's lots of different ways of enjoying the canal, Steve concluded. For more information on the Rideau King Lock and Canal Tours, including pricing and tour schedules, please visit www.rideaukingtours.com, call 613-269-9342 or email rideauking@bell.net



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