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A new captain for the Queen? Edmonton Riverboat looking for new owner

The Edmonton Riverboat, previously known as the Edmonton Queen, will soon be put up for sale.  (The Edmonton Riverboat/Facebook - image credit)
The Edmonton Riverboat, previously known as the Edmonton Queen, will soon be put up for sale. (The Edmonton Riverboat/Facebook - image credit)

The Edmonton Riverboat, a paddlewheeler that has cruised the North Saskatchewan River for nearly three decades, is up for sale.

The owners of the boat previously known as the Edmonton Queen are preparing are searching for a new captain to take the wheel.

"We're pleased to announce that the Edmonton Queen is for sale," management of the Edmonton Riverboat announced in an email to patrons on Wednesday.

"As we embark on this new chapter, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your unwavering support since we acquired the vessel."

The boat is a unique buy. Weighing in at 210 tonnes, the 52-metre steel-hulled paddlewheeler has the capacity to host more than 300 passengers.

It has a working restaurant, a wet bar, an open-air dining deck and a dance floor.

It's unclear what the asking price will be — or when potential buyers will be welcomed aboard.

Edmonton businessman Jay Esterer has been the boat's owner since 2016. He purchased it for $553,000 after the previous owner put it up for auction.

Matt Beaubien, general manager of the Edmonton Riverboat, said offers are now being accepted from prospective buyers.

He declined to divulge the asking price but noted that significant investment has been made in renovations and repairs to the boat since it was purchased, and Esterer would like to get more than he paid for it.

Beaubien said the sale will include the vessel, and all its equipment, along with the gangway and piles and the company's website.

He said the sale will include support to ensure a smooth transition for the new owners, including help transferring the boat's licensing requirements and support with technical and mechanical systems for first season of ownership.

Rough waters

The riverboat has changed hands many times since it first sailed the river in 1995, and it hasn't always been smooth sailing.

The boat was once the brainchild of Edmonton businessman Ray Collins, who commissioned its construction and formed the North Saskatchewan Riverboat Company to manage its operation.

But the venture failed long before the vessel hit the water.

Scott Steel Ltd. built the boat in 1993 but Collins' company went under, triggering years of legal wrangling that kept the boat dry-docked for years.

The boat's builder refused to release the vessel, claiming it was owed $1.35 million.

In early 1995, Carrington Properties stepped in to purchase the boat for $800,000.

When the Edmonton Queen launched later that spring, hundreds of spectators lined the riverbanks to watch its maiden voyage.

By the time Esterer took possession the boat, it was in need of repair. After extensive renovations, the Queen was given a new name and began sailing again as the Edmonton Riverboat.

The boat, a nod to Edmonton's steamboat era, has since served as a unique attraction, hosting special events and offering river valley cruises through the summer season.

But rough weather often gave it a bumpy ride.

The boat has repeatedly run into trouble in recent years, in all seasons.

The Edmonton Riverboat was damaged as levels in the North Saskatchewan fluctuated wildly this week.
The Edmonton Riverboat was damaged as levels in the North Saskatchewan fluctuated wildly this week.

The Edmonton Riverboat has experienced some rough voyages during its time on the North Saskatchewan River. It was damaged in the winter of 2019 as levels in the North Saskatchewan fluctuated wildly. (Janet French/CBC)

In the summer of 2019, firefighters had to rescue hundreds of passengers after the riverboat got stuck on a sandbar.

That December, a maintenance crew had to abandon ship when an ice jam thrust the boat toward the banks of the river and the port side came to rest on an ice floe.

The following spring, the boat was left listing, and again in need of extensive repairs, after its hull was impaled by an underwater concrete piling.

In Wednesday's statement, the boat's operators said they remain committed to a seamless transition for riverboat patrons and that any gift certificates or vouchers will be honoured as part of the sales agreement.