The Kootenay Star is now plying the waters around Kaslo. Dave May designed and built it.

New sternwheeler launched at Kaslo

Fifty-six years after the SS Moyie was taken out of service, a new sternwheeler is plying the waters around Kaslo.



Fifty-six years after the SS Moyie was taken out of service, a new sternwheeler is plying the waters around Kaslo.

The Kootenay Star, a miniature version of Kootenay Lake’s historic sternwheelers, was designed and built by Dave May.

Launched last year, it’s now ready for further testing and interior finishing. The boat is 48 feet (14.4 meters) long, 12 feet (three meters) wide, about 12 feet tall, and seats a dozen. Its hydraulic system is driven by diesel motor.

May designed the boat in honour of his father, uncle, and all others who worked on the lake ferry system. “As a young person, I spent many memorable hours travelling on the Anscomb with my father, the mate, and my uncle, who was captain,” he says.

His family moved to Balfour after World War II and first lived near Fraser’s Landing, where the SS Nasookin ferried cars across the lake to Gray Creek. His relatives worked aboard the Anscomb, MV Balfour, and occasionally the SS Moyie — now a museum at Kaslo — when the Anscomb was out of service.

May picked up nautical knowledge from his father and for a few years sold newspapers at Kootenay Bay, resulting in many trips on the Anscomb. “At Balfour, we experienced the daily movements of the SS Moyie, which we took for granted,” May says. “We thought it would be there forever.”

Three years ago, he started creating his replica sternwheeler. A professional welder built the hull, and May had help on the hydraulic systems, but otherwise did most of the work himself. He’s mechanically-inclined and worked on wooden boats as a kid but had never built one from scratch.

Lacking plans, he relied on historic pictures plus advice from Dick Smith of Kaslo Shipyards. The Kootenay Star isn’t modelled on any specific boat, but incorporates features May liked in different ones. It’s the only operating sternwheeler on Kootenay Lake he’s aware of.

The name is in keeping with the Kootenay Star cafe and mining museum he and wife Teresa own — in turn named for the Slocan Star, one of the region’s chief mines.

The boat was assembled on the beach and made a splash during last year’s jazz festival, where it was moored in Kaslo Bay. May has since made several modifications.

“I have two paddlewheels side-by-side that work alternately,” he explains. “I had them too close to the transom so when you tried to back up or manoeuvre, instead of going under the hull, water was going under the transom.”

Over the winter and spring, May moved the paddlewheel back, and added a couple of tanks for extra buoyancy. “Now it’s a lot better. I’m still doing tests so I’ve just been running around the Kaslo area. I want it to be totally safe before I get too far away.”

May still has some bilge bumps to hook up and he’s putting in an auxiliary motor in case of power problems, but he’ll soon be offering rides to anyone interested. He can be reached at 250-353-2115 or at kaslobc@telus.net.