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Why Owning a Le Boat Houseboat May Be Your Next Charter Choice

When San Franciscans Hugh Gregg and Becky Failor, sailors who were comfortable in their home waters as well as in far-flung charter destinations, decided it was time to transition to a different type of onboard experience, they did hands-on homework. 

During several years in the Netherlands, they’d cruised with Dutch friends who owned a canal boat and had fallen in love with it as an easy, hassle-free way to stay active and continue to explore as they aged. They took a couple of charters aboard canal boats in Scotland and in France and found models they could purchase. But they worried about berthing and maintaining a boat, far from their California home.


Le Boat houseboat fleets cruise multiple Canadian waterways

Le Boat houseboat fleets cruise multiple Canadian waterways such as the Tay River (above) as well as 9 European locales. Holger Leue photo.


Now it was time to do a different kind of homework. The couple discovered the Le Boat ownership program, which offers a fleet of modern, easy-to-drive Horizon houseboats, and they did the math. 

We calculated the boat price, less the monthly income payments, less the guaranteed buyback price that Le Boat offered after seven years to be an amount that equaled a list price rental of a Le Boat for a week in high season for each of those seven years,” Gregg says.

They’ve never looked back, the pandemic notwithstanding. “We’ve been spending 50 to 60 days on the water every year based on this investment,” Gregg says. “The program includes maintenance and storage. An even bigger bonus is that we don’t have to move our own boat to a new cruising ground. We simply show up at a base in a new-to-us area and motor away!


One of several European destinations San Franciscans Hugh Gregg and Becky Failor enjoy cruising is The Netherlands.

One of several European destinations San Franciscans Hugh Gregg and Becky Failor enjoy cruising is The Netherlands. Hugh Gregg photo.


How the Ownership Program Works

The Le Boat Ownership Program helps make boat ownership simple and worry free. As the leader in boating rental vacations in Europe with over 55 years in business, the company invites owners to focus on exploring beautiful cruising grounds, using boats in 33 bases in Europe and 2 cruising regions in Ontario, Canada. 


The program basics are these: 

  • Become the owner of a Le Boat Horizon Cruiser; 
  • Earn guaranteed monthly income–12 months a year for seven years; 
  • Enjoy 14 weeks of cruising each year for seven years and gain access to all Le Boat bases worldwide and the company’s 900+ boats in Europe and Canada;   
  • Le Boat provides all fleet management, upkeep, service maintenance, winter storage, and winterization;
  •  At the end of the seven years, you have the option to have Le Boat buy back the boat for a guaranteed 51% of your boat’s purchase prices (less taxes).


The Le Boat base at Smith Falls, Ontario Canada, on the Rideau Canal

The Le Boat base at Smith Falls, Ontario Canada, on the Rideau Canal. Holger Leue photo.


Launched in 2013, Le Boat’s program focuses on new Horizon fleets in Canada and in Europe, and no licenses or previous boating experience are required. Le Boat Instructors teach clients boat-handling skills, boat navigation on each cruising ground, onboard safety, and much more.  

For the client, the emphasis is placed on maximizing access for up to 14 weeks annually from bases in eight European countries and in Canada—six weeks usage in Canada and eight weeks in Europe. 

  • Canada cruising grounds are in Ontario—the UNESCO Rideau Canal and the Historic Trent-Severn Waterway  
  • European cruising grounds include France (9 regions), Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany.

As noted by the satisfied duo of Gregg and Failor, over a term of seven years, the return on the investment makes it attractive comparable to repeat chartering.


Brightly lit, the pilothouse saloon includes dinette and galley and easy access to the stern deck

Brightly lit, the pilothouse saloon includes dinette and galley and easy access to the stern deck. Nicolas Plessis photo.


Using a two-cabin, one-head Horizon 1 Plus costing CA$355,000 (US$264,137) as an example, Le Boat multiplies 14 charter weeks a year over seven years and calculates the total value of owner usage at about CA$601,482 (US$447,531).

“That figure represents the value in Canadian dollars of 16 weeks on the boats for 7 years based on our average rental prices,” says Dean A. Del Mastro, the company’s sales agent in Canada. “At the current exchange rate that would equate to roughly $450,000 in U.S. dollars.

“For avid boaters who love to cruise twice a year or more, our ownership program is a cost-effective alternative to multiple charter bookings,” says Chloé Tep, marketing coordinator. “If you like to cruise more than once a year, it can be cheaper to buy a boat than to rent it.”

Total fixed owner income is paid via monthly payment each month, not just during boating season, and payable each month for seven years, an annual value of 7 percent of the net boat purchase price. In seven years, Le Boat will pay you a total is CA$157,500.


The spacious upper deck with helm station on a Horizon cruiser

The spacious upper deck with helm station on a Horizon cruiser. Nicolas Plessis photo.


