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Vernon houseboat cruise operator’s Spirit demolished in fire

Shelley McDonald had to cancel 25 summer lake tours as a result of blaze that destroyed her boat
Vernon’s Shelley McDonald’s livelihood went up in smoke along with her boat, Spirit of the Okanagan, in a fire at Paddlewheel Park Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

The Spirit of the Okanagan sits demolished in front of her eyes.

Shelley McDonald’s spirit is, well, not quite broken. But she is broken-hearted.

McDonald is the owner/operator of Carpe D’Wine, a business that takes guests on a boat cruise of Okanagan Lake aboard the Spirit of the Okanagan to sample some of the valley’s wine from area wineries, and charcuterie from local cheese, bread, delis and grocery stores.

But on Tuesday, Aug. 1, just before 12 p.m., the unthinkable happened to McDonald. Her boat caught fire while in dry dock.

“I was in town getting some supplies because we were going back out on the water on Friday (Aug. 4) when a girlfriend texted me that her son saw smoke coming from the area of Paddlewheel Park (where the boat was docked) and wondered if it was my boat,” said McDonald on Thursday, Aug. 3.

“I texted my captain and while I was texting him asking if it was my boat, I missed his text that told me to get down here right now. He answered ‘yes, it was the boat.’”

McDonald had the boat in dry dock doing some minor repairs and getting it ready for what would have been a busy summer of cruising the lake. She said she’s had to cancel 25 cruises as a result of the fire, which she believes was caused by a welder hired to do some of the repairs.

“I haven’t seen him since (the fire),” said McDonald.

The boat was insured for being on the water with people aboard. It was not, said McDonald, insured for dry dock.

Like the guests on her cruises, McDonald’s glass, she said, is always half-full. She is an eternal optimist. When asked what’s next, she tried to think of the Greek phrase – Illegitimi non carborundum – that translates to ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’

“I’d love to get another boat and get back on the water next summer,” said McDonald.

Her venture created two new jobs and the wine and snacks were locally sourced.

“Small business makes the world go around,” she said.

READ MORE: Houseboat erupts in flames at Vernon park

READ MORE: VIDEO: Seize the day with wine

READ MORE: AT RANDOM: Love boat sets sail in Vernon

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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