A former operator of the Fintry Queen is trying to drum up interest in seeing the once popular, but now idle, floating tourist attraction brought back to life.
The ship, built in 1948 as a car and passenger ferry for Okanagan Lake and turned into a fake paddle-wheeler in the 1960s to offer lake cruises, has sat at its berth off Kerry Park downtown for the last three years.
Andy Schwab, who operated the Fintry Queen in 1999 and 2000, said he volunteered to help the man appointed by the courts to sell the ship.
Greg Chessor, another former owner and operator, holds a $1.5 million mortgage on the ship.
In addition to that debt, the City of Kelowna is owed $79,869 for moorage fees dating back to 2009, the Cove Hotel Management Partnership is owed $110,812 for damages caused to its dock and the B.C. Employment Standards branch is owed $38,739 for previous unpaid employee wages. Those debts would have to be settled as part of any purchase.
The last company to operate the ship, owned by a group of businesspeople from Calgary and Vancouver, is no longer in business, said Schwab.
But Schwab believes the four groups owed money would be willing to negotiate. “I think someone could get (the ship) for a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” he said.
According to the former operator, the ship is actually in very good mechanical condition.
That’s despite its lengthy period of recent inactivity.
He said the engines, wiring and the fire suppression system are all basically brand new, having been installed just before the ship went out of service.
Schwab said he volunteered to help Chessor to find a buyer because he not only believes the ship has a future as a tourist attraction, but he also would like to be involved in bringing it back to life.
“I think there’s a market for it in the restaurant and meeting-convention business.”
Schwab said with the former Okanagan Lake Bridge and its liftspan now gone, the entire lake has been opened up to Fintry Queen.
He can envision one day offering trips that could link up with area wineries and other tourist attractions.
The ship can hold 325 people but Schwab said with alternations, that number could be increased to nearly 500.
In a bid to raise awareness about the Fintry Queen to possibly attract a buyer, Schwab is holding an open house for the public today, inviting anyone who wants to go aboard to look around.
The open house will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
One of the most pressing issues is the future of the ship’s current dock.
The dock is included in the area that the city has called for expressions of interest for regarding a new downtown marina.
Schwab said the Fintry Queen could operate from elsewhere on the lakeshore as long as it was somewhere close to the downtown where people could get to it and would be aware of it.
He has set up a website about the Fintry Queen, fintryqueen.ca, with information about the ship.
The site says despite a public assumption that the Fintry Queen is in receivership, it is not. The courts have given Chessor’s company, Metro Developments Corp. as first mortgage holder, right to sell the ship.