By Don Plant
The queen of Okanagan Lake is a tarnished shell of her former glory.
Vandals wreaked havoc on the interior of the Fintry Queen while tied up at the foot of Bernard Avenue this week. Andy Schwab, the ship’s caretaker, discovered the mess when he escorted a group of potential buyers on board Thursday morning.
“They basically trashed the place. They’re spray-painting on the wall. They’re breaking fixtures. They’re breaking furniture. They’re breaking everything,” Schwab said hours
“It’s very disappointing. There’s no need for it. It’s just malicious damage.”
The squatters appeared to be living on the ship for a couple of days. Trespassers have broken in several times since summer, but the damage caused this week is far worse.
Broken glass and mirrors litter the floor. Framed pictures have been ripped off the walls. Tables and chairs in the dining room are in pieces or fastened together with linen to make beds. Ashtrays are filled with cigarette butts. Garbage is scattered throughout.
The culprits scrawled “smoke weed every day” and “pirates” on the wall. In orange spray-paint, someone wrote “Matt Snider was here” in big letters.
They smashed the instant-teller machine. They broke cabinets and threw kitchen knives, many still sticking in the wall. They stole stereo equipment and tampered with the vessel’s electronic systems.
“They’ve been all over the ship,” Schwab said. “They’ve taken what . . . they felt was of value. Anything that was easy to remove they removed.”
The mischief may be connected to a fire on the Kelowna Marina gas bar nearby. The weekend blaze destroyed the main structure and part of the dock. Investigators suspect
Police have found personal belongings like clothes, a cellphone and a wallet on board. They believe homeless transients are likely responsible. Identification experts have collected other evidence.
Three or four women were spotted leaving the ship on the Remembrance Day weekend. They broke windows and doors to get inside and “messed the place up,” said Schwab, but damage was minor.
Everything was fine when he was back on board last week. Police noted people coming and going at odd hours in the last few days.
“The word has got out obviously that you can crash there,” Schwab said.
The Fintry Queen hasn’t sailed since the end of the 2008 tourist season. The 60-year-old vessel has racked up $200,000 worth of debts, including $80,000 in unpaid moorage fees, prompting a court-ordered sale.
The city plans to move the boat by March if no buyer comes forward. Meanwhile, Schwab vows to step up security so no one repeats the vandalism.
RCMP and Downtown Kelowna Association workers will watch it. Schwab plans to check the ship every night.
There’s no insurance to cover the thefts, repairs and cleanup costs. The estimated loss is as much as $30,000, Schwab said.
Several groups have expressed interest in buying the boat but no one has made a firm offer. The latest group of potential buyers, which included investors from Alberta, saw it at its worst.
“The exposure for the vessel is good, in a sense,” Schwab said. “Maybe there’s others that might come forward with an interest to do something with it.”