A nervous but enthusiastic Andy Schwab tried to convince West Kelowna council the Fintry Queen should be included in development plans for CNR Wharf Tuesday.
And council didn’t say “no.”
Schwab has been the owner of the iconic Fintry Queen since late January.
“Since that time, I have been diligent in my interest to find a new home and a new business opportunity for the vessel,” said Schwab.
“I think there is a huge opportunity on this lake that is totally under-utilized, and that is to provide public transportation to go between the parks and the wineries, the communities and up and down the lake like ships used to do in the 80s through the 90s.”
Schwab operated the 150 foot long ship in 1999 and 2000.
“We carried over 25,000 people both years and we were very optimistic we would see almost 40,000 by year three if we had the opportunity at that time to do so.”
Mechanically, the ship is brand new, according to Schwab.
“Over $800,000 was spent between 2005 and 2008 to bring all elements of the ship up to proper Transport Canada codes and requirements.”
The Fintry Queen owner said the ship could be a “waterfront destination” at CNR Wharf and asked that the ship be considered within the scope of redesign plans.
Coun. Bryden Winsby said he remembers riding on the vessel prior to 1968 when it was still named M.V. Lequime.
“I’m not about to reject it out of hand. A lot more consideration has to be given to this idea,” said Winsby.
Winsby noted there would be a significant cost associated with docking the boat at CNR Wharf; Schwab insisted the expense would be tackled by his company.
Schwab’s goal is to have the Fintry Queen sailing to and from six or seven different locations along Okanagan Lake, bringing passengers to various tourist hot spots throughout the valley.
But, until that demand has been established, he said the vessel could operate as a dockside restaurant, which could offer evening cruises.
Limited parking along Gellatly Bay has been an ongoing issue, and Coun. Gord Milsom pointed out the area may be unable to accommodate passengers.
“We’ve already approved our finance for CNR Wharf as part of the Waterfront Plan and, quite honestly, I don’t see it working with the parking situation,” said Milsom.
“I don’t think it makes sense for this council to refer you back to staff to talk about it further.”
Winsby’s motion that Schwab’s proposal be referred to district staff for further consideration and that a report come back to council with information from those discussions passed five to two, with Mayor Doug Findlater and Milsom opposed.
“I’m looking forward to working with staff and addressing all of their issues—I think they can all be met,” said Schwab.
“I fully understand the environment they’re trying to create there. I think the ship would be a huge asset.”