That plus the guaranteed buyback exclusive of taxes, CA$160,650 (US$119,531), at 51 percent of purchase price (before taxes), is what draws clients into the ownership program. 

The model applies to all boats in the program regardless of the initial purchase price,” says Del Mastro. “We do have price incentives on now, plus we are extending an 8 percent return offer for the first year to launch the program in North America.

Ownership perks include annual insurance, a one-time payment of $270 in lieu of a charter security deposit, as well as free extras such as boat cleaning, no fees for pets, barbecues, deck cushions, and lower fuel rates, according to Tep. Owner care representatives supply personalized assistance with quick responses that accommodate last-minute bookings and upgrades to larger vessels without extra fees.

Our ownership program has proven especially appealing to U.S. owners who relish the chance to spend weeks cruising in Europe, exploring multiple countries at their own pace,” Tep says. “This experience allows them to fly to their initial destination, spend a few days, then drive to another, creating a personalized itinerary. We think that American’s will definitely enjoy the program now that Le Boat offers two premium cruising grounds in Ontario, Canada: Cruising on the Rideau Canal with a base in Smiths Falls and Ottawa, or on the Trent-Severn Waterway starting from our newest base located in Peterborough, opening May 17, 2024. Travelers have the choice to use their 14 weeks per year in full-week increments or choose to do smaller, 3-6 night short breaks. This offers our U.S. owners a cost-effective way to discover both Europe and Canada while indulging in their love for cruising.


One of the most popular French cruising locales is the Canal du Midi.

One of the most popular French cruising locales is the Canal du Midi.


Other key program benefits include free maintenance and storage, which includes parts and labor. Boats are checked weekly, hauled out annually, and undergo a complete phase-out review of systems and amenities at the end of the seven-year term.

Available models include the new Horizon 1 through Horizon 4 models. Lengths range from 11.5m to 13.5m (37,7 to 44,3 feet), and accommodations are from two to four cabins with one to four heads. “Sales prices vary even among specific models depending on the model year,” Del Mastro says. “Boats start around CA$280,000 (US$210,000).

In terms of usage, perks include the ability to book charters in any model or boat of varying sizes, cabin numbers and capacities available at time of booking. Advance bookings require a differential fee for upgrades to bigger boats. Last-minute booking made up to seven days before departure may offer free upgrades if the boat is available. Owners can give away two weeks in low season or independently rent them out. Owner privileges extend to family and designated close friends without restrictions. 


Waterway Cruising: Nature, History, Culture and Gastronomy 

According to Lisa McLean, Le Boat marketing manager, current top destinations in Europe are France’s Canal du Midi, Camargue, and two cruising regions in the Burgundy wine region; the rivers and lakes of Holland and Friesland in the Netherlands; and the River Thames in England. Longstanding favorite destinations are Belgium, Germany, Scotland, Italy, and Ireland. In Canada, Le Boat has added a base at Ontario’s Trent-Severn Waterway, a national historical site, to existing operations at the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Le Boat offers trip-planning assistance for booking flights and ground transfers; regional guidebooks with itineraries, highlights, and cruising time between locks; provisioning; and recreational toys such as standup paddleboards, kayaks, and bicycles. 


Hugh Gregg at the helm in Aquaitaine in the southwest of France

Hugh Gregg at the helm in Aquaitaine in the southwest of France. Becky Failor photo.


For those curious about what to expect exploring inland waterways, Gregg has the ready answer.

We like to head out for a week or two to explore areas around a base,” he says. “We are able to set our own pace, and some days motor for five or more hours, or explore more leisurely, maybe two or three hours a day. Park your boat along the canal or in a town harbor and explore the countryside, the small towns, medieval castles, wineries, and make a trip to the boulangerie in the morning to pick up a fresh baguette for lunch. For dinner, it is a choice to either eat on board or head out to a restaurant."

Sometimes we use the boat as our hotel to explore a region in greater detail. We most often cruise with just the two of us, and it is also fun to have friends join us."

Really, it gives us a sense of adventure; we’ve been in commercial-size locks with a change of elevation of 0.3 meters to over 3 meters. The smaller locks we’ve been in include elevation change of over 11 meters, and other locks are completely manually operated (no electric or hydraulic aids) by our own crew. The variety of locks and bridges adds to the adventure.

Gregg and Failor are in good company, according to Tep. “Around half of our owners were previous Le Boat customers, and others were previous yacht customers,” she says. “They are motivated by the free upkeep, weeks cruising, mix of destinations, and the income and buyback.


Learn more about Le Boat charter destinations and ownership program.



Written By: Elaine Lembo

Elaine Lembo, editor in chief of the Caribbean Compass, has built a career around sailing and journalism. She is an award-winning chartering editor for BoatUS Magazine and Cruising World magazine, among others. She is a fellow of the Metcalf Institute for Environmental Reporting at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.  Find out more at her social media profiles: LinkedIn | Facebook

More from: Elaine Lembo

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