The second I step on The Everly, she greets me with a gentle sway on the calm waters of the Ottawa River. I immediately feel a sense of peace, as if I completely let everything go.
The 42 feet long by 14 feet wide yacht (it is very wide for all of us non-boat people) is tastefully decorated with white leather, mahogany steps, and wood trim, complete with plush pillows and warm soft blankets. And it’s no wonder—owners Stephane Robinson and Melanie Donnelly bought the 1988 boat in the Thousand Islands and spent the entire winter renovating it with Erik Lupien. The Everly complements Lupien’s Dolce Far Niente, which measures 38 feet long by 12 feet wide, and completes the current yacht fleet. The majority owner of the company, Lupien is the captain at the helm of Ottawa Yacht Tours (OYT).
Together with friends, Lupien wanted to do something fun, safe, and positive in the midst of the first COVID summer. And so, Lupien’s Dolce Far Niente was the first boat comprising OYT, born officially as a locally owned and operated business in the fall of 2020. After months of rigorous training and updates, the yacht successfully passed Transport Canada Marine Safety inspection. It became the first & only yacht tour operator on the Ottawa River to earn this stamp of approval to legally and safely operate a small craft commercially.
Lupien is a professional and doing everything above board is key to him, which is evident when he leads a commercial safety meeting at the beginning of the tour, infusing it with lighthearted humour, “If we give you a life jacket, put it on, and fasten it up, even if it doesn’t go with your outfit!” he says gently but firmly. After a water safety briefing, we set off.
Dolce Far Niente has a live DJ, Sunil from Eclectic Vibes, spinning fun energetic beats for us; The Everly is equipped with an FM transmitter so we can get in on the fun too. The boats offer fun add-ons and The Everly’s co-owner Stephane Robinson is a courteous host, offering us a beautiful charcuterie board to dive into. When I ask Robinson why he decided to just buy a yacht one day, he readily responds, “I’ve been doing vegetables for 20 years. I needed a new adventure.”
Robinson is a third-generation owner of a booth at Parkdale Market. His grandparents started retailing locally grown veggies, fruits, and plants from their own farm back when it was still horse & buggy days, and the family has spent more than 65 years at the Market! And because Ottawa is such a small town sometimes, I realize that The Everly’s First Mate, Philip Klaassen, actually sold me herb plants at Parkdale just a week ago. I remember Robinson’s booth—it’s closest to the gas station with an expansive selection of greenery.
“The Ottawa River is such a beautiful and underused waterway,” explains Robinson about his new venture which is keeping him and Klaassen busy. “We are the only commercial fleet here.” So while plants and yachts are at complete opposites of the spectrum, OYT is doing something unique here. Ottawa too deserves the luxury of a yacht experience, a notion that multiple guests remarked on throughout the tour. “It doesn’t even feel like we are in Ottawa!” I heard a few times. With multiple sold-out tours, the yachts are attracting attention for dates, anniversaries, parties, and events. And the owners wouldn’t want it any other way—sharing the beauty and relaxing together is much more special.
Coupled with gorgeous views of Parliament, a new look at the Rockcliffe hillside, and a stunning sunset ending our night, a yacht tour is a pleasure for tourists as much as it is for locals looking to try something new.
You can book a tour on either yacht online here, with both daily and VIP tours available.