Though it’s been five years since Andy Schwab bought the Fintry Queen out of receivership and started trying to find it a new home, he’s not ready to give up on the once-popular tourist attraction.
“It’s a really viable business and it is a great asset to a community,” said Schwab, who is trying to get the Fintry Queen included in the Parks and Recreation master plan being developed by the City of Penticton.
“It’s important that we are part of the process,” said Schwab. “I think it is a great fit for Penticton. I know how much people enjoy the experience.”
The Fintry Queen, a converted car ferry with an imitation paddle wheel, started operating as a tourist vessel out of Kelowna in 1965 but has been out of service and at anchor since 2009. Schwab said it is still in great shape, having undergone a refit in 2006.
Schwab first brought the idea of operating the tour vessel out of Penticton to city council in 2013, which voted 5-2 to endorse the concept. That’s as far as the concept got, and in following years, Schwab kept trying in other communities, all without success.
In 2015, Schwab tried to find investors, saying $500,000 needed to be raised to get the Fintry Queen back in service: $100,000 to bring the ship’s certificates up to date, $100,000 for renovations and 300,000 for a new dock, at that time proposed to be in Kelowna. In 2013, he also estimated the cost of a dock next to Penticton’s Kiwanis walking pier at $300,000.
The Fintry Queen is presently at anchor in a sheltered cove on the north arm of Okanagan Lake.
“It is just wasting away a the north end of the lake. I don’t care if I am the boat owner at the end of it or not, I just want to see it going again for what it provides for people,” said Schwab, waxing poetic about the special experience of being out on the ship in the middle of the lake, one that can be shared with the whole family.
“There is nothing much like it,” said Schwab. “It is so spectacular being out on that lake.”
Schwab is also trying to convince Summerland to provide a home for the boat, possible beside the Heritage Pier.
“The north side of that pier was where we thought we could get in and out of and not really have an impact on the rest of what is going on there in the park,” said Schwab, adding that Naramata might also be a good location.
“I’m open to any kind of idea that is proposed. Whatever makes it works,” he said. “It’s not a question of being able to do this, it’s a question of how do we make it happen. The ship exists. It could literally be there tomorrow afternoon.”
Despite the ship being 70 years old next year, Schwab said it’s still in fine shape, noting the renovations done on it in 2004 to 2006, before it went out of service.
“Every wire, every light switch on that ship is brand new and used maybe 50 times,” said Schwab. “Mechanically, it’s brand new and it’s a steel hull sitting in fresh water. There is no degradation on the hull at all.”