Making waves in the leisure industry - that's this go-ahead Flemish boat company

A Flemish boat company has moved full steam ahead with the latest in new on-board technology.

Andy De Kegel, based in Gent, has fitted “state-of-the-art” GPS trackers to his entire fleet of pleasure boats...partly to help clients who get into difficulties.

The trackers, fitted to each of Andy’s 26 vessels, allow him and his team to track the vessel when it is out on hire.

It means that if, say, a boat breaks down or a client wants to report an emergency, Andy can trace their exact location and set about providing support and assistance.  

The devices also provide peace of mind to users who may, for example, find themselves heading in the wrong direction.

The new technology has so far proved a big success, says Andy, who runs the Minerva boat company, based in a quiet part of the city.

He said, “All the boats are now fitted with GPS which can be a big help, particularly if one of use needs to go out to someone who may be lost or having a problem of some sort.”

“The technology is a sort of insurance policy if something goes wrong.”

Installing the devices is the latest example of the innovative approach Andy has introduced to the business which he took over six years ago.

Based at Coupure Rechts, the company's presence has injected new life into this peaceful corner of Gent and has celebrated a record breaking summer with upwards of 1,000 people a day hiring boats.

“Obviously, the good weather helped,” said Andy, “but ta lot of hard work and effort goes into making this a success.”

Having worked previously in TV, as a courier and running a café,Andy is the third owner of the business and is ably assisted by his mother Bridget.

With the Belgian school half term approaching (29 October to 5 November), now’s a great time to get a taste of the Minerva experience which takes passengers on a leisurely trip along the River Leive in Gent.

Starting from a part of the city that was once a lively merchant harbour where all manner of goods were shipped in, you have a choice of vessels and travelling times.

You can hire a boat, ranging from a standard cabrio to luxury sloop, for a couple of hours or a full day but one of the most popular options is a four-hour cruise that first takes you past the old Bijloke hospital, once the oldest hospital in the city and now a music centre and school.   

While you quietly meander along the river, you will pass under at least a couple of bridges, one the busy Brussels to Ostend motorway and another the Gent to Bruges railway line. The landscape is terrific, ranging to rolling countryside and meadows to the beautiful gardens of charming villas located along the riverbank. It’s a sight that once upon a time inspired the great painters of the School of Latem.

You also pass the village of Afsnee and a passenger ferry  operated with a cable spanning the river. You also get the chance to navigate right in the center of Gent itself. No boating experience is needed and the vessels are simple to operate.

The petrol-engine boats, which can accommodate up to a dozen people, travel at a max. speed of 8km/hour (reduced to 5km/h  near yacht marinas).

Those uninitiated in such things will also get acquainted with some basic boating terminology, such as port side being on the left and starboard on the right.

Along with the new technology, which includes alarms, it all makes for a very pleasant trip out.

The boats run until 10 November when Andy and his team set about the job of maintenance and repair in readiness for the new season, starting in March.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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