In the summer of 1986 a casual glance out to the beautiful waters off Okanagan Centre just might reveal the unmistakable profile of a submarine conning tower.
No mere illusion brought on by sun and beer this was the Henry D. Redecopp, pride of the Okanagan Centre Navy and the brainchild of a small band of local patriots.
Legend suggests that once conceived her design team worked quickly and efficiently encouraged by a steady supply of Old Style and Kokanee. A suitable shipyard was identified, the yard of Michael and Patti Wentworth, and construction began. Her builder was the veteran mariner Tobias Redecopp who also went on to crew her through many navel engagements.
Scorning traditional old-fashioned construction methods, innovative materials were sourced with scant regard to cost. The resulting D-grade plywood and lightly used Styrofoam quickly took shape finished with a high-tech outer skin of military grey supplied by General Paints.
In a concession to environmental concerns the HDR was not nuclear powered. Rather, high-thrust propulsion was supplied by Johnson, later upgraded to Mercury.
The extent of her armaments remains classified although deadly torpedoes were clearly visible, reportedly acquired from a Vernon arms dealer code-named Surplus Herby. Soon the HDR was ready for her first critical and dangerous assignment, patrolling Lake Country Days.
A motley crew was assembled. First Commodore Robert Mercer, aka the Mayor of Oyama, selected only the finest. Thus, Admiral James McLellan, a steely-eyed veteran of many (courtroom) battles was placed in command alongside First Mate Rene Cote.
Lake Country Days was renowned nationwide. It was a glorious week with a parade, Miss Lake Country events, competitive ball tournament, kids’ fun day and Firemen’s BBQ. For a few years the star attraction was the renowned Outhouse Race, complete with a submarine escort providing safety and security.
The HDR also provided fire protection. Her high-powered water pump could quell any shipboard fires as well as hosing down competitors who seemed overheated or “unruly”.
The HDR’s finest moment may have been in 1987 when our navy provided escort service for boats ferrying the Prime Ministers attending the Commonwealth Conference held at Lake Okanagan Resort.
Having served with distinction and with peace returning to our valley she was retired and now lives on only in our history and the memories of all who remember those days of glory.
Submitted by Rich Gibbons, Lake Country Museum