The steamboat “Skookum” on Okanagan Lake. Old Photos

Getting across: Kelowna – Westbank ferry service 1885-1958

Tales from the past by Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson, Okanagan Archive Trust Society

If you came from the North and wanted to travel to the gold fields in the Boundary country, you crossed Okanagan Lake at the narrowest point at Kelowna. The distance was about nine-tenths of a mile so you could row or swim prior to 1890.

Around 1885, a couple of the McDougal brothers launched a leaky scow. Eneas McDougal would load your gear and your horses on the scow and then get you to help him row to the other side.

This was the normal procedure of lake travel until Len Hayman launched a little steamer that carried a horse and a couple of passengers whenever he was available.

In 1905, Mr. Hayman and H.B. Lyons were awarded a Government contract to operate a “Ferry” service from Kelowna to the Westside of the lake. They launched the steamboat “Skookum” and a 40’ barge for this service. It commenced April 1, 1906 with two roundtrips a day for 25 cents a passenger and a dollar for a horse.

Lyons hired A.C. Avis to captain the boat but it wasn’t too reliable or profitable. Lyons wanted to sell out and Hayman raised the capital and took over.

In the fall of 1907, Hayman had a sleek little steam boat built in Vancouver and shipped by CPR to the landing. She was named “Clovelly” and ran until 1911. Hayman had an offer to sell and passed the boat to Ed Hankinson. Hankinson had poor service and lost his charter due to complaints; and it was passed to J.Y. Campbell who ran until 1916. During this time, Campbell launched the “Aricia”, a 50ft by 10ft gas launch. Hayman bought her and the charter in 1916.

Len Hayman built a barge to carry eight cars in 1921. Each year the automobile traffic increased to the point where the Provincial Government took the service and launched a car ferry they named “Kelowna-Westbank”. The wooden hull motor vessel was 94 feet long and 32 feet at the beam. She was 104 tons and carried 15 cars. She worked until 1939 when dry-rot caused her to be taken out of service and dismantled.

The next vessel was the M.V. Pendozi. She was 122 feet long, with a beam of 41’ and a draft of 6’. She was driven by two 160 hp Vivian diesel engines. The ferry had a capacity of 30 cars and 150 passengers. The original cost to build it was $123,000. It was launched, Thursday, May 8, 1939. The fare was ten cents a passenger and seventy-five cents for a car and driver, trucks were a dollar and up.

In addition to its regular schedule, the MV Pendozi made special trips for group organizations, troops, and hauling loads of sheep to summer pasture.

Ferry traffic continued to increase and in May 1946, tenders were called for a second vessel similar to the Pendozi except it would have steel bulwarks and superstructure. This vessel was called “Lequime” in honor of Kelowna’s early settler, Eli Lequime. Both ferries operated during peak traffic times and refitting was accomplished by laying up one vessel during the winter.

Kelowna grew and grew. Due to increasing traffic volume, a third vessel named “Lloyd Jones” was built in 1950, and all three vessels were used during heavy traffic seasons.

The last day of Kelowna /Westbank ferry service occurred on July 20, 1958. All three ferries carried a total of 534,371 vehicles during their last year of service. They became redundant with the opening of the floating bridge in 1958. The MV Pendozi was turned over to the City of Kelowna who later sold it as the Clubhouse for the West Kelowna Yacht Club. The MV Lequime, was transformed into the Fintry Queen, a tourist tour boat traveling the lake (today she sits in limbo waiting for moorage); and the MV Lloyd Jones was transferred to the coast in the early 1960’s for the Vesuvius-Crofton run. The Lloyd Jones was cut into pieces and transported to the coast by truck. There she was put back together as the Bowen Queen and put into service for BC Ferries.

In 1965 the Bowen Queen was renamed the Vesuvius Queen. During her time with BC Ferries the Vesuvius Queen served on many of the minor routes. She was also used on a variety of routes outside the corporation. In 1998, the Vesuvius Queen was sold to Agencia Naviera Del Caribe of the Dominican Republic for $85,550.00.

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