Edmonton Riverboat sails North Saskatchewan River for first time since 2019

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The Edmonton Riverboat, formerly called the Edmonton Queen, sustained serious damage to its hull in the spring of 2020. But it finally set sail on the North Saskatchewan River again this week. (The Edmonton Riverboat/Facebook - image credit)
The Edmonton Riverboat, formerly called the Edmonton Queen, sustained serious damage to its hull in the spring of 2020. But it finally set sail on the North Saskatchewan River again this week. (The Edmonton Riverboat/Facebook - image credit)

The North Saskatchewan River is playing host to a former royal again for the first time in three years.

The Edmonton Riverboat — a paddlewheeler formerly called the Edmonton Queen — last launched in 2019, because it was severely damaged the following spring and required repairs.

But the boat finally set sail again Saturday.

"It was amazing," said Jay Esterer, the ship's owner. "I was, of course, apprehensive, thinking of all the things that could go wrong — and none of things happened.

"It was wonderful to see the river valley again. It was wonderful, also, to see the smiling faces of all the people on board that got to go on that first cruise."

The riverboat, which started sailing on the river in 1995, sustained damage to its hull in spring 2020 when the river ice started breaking up and floating downstream.

The ice upstream from the boat had formed a dam, of sorts, that prevented water from flowing downstream for several hours, Esterer said.

When dam eventually broke, a 15-foot wave lifted the boat. But there was little water to keep boat off the wood pilings of the dock after the wave passed. The pilings punctured the hull and the boat sank, Esterer said.

The riverboat was patched up to be towed. It was placed on blocks until the damaged metal could be repaired, he said.

"The repair of the boat was fairly straightforward," Esterer said.

"The biggest challenge has been all the environmental hurdles and the various government agencies that we have to satisfy so we could re-launch the boat."

Where the boat had previously docked was listed as an area where fish in the North Saskatchewan River spawn, he explained.

Edmonton Riverboat
Edmonton Riverboat

"They were very cautious about having us put the boat back in the water."

The riverboat is humming better than ever after the repairs, Esterer said, but now they're struggling filling out its crew.

The Edmonton Riverboat Facebook page reposted several job ads last month for positions, including first mates, engineers and deckhands.

Part of the problem, Esterer said, is they need to be properly trained mariners — which are hard to find in the landlocked Prairies.

"We're having to search far and wide to try to satisfy those needs," he said.

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