It'll be awhile before the Fintry Queen finds a solid place to dock in Kelowna's tourism industry.
President of the Okanagan Lake Boat Company Inc., Andy Schwab received confirmation that a "bill of sale" for the Fintry Queen was registered with Transport Canada completing the court sale process, freeing the ship of all previous liens and debts. But a decision whether or not to build a dock in City Park to accommodate the passenger ship must still be weighted by City of Kelowna staff and a report provided to council.
The City says site analysis regarding moorage of the Fintry Queen is underway and a presentation will be made to council in February. They say they will continue to work with Schwab as he investigates mooring options for the Fintry Queen, other than the moorage installed at Sutherland Bay and at this time, that means answering any questions Schwab has.
The Fintry Queen has room for 326 passengers and from 1990 - 2000 carried an average of 28,000 each summer. It's the largest commercial passenger ship on Okanagan Lake, though it was originally built as a car ferry in 1948 to carry passengers and vehicles across the lake year-round. It was also designed to rest close to shore with a bow boarding ramp allowing loading and unloading without the need for extensive shore facilities.
Schwab hopes the City will consider constructing a smaller temporary pier for the ship in front of the former park pavilion building in City Park. He says there's power, water and sewer available that once served the building, and permanent washrooms will soon be built in the area.
Should the Fintry Queen start operations this summer, Schwab projects the ship will carry 20,000 passengers the first year and up to 40,000 by year three. He wants the City to consider the advantage of daily treks between West Kelowna's Gellatly Bay and Kelowna's downtown and Saturday stops at Fintry Provincial Park as well as other communities and parks along the way.
Schwab says the ship's presence will help the City accomplish a number of objectives sited in the downtown plan for attracting visitors to the park and cultural districts and increasing the sense of safety in City Park at night.
"We hope to be before Kelowna City Council, West Kelowna Council and the Regional District Council in the coming weeks, to get the go-ahead for temporary facilities initially and then see how it works out for the long term," says Schwab. "We recently met with Friends of the Fintry Society and will be approaching B.C. Parks."
The Okanagan Lake Boat Company says they intend to raise $250,000 to get the Fintry Queen started, $100,000 for new docks, $50,000 to bring the ship's certificates up to date and $50,000 for renovations. They expect to charge an average $8.50 per passenger, $10 for adults and $6.50 for an hour tour.
Previous owners spent an estimated $800,000 between 2004 and 2008 so much of the ship's infrastructure—lights, breaker panels, pumps, fire suppression systems, shafts and propellers—are new, says Schwab. Most improvements to be made are cosmetic. Fuel costs with the newly rebuilt engines is around $25 an hour to cruise 6-8 knots and carry 326 passengers.
"Once we have a loading pier, we can complete financing," says Schwab.
He plans to raise capital through a limited partnership or public offering and expects tourism businesses may be interested in supporting the project.
"We hope to create for everyone in the valley a piece of history and a memorable experience."