Owner of Fintry Queen eyes Summerland as moorage site

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen voted to provide a support letter for the tourism endeavour

Andy Schwab isn’t prepared to let his dream sink — or end up in the scrap heap.

Schwab spent about a half-hour floating the idea to regional politicians of mooring the Fintry Queen, a retired car ferry turned tourist vessel, off-shore near Kickininee Provincial Park south of Summerland.

For about the last five years, Schwab has been sailing the idea of operating the Fintry Queen in the southern part of Okanagan Lake to serve mainly Penticton, Naramata and Summerland.

He previously operated the retrofitted paddlewheel boat in Okanagan Lake around Kelowna back in 1999 and 2000. Originally the boat was used to transport people and cars in Kelowna and was converted to a tourist attraction in the 1960s.

He tested the waters with Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen directors Thursday to see if they would provide a letter of support for his application for Crown tenure for temporary moorage he submitted in February 2017.

“As far as the viability of the business, I think that’s a win for us. I don’t see any difference between my two-year-old niece or nephew and 80-year-old grandmother. There are not that many things you can do with your family that you can spend the opportunity to be together, outside. There is limited access to everyone to get onto Okanagan Lake. I think once you’re out there it creates memorable experiences for everyone, and I think those memorable experiences will continue to sell the business,” he said.

Directors voted to provide a letter of support for the tourism endeavour, after clarifying the moorage would only be temporary.

Both Helena Konanz, Penticton councillor, and Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, raised concerns the vessel would be left abandoned if Schwab’s company ran into financial problems like it did in 2013.

Five years ago, Scwhab had worked out an agreement with the city to operate the Fintry Queen in Okanagan Lake, but financial backing was lost after his business partner died.

“It would be nice to have some assurances that, after a year or two, if things can’t drum up that it doesn’t sit for 20 years as someone tries to drum up interest. If the community, communities don’t want it, that kind of thing, that we don’t become the orphan site of the Fintry Queen.”

Jakubeit suggested it be written in that it could only be moored in the area for two years if it doesn’t run as a business.

Schwab said he has no intention of permanently mooring the vessel at the Kickininee site, which would be located about 1,400 feet off-shore.

“When we developed the lease agreements with the City of Penticton that was one of the requirements is that we have a backup site for the ship. At that point, we’d developed an agreement with the city of Kelowna. We also had an agreement with a recycler that if the company became insolvent that they then got title to the vessel and it was scrapped, basically. My wife wants that actually,” he said.

Ultimately, Schwab has his eye on mooring the vessel in Penticton, but the city is currently working on a Parks and Recreation master plan and it is unknown at this time if an operation like the Fintry Queen will fit into the plan.

If Schwab receives the Crown lease, the anchorage system would be built in the fall of 2018 with commercial operations to start near the end of May 2019.

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