Left in the lurch: Houseboat owners face big losses after Waterway closed - InfoNews

Current Conditions


Left in the lurch: Houseboat owners face big losses after Waterway closed

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
June 19, 2019 - 6:30 AM

SICAMOUS - Don Vandergaag has spent most of the last 40 years working for Sicamous houseboat company Waterway. And he’s spent most of the last week trying to make sense of what will happen now that the company he and so many others depended upon has suddenly gone under.

“Fifty-one people lost their jobs and it’s been tough enough to make a living around here since the mill shut down years ago,” he said. “It’s going to get tougher. This is a really small town.”

Waterway, he said, didn’t just put money in the pockets of the men and women directly in its employ.

The local grocery store has line-ups “like you’ve never seen before” when Waterway is in full swing. And then there’s the liquor stores and the two small lake-based convenience stores that rely on the heavy influx of tourism dollars.

“They are all going to be losing out on 62 houseboats of people coming through,” he said. “For two months every year, they are make-it or break-it, I can’t imagine how they’re feeling.”

Those hardest hit, however, may just be the invisible owners of the houseboats.

“Most people don’t realize that Waterway didn’t own those houseboats,” said Vandergaag, explaining that of the 62 boats, Waterway owned only nine.

Those nine will be on their way to Ritchie Brothers auction with the rest of the company's equipment unless someone swoops in and buys up their debt, which Vandergaag has been told is pegged at $8.2 million.

As for the rest, who knows?

To put things into perspective, Vandergaag explained houseboats range in price from $200,000 to $1.3 million. Some were purchased like a timeshare, with a group of owners who don’t know each other. Others were bought by men and women who are nowhere near Sicamous at the moment. They're always, however, a hefty investment.

“People would purchase the boats, through a limited partnership, and they appointed Waterway to manage them and Waterway would look after them and would take a per cent and pay the insurance,” he said.

They all have only two weeks to figure out what to do with the behemoth boats.

Vandergaag, who has been hired by the receiver to secure the boats for what may come if a deal isn’t struck, said he’s spoken to numerous owners who are at a loss and really starting to panic. 

With moorage space at a sudden premium, they can’t just take them down the lake to another welcoming stop. To date, only two houseboats have found safe harbour with another houseboat company. Sicamous has become condo country.

And there’s not a lot of dry docking space to be had, locally.

Transporting them is also an issue.

“These boats are so big so they would basically have to take the top cabin off to get them shipped on the road,” he said, adding that they are too tall to go under bridges.

Those who want to offload their investment may be out of luck as well.

The volume of boats potentially set to hit the market is going to significantly drop prices.

“It’s through no fault of these owners that this all happened, but they’re the ones who may take a big hit if all these boats go on the market,” he said.

Vandergaag said the receiver has indicated that there are some interested parties, but that may not even save boat owners.

“All they got was the letter that we are now shut down,” he said. “I’m trying to get them together to talk about getting together to buck up whatever the bank is willing to settle for.”

A copy of the order and other information related to the administration of the debtor's estate is posted online.

“The operations of the debtors ceased effective June 11, and no further sailings are planned by the receiver. If you have future sailings booked with the debtors it is cancelled.”

It also said that Waterway “did not hold funds in trust related to future sailings and, accordingly, no refunds are available.”

The receiver, Alvarez and Marsal, is not collecting claims from creditors and in the event there is a call for claims further information will be sent to creditors and posted on the receiver’s website.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2019

  • Popular kamloops News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile