Is life on the water over for the Phoebe Ann?
The paddle wheeler MV Phoebe Ann was built in Vancouver in 1971, and named after former mayor Gordon Mackie’s grandmother.
Current owners Peter Steiner and Ellen Visser of the Narrows Village resort are hoping to find someone who will continue to honour the vessels historical significance in the Shuswap.
In a recent email, Visser explained that the boat was cut in half for shipment to Sicamous in three truck-trailer loads and welded back together underneath the bridge in Sicamous.
She pushed a barge that carried cars and became the ferry from Sicamous to Seymour Arm as well as the mail carrier.
Five years later, in 1976, the stern wheeler was disabled and was converted to two Olympic drive propellers.
When the road was extended to Seymour Arm, the Phoebe Ann continued doing tours on the lake and delivering freight, capable of holding up to 100 tonnes.
Steiner purchased the vessel 1998 and moved it to Old Town Bay in Sicamous with the idea that she would serve a planned resort that would accommodate tourist amenities such as accommodation, restaurants, and more.
“She’s a piece of history and what I would like is for her is to keep on being historical,” says Steiner, describing the Phoebe Ann as being in excellent shape. “The problem with the Shuswap is we’ve lost the development; we don’t have hotels, motels or campgrounds, it’s all condos.”
Steiner says it’s difficult for travellers to get a lake experience now, other than what they see from the highway.
Steiner would like someone to take over the vessel and give her a new life providing the lake experience. He believes tourists of today are not interested in long trips from Sicamous to Seymour Arm but suggests a Blind Bay to Scotch Creek route would appeal to people.
“There’s not many people left that want to do an all-day trip,” he said, pointing out the Phoebe Ann is fully licensed, has a bar, galley and can serve meals.
Gordon Mackie, the former owner/operator says his pioneering family arrived in Solsqua in August 1912.
“I was just getting too old,” he laughs about selling the vessel in 1993 to a fellow who used to work for him. “And then I worked for him.”
Mackie enjoyed operating the Phoebe Ann on her run to Seymour Arm, a voyage that took between three-and-a-half to five hours, depending on the number of stops along the way.
“We’d leave here at 8 a.m. and usually get there at 12:30 or 1 p.m.,” he says, noting travellers were given an hour or so to get some lunch or go for a swim. “It was a long day, a good 10-hour day when we ran the ferry and we always had a pretty good crowd on it.”
Mackie says he believes shorter trips, perhaps to the Narrows and back, or Sicamous to Salmon Arm might appeal to people.
But he cautions, the boat has been sitting idle for a long time and could require quite an expensive overhaul before going into service again.
“Whatever is to happen with it, people will have to research carefully,” he says. “Have a good business plan and really research it out.”
Anyone who is interested in taking over the Phoebe Ann or wants more information, can get in touch with Steiner by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.