Hope floats: Edmonton Queen owner determined to cruise the river this summer
The riverboat has been moored at Rafter's Landing for nearly 3 years
The owner of the Edmonton Queen is confident the vessel will cruise down the North Saskatchewan River this summer after years of remaining moored at Rafter's Landing.
Jay Esterer bought the riverboat two years ago and said he has received regulatory approval to sail.
The City of Edmonton confirmed Friday that it has given Esterer permits to operate for the next two summers.
Esterer spent last summer renovating the interior — installing new flooring, fixtures, furniture and a new bar. He overhauled the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and upgraded the kitchen.
The necessary repairs were in addition to the $550,000 he paid for the boat in 2016.
Esterer calls the Edmonton Queen an icon for the city — a vessel he wanted to salvage.
"I think it showcases the river valley. It gets more people down on the river and it's really beautiful here."
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Last summer, he was waiting for a development permit from the city to open the dining area and have a floating restaurant.
To sail last year, the 25-year-old vessel needed an inspection by Transport Canada. Esterer said that would have required a costly move to dry ground.
But Transport Canada has given him permission to sail this summer and do the hull inspection in the near future, he said Friday. CBC News has not yet confirmed the boat has cleared that hurdle.
Esterer says he's looking for a captain, a first mate and a riverboat engineer, who will be part of a minimum crew of 11 that includes servers and cooks.
There have already been two serious applications for the captain's job, he said. "The Prairies aren't exactly teeming with these professions," he said. "But I'm confident we'll be on the water soon."
In 2015, the boat had to stop cruising the river in July due to low water levels but it continued operating that summer as a floating restaurant and bar. It has been docked since then, in 2016 due to water levels and in 2017 because it needed regulatory approval.
Cryptic on cuisine, ticket prices
Esterer said he's talking with a few people about the potential menu and style of cuisine. "Delicious food," he said. "Probably not hamburgers and hotdogs."
He also held back on the price he'll charge people to sail on the Edmonton Queen.
"Initially they'll be low to get people on board," he said. He said he hopes to bring ticket prices up to a level where the boat can "have an opportunity to be profitable."
"Because right now, it obviously just costs a lot of money."
The Edmonton Queen will also be available to host private functions. Esterer said a number of weddings are already booked.