Andy Schwab is not a man who gives up on an idea easily.
For the past few years, Schwab has tried to get the Fintry Queen back into service again as a tourist vessel. Now, he’s trying to show there is interest in the boat by selling 10,000 tickets at $10 each before the end of July.
“I can’t give up,” he said, pointing out that the ship is very real, and this isn’t a fictitious project. “It is already here, something has to happen to it. “It not being used … makes no sense to me.”
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. He bought the boat out of receivership in 2010 and got Penticton city council’s support for his plans to build a $300,000 dock next to the Kiwanis walking pier to moor the boat in 2013.
Read more: Fintry Queen making a pitch for Penticton
“For me, part of the difficulty is to sell it to Penticton, when it is not there, they can’t see it,” said Schwab. “I want to go to Naramata and Summerland too, and I want to get to Peachland. But to be really a viable business, it needs a home base, and Penticton is such a good fit for it.”
Now, after Kelowna cancelled the ship’s moorage lease and Penticton, along with the provincial government, set an Aug. 1 deadline on planned subleases needed to create a pier to moor the boat, Schwab is trying to generate enough public support to convince politicians this is a good idea.
“At $10 a person, it’s a viable business. I said why don’t I start selling tickets, and if I have to operate from an anchorage in the first year to go and pick people up that’s what I will do,” said Schwab, also hoping investors will be swayed by a strong show of public support.
“I think a whole bunch of people will get involved in it and I think the cities will support it then too,” Schwab said. “It is going to be pretty hard for a city councillor, when there is 10,000 tickets sold, to say ‘we don’t think this is viable. ‘”
Schwab said that if he can meet his 10,000 ticket goal before July 3131, the Fintry Queen will be sailing again for 2017. Besides, $10 daily cruise sailings, he is planning three special events: a maiden voyage on the Victoria Day weekend, a Canada Day celebration and on September 1, a celebration of the Fintry Queen’s 70th birthday.
Read more: Fintry still has sails set for Penticton
“This is my last effort to save this ship”, said Schwab. “Without a home or future, the ship may soon be scrap metal and gone forever.”
A goal of selling 10,000 tickets in a month might seem a high bar, but Schwab doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s 5,000 people buying two tickets. That is not that astronomical,” he said. When the boat was in regular service, he points out, it had about 30,000 passengers each summer.
Tickets for the $10 cruises in 2017 and special events can be purchased on the Fintry Queen’s website at www.fintryqueen.ca and on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site. Schwab promises that if the goal isn’t met and if the ship is not sailing in 2017, they will refund all tickets purchased.