Docked in the channel at the end of Finlayson Street, the Phoebe Ann is undergoing a bit of work to get it ready for a return to service next summer, when new owner Mike Helfrick hopes to offer dinner cruises on Shuswap Lake. (Lachlan Labere/Eagle Valley News)

Docked in the channel at the end of Finlayson Street, the Phoebe Ann is undergoing a bit of work to get it ready for a return to service next summer, when new owner Mike Helfrick hopes to offer dinner cruises on Shuswap Lake. (Lachlan Labere/Eagle Valley News)

Iconic Shuswap sternwheeler undergoes work for return to service

Sicamous business owner Mike Helfrick hopes to offer dinner tours on historic vessel

An iconic vintage vessel of Shuswap Lake is being made shipshape and ready for a return to service by new owner Mike Helfrick.

The Phoebe Ann was recently purchased by the Reds Rentals owner, who is fixing the former sternwheeler up to make it a special part of his Sicamous-based business’ fleet.

The boat has become a bit of a conversation piece at Reds’ Finlayson Street location on the channel, where he said it used to be docked when operated by former Narrows Village owners Peter Steiner and Ellen Visser.

“I’d been looking at it and it was a bit of an impulse buy,” said Helfrick. “I’d seen it always on the lake and I’ve been on the lake my whole life and it is kind of a cool piece of heritage… it used to run out of right at Reds there, that’s where it always was based out of. It was a good place to bring it back home.”

Despite being out of use for a number of years, Helfrick says the Phoebe Ann, built in 1971, is in pretty good shape. He’s been updating the interior and safety equipment onboard, and plans on having the vessel dry docked for various inspections needed before it’s put to commercial use.

Related: New life wanted for MV Phoebe Ann

“I need to get it recertified because the last time it was actually commercially certified was 2004,” said Helfrick.

Once the Phoebe Ann seaworthy and approved for use, Helfrick’s vision is to get the boat back out on Shuswap Lake for dinner cruises.

“We’ll start off with just Friday/Saturday dinner cruises and see how it goes,” said Helfrick.

The Phoebe Ann was built in Vancouver and named after the grandmother of it’s original owner/operator, and Sicamous’ former mayor, Gordon Mackie.

Initially, the boat operated as a sternwheeler, but in 1976, the sternwheeler portion was disabled and two Olympic drive propellers were added, providing more power and speed.

Mackie captained the vessel for a little over two decades, using it to push barges loaded with cars and later, to ferry people from Sicamous to Seymour Arm, as well as carry the local mail. 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.

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.,” Mackie explained in a 2014 News interview, 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.”

Steiner purchased the Phoebe Ann in 1998 and made the boat available for chartered trips for people to enjoy a unique lake experience.

“She’s a piece of history and what I would like is for her to keep on being historical,” Steiner told the News in 2014, when he had put the Phoebe Ann on the market, hoping it would be picked up by someone who would continue to honour the vessel’s historical significance to the Shuswap.

Related: This year’s flooding doesn’t rival 1948

Steiner passed away in November 2015 and the vessel remained in the family until Helfrick decided to make an offer.

“The son was in town and I’ve known him forever, so he came down here chatting and I’d seen the boat sideways on the beach up the lake and I just kind of mentioned it to him, ‘you know your boat is sideways…,’” said Helfrick. “So I made an offer and they took it.”

Helfrick said he knew some of the Phoebe Ann’s local history when he bought it, and is learning more as people stop by his business to check out the familiar vessel.

“People have been stopping by and telling me all their stories and memories, like people who got married on it back in the day,” said Helfrick. “I think a lot of people are excited to see it go.”

More can be learned about the Phoebe Ann at the Sicamous Museum, located at 446 Main Street.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Victoria for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

(Courtesy Saanich Police Dept.)
Police hope boot search will help find missing Saanich man

Sean Hart is known to walk for miles, with or without his boots

A Colwood couple has set up over 140 Christmas inflatable decorations around their property at 555 Girdou Rd. The home is lit with Christmas music playing from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Colwood house decorated to the nines with Christmas inflatables

Display on Girou Road open to spectators from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday

Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. (Don Descoteau/News Staff) 
Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. But thanks to a new program from the Downtown Victoria Business Association, many downtown businesses will soon be able to provide free delivery for customers across the region. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Downtown Victoria businesses offered free delivery for regional customers

DVBA launches ‘Downtown Delivers’ program Dec. 7

Victoria police seized drugs, knives, two firearms and ammunition off a man early Nov. 4. (Victoria Police Department)
VicPD makes early morning drug and weapons seizure

Officers seize drugs, knives, two firearms and ammunition

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

Most Read