Gatineau paddle wheeler leaves the waters for first time in 38 years

A familiar boat in Wakefield was taken out of the Gatineau River Friday in order to complete inspections and repairs.

Melanie Hopkins calls the “Chrisalis II” home for the summer as it sails along the shores of the Wakefield.

Hopkins says, “I live on it with family and friends from May 1 to the end of October every year.”

But work needed to be done on the 38 year old paddle wheeler boat. She says, “We will scrap all the rust off sandblast it right now to the bare metal and put on a good paint coating.”

The boat weighs 50 tons and is three floors. In order to make the inspection possible, crews had to lift the boat out of the water using a crane and place the boat on scaffolding. The municipality of La Peche closed a section of the road.

Hopkins says she was nervous to watch the procedure Friday.

“I slept on the boat last night. Well sleep is not the right word. I was up at 3 and I couldn’t get back to sleep... my son and I were really nervous about what would happen.”

A crowd of about 100 people showed up to watch it all unfold.

“That was awesome to see! It was great. We all had fun watching it!” says Louise Villeneuve.

Mike Coorrigan’s friend called him early in the morning to tell him to drive up from Kemptville to watch, “Unbelievable! I mean that crane is worth a fortune!” he says.

Hopkin’s husband Alan boat a logging barge in the 1980s. In his spare time, he designed and transformed the barge into a paddle wheeler. The named it “The Chrisalis II” after their two children Chris and Lisa. It became his and Melanie’s summer home. It is estimated that over 1000 visitors have gone aboard and the boat has been the site of weddings, anniversaries, and parties including a 90th birthday parties.  

Hopkins says, “The water is never dull. I’ve been there when it’s raining when it’s hailing when there are rainbows. It’s so alive and it makes you feel alive.

“It should be good as new and we are hoping now another 30 years.”

The hope is that the repairs will take about three weeks and will be back in the water by October 5th.