Crane to lift houseboat

Work is underway to remove a sinking houseboat from Okanagan Lake, just off Sutherland Bay Park, near the old Tolko mill site in Kelowna.

The vessel belongs to Free Spirit Boating and was damaged in a December storm that also caused a nearby sailboat to take on water.

Getting a crane on-site was delayed due to highway closures and weather. “We’ve been working for the last four weeks to try and get a dive team out there and a crane. And it’s not the easiest thing given the slides that have gone on, with us trying to get that type of equipment out to the lake to get this thing righted,” said Spencer Stephenson, who’s a consultant with Free Spirit.

Stephenson said the company has done its best to respond as soon as they became aware that the vessel was listing. “We sent a crew out to drain all the fluids, to make sure there was no environmental impact.”

There is currently a dive team and a crane at the scene.

Stephenson was surprised that Kelowna-area residents contacted Castanet about their concerns over the sinking houseboat and not the company. He said there have been no complaint calls filed through their office.

The vessel is part of a fleet of 10 boats that operate in the region. Because it’s oversized, it’s often tied up to a buoy in the bay. Stephenson said they had to get an oversized load permit from Transport Canada, so it can be hauled to the company yard for repairs.

ORIGINAL 4:00 a.m.

A houseboat on Okanagan Lake near the old Tolko Mill site in Kelowna’s Sutherland Bay continues to sink.

The sinking houseboat was first reported back at the beginning of January along with a sinking sailing vessel nearby.

The owner of the vessel has come forward and is working with the Canadian Coast Guard to remove the vessel from the lake.

Under Canadian law, vessel owners are responsible for their vessel at all times and if their vessel becomes damaged or sinks, owners must take all actions necessary, including repairs, salvage, and prevention or clean-up of leaking fuel and oil.

Once the sinking vessel is reported that begins the process of marine pollution risk assessment and work with the owner to have them take action to repair or recover their vessel.

Colin Jacobs was out on his paddle board Sunday afternoon when he came across the houseboat.

“On one side it is sitting at the bottom because it is quite shallow there. I noticed there is debris in the water that had obviously fallen off. There are propane bottles and debris hanging off the back. The motor is obviously underwater now. If a storm comes in that is going to make a real mess.”

Jacobs says he is surprised the boat has been sitting in the lake for what appears to be weeks.

“I would have thought at this point someone would have made a complaint. I think the sad part about this honestly is that besides water such as Okanagan Lake (being) controlled by the Coast Guard it is absolutely absurd that the City or Province can’t get involved in clean (ups) like this.”

“I paddle all over the lake and the amount of debris in the water due to incidents like this, or just in general, it is absurd. I just would have thought someone would be making plans to get it cleaned up.”

Jacobs says a bed is at water level along with pots and pans sitting on the bottom of the lake.

The City of Kelowna says it does not have a role in collecting abandoned boats.

Bylaw services have contacted Transport Canada, Receiver or Wreck, and Pacific Region Receiver of Wreck.