A historic marine relationship was rekindled Friday as three HNZ Topflight instructors used a company Airbus helicopter to lift a generator onto CN Tug No. 6.
Craig Kendell was at the controls of the aircraft, carefully lowering it to a position so HNZ’s Vern Zelent could connect the line with the attached 400-pound machine to the bottom of the helicopter.
From the spit where the generator was on a trailer, the machine was moved the short distance to the tug where flight instructor Dave Schwartzenberger unhooked it.
Used from 1948 to 1973, the vessel is docked at the SS Sicamous Heritage Park and originally transported barges with fruit and other freight on Okanagan Lake.
It is one of four vessels under the care of the SS Sicamous Marine Heritage Society.
The connection with the helicopter company began well over a half century ago when Barney Bent, one of the original owners of Okanagan Helicopters (now HNZ) was part of the organization which eventually brought the SS Sicamous to Penticton.
“Our long standing association with historical preservation in the Penticton area is renewed again,” said HNZ chief flight instructor Tim Simmons. “A company of our age, we’ve founded ourselves on our history. We had the pioneering spirit thanks to people like Barney Bent and it’s something we’re proud of.
“They’re pieces of that history that mean something to Penticton and mean something to us. We’re keen to be involved in it as we were back in the day.”
Transferring the repaired generator went without a hitch, completed just a few minutes.
“Long lining is one of the most challenging things helicopter pilots do and is a bit of an art in itself, it’s one of those things that takes a lot of practice,” said Kendell, who has worked for HNZ for 17 years and is highly regarded in the field in North America “You want to be on your game and have good crew that understand their task.”
The generator was removed from the boat in pieces and taken to AC Motor Electric where it was repaired and put back together.
It is one of the components needed to eventually return the boat’s 500 horsepower engine to working order as a tourist attraction.
“We were very humbled and very pleased they (HNZ) would take the time to do this at a great cost to them,” said Adolf Steffen, speaking on behalf of the society. “We were wondering how we were going to get this thing across and not wind up in the bottom of the lake.”
He added while it’s unlikely the tug will head back into open water, Steffen believes just to be able to see such an engine operating would be a huge draw.
“It could actually be B&B where people could spend the night on her. Every level has a huge deck and if you could sleep on one of the decks that would be quite an amazing thing,” he said.