Efforts promise to have the SS Sicamous looking ship shape

Ship's manager Don Wright watches as Earl Mueksch attaches a new piece of wood to a section of the SS Sicamous as part of the ongoing restoration work. The vessel is temporarily closed to the public while the repairs are being made.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton’s grand old dame may soon be sporting a new coat of paint. And no, that doesn’t mean one of our seniors is buying some new lipstick.

The SS Sicamous, icon of Penticton for more than half a century, is about to get a long-awaited repainting. A request for proposals from the City of Penticton closed last week, and city staff, along with Don Wright, ship’s manager for the Sicamous, are narrowing down the bids.

Jim Cooper, chair of the SS Sicamous Restoration Society, said they hope to get to the repainting as soon as possible.

“It’s probably been 10 years at least. If you look at it, it is not very good, and the wheelhouse at the back is particularly terrible. It’s all cracking and chipped and paint is falling off it,” said Cooper. “The city has budgeted quite a bit of money for the Sicamous this year and we want to get as much done as we can.”

The RFP included repainting the Naramata, but Wright said the Sicamous is first in line, though they will have to wait until carpenters are finished the deck repairs.

“We have a finite amount of money to spend this year, so we have to look at what we can do. For us, the Sicamous itself is a priority. The Naramata is not that bad. It is looking old in a few spots, but not so much as this one is.”

Seeing work getting done on the boat, Wright said, has had a positive effect on people’s perception of the Sicamous, which is fast approaching its centennial in 2014.

“Not so much for the tourists, but for local people, having them walk by and see guys up on the roof working, it’s great mileage for us,” said Wright. So far this year, he said, crews have been working on the decks, the stern salon and other long-awaited restoration projects. “Stuff is going on everywhere and that is great for us. People haven’t seen much going on here for a long time.”

After skating close to collapse two years ago, Cooper said the society has experienced a restoration as well.

“I am feeling really good about it. The biggest difference that we have now is that we have good communication with the city and it is like we are working towards the same objective,” said Cooper. “And the city has been very good about listening to the issues that we have down there, seeing it (the Sicamous) as the icon of the city that it is and supporting it.”

Cooper and Wright both say that the Sicamous is doing a little better in terms of traffic this year, having been closed for part of the season last year.

“I think it was a slow start,” said Cooper, adding that it isn’t unexpected; with poor weather earlier this year, many tourism-oriented groups have had a slow start to the year. “I know we are ahead of last year. We have had a few weddings on board and in the park. We would like to promote that more.”

Wright said that from his personal observations, tourism in Penticton is down a little this year.

“I think from that point of view, we have probably done a little better. The Naramata is open to the public (it was closed last year). We have had lots of people through the Naramata so far this year,” said Wright, who hopes that August will be a better month, as it was last year.

“Maybe it is because of the weather, but August has been the most dependable month for the last couple of years,” said Wright. “It is just weird to look out front and not see almost anyone on that beach on a day when it is in the high 20s.”


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