A white and blue ship that has long been docked on dry land next to Highway 97 was once preserved underneath the waves of Okanagan Lake.
The Orchard City II, which can be seen as travellers enter Lake Country, was commissioned in 1903 and was used as a tugboat to cart logs and lumber around Okanagan Lake. In 1948, the vessel sank after a storm near the Mission where it rested for more than 30 years. In 1979, it was raised to the surface and refurbished by Kelowna entrepreneur Leo Budnick, who had plans of using it as a restaurant, according to Lake Country Museum and Archive documents.
The plans never came to fruition and the boat found a home in Okanagan Centre, where artists used it for inspiration.
“Never before would there have been a boat of that size grounded on the beach,” said Sharon McCoubrey, chair of the Lake Country Public Art Commission and president of the Lake Country Art Gallery Society.
“Most of the boats you would see would have been canoes (and boats of that size) and of course everyone is curious why it’s there and why it’s on its side.”
Gladys Good, a Lake Country watercolour artist, painted it a few times to get it right.
“It was just there and something interesting to sketch and paint, it was an antique already really,” she said.
In 1983, it was purchased by Saul Sigal, the founder of Holiday Park Resort and Jody Lafontaine, his partner at the time, who were instrumental in moving the ship to its home beside the highway near Commonwealth Road.
The Sigals still own the family business, which started the same year as the ship’s purchase. Saul’s son Dan is the president of the resort and Dan’s son Sam works in the maintenance and services for the park.
The pair said the boat is still a crucial part of marketing for the business.
“Have you ever heard of Holiday Park Resort? No? Well, have you seen that big boat on the highway? Yes? We’re just down the road so it’s a big landmark for us,” Sam said.
“It’s a huge (tourist) draw. It’s in all our marketing. We use the boat as much as we can in that capacity and it’s been even considered by some of the locals in Lake Country as the entry point to Lake Country, even though we’re still in the Kelowna properties, we consider ourselves as part of the Lake Country community, and of Kelowna as well,” Dan said.
He said over the years the family has spent between $50,000 to $70,000 in upkeep on the boat. No longer preserved under water, maintenance has to be done in order to keep the boat in pristine condition.
“The sails had to be replaced and the structure itself is wearing. It’s not designed to be out of the water and doesn’t have the water to support it and the wood’s drying and we’ve been dealing with issues,” Dan said. “It’s getting more of a challenge for us.”
But they’ll keep it for as long as they can.
“For me, it’s more just the fact that my grandfather brought it out here. It’s more of a family thing for me. I don’t know the whole history behind it or anything, but it’s cool that my family did that,” Sam said.
“We’re honoured to have something like (this) and that’s why we’re trying to take care of it and maintain it and that’s why it is on our minds to keep it there as long as it can be. It’s a nice thing to be part of the community. (The family has) lived in the community for about 10 years before the resort started… so it’s nice to have that,” Dan said.