Poor, old Fintry Queen still trying to make waves | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Poor, old Fintry Queen still trying to make waves

The Fintry Queen.
Image Credit: Submitted/Andy Schwab

Despite two decades of frustration, Andy Schwab is not giving up on his dream of turning a ferry that predates the original Okanagan Lake bridge, into a cruise ship.

“It would be a huge boon for tourism,” he told iNFOnews.ca. “Cruise boats operate in every waterfront city in the world. There’s 20 of them running out of Toronto. There’s a dozen of them running out of Victoria. There’s probably a dozen or 20 or so in Vancouver.”

So he’s a little baffled about why the Okanagan has not latched onto the idea of his Fintry Queen sailing again.

“The Okanagan is a real land-based culture here," Schwab said. “There’s no marine culture, other than people who have a boat in their driveway. There’s no access for most people to the lake, really. People just look at it.”

He's regularly bumping into people who ask if he still has the boat then they talk about their grad or their wedding or some other event on it.

“That’s the value of it, people remember their experiences on it,” Schwab said. “The Fintry Queen is not really beautiful, if you want to call it that, but when you’re on it, you’re not looking at the ship. You’re looking outside. You’re looking at the landscape. It takes you back to: ‘I can image what it was first like to be here.’”

It's a 40-metre long, 326-passenger boat that only needs six feet of water so, often, can run right up to the shore.

“You could put 200 mountain bikes on the roof and go to Okanagan Mountain Park at 7 a.m and go back at 11 o’clock at night to pick them up,” Schwab said. “You could go to all the small communities on the lake, pull right up to the shore, drop the ramp and host charitable events and social events and be a show bar for four or five days or a really nice restaurant where there is nothing like that around.”

It was built in 1947 and named the MV Lequime, operating as a ferry between Kelowna and West Kelowna until the Okanagan Lake Bridge put them out of service in 1958.

It was converted to a replica paddlewheeler by Cap Capozzi who renamed it the Fintry Queen.

It operated in various capacities, such as a tour boat and restaurant, until 2000.

By that time Schwab was co-owner and ran into conflict with Transport Canada because it would not certify the boat unless it was pulled completely out of the water for inspection.

It was parked for years in Sutherland Bay and is now about 300 metres offshore in the northwest arm of Okanagan Lake.

“I would like to be taking it somewhere this summer,” Schwab said. “It’s just a shame to see it sitting out there not being utilized.”

Last November he offered 49% of it for sale to investors. He approached investors in Kelowna but only one showed interest but backed out, saying it was too risky.

READ MORE: The Fintry Queen is looking to ferry passengers on Okanagan Lake once again

He’s tried to set up a society but no one wants to be a director of a society that has a liability.

He’s ready to make the rounds again of tourism and business associations in places like Kelowna, Penticton and Summerland to try to win their support before going to councils to get permission to use dock facilities.

He’s also talked to Tolko officials who may be putting a marina into their former mill site in Kelowna when it redevelops. They’ve made no commitments.

READ MORE: Public access to waterfront, marina expected in Kelowna Tolko redevelopment plan

But, most of all, Schwab wants to move the boat to somewhere more visible and accessible, like Westbank First Nation land off the Bennett Bridge or in Sutherland Bay where it was once docked for a number of years.

“Half the population in the Okanagan hasn’t even seen it,” Schwab said, noting it hasn’t been visible since 2008.

It needs a paint job. Swallows and geese are living on it. But, inside it’s just like it was in 2008 and an ultrasound has shown the steel hull to be sound.

Transport Canada will allow him to pull it up to shore, lift the rear, pull out the shaft and propellers for inspection and have divers inspect the outside of the hull for anomalies. The motor kicks over and runs fine when he fires it up periodically.

He estimates certification will cost $50-$60,000 and another $20-$30,000 will be needed for the paint job.

“It’s not a huge investment but I, personally, just don’t have those kind of funds anymore,” Schwab said.

Through a provincial investment program he can offer investors a 30% tax credit if they put their money in for four years.

It could be turned into a Community Contribution Corporation where 60% of profits – Schwab estimates those could be $400-$500,000 a year –would be given to local communities.

By operating as a society, that would likely help overcome any local government concerns about commercial operations in parks.

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Schwab by email at andy@fintryqueen.ca.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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.

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