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Jullian Mills, a steamship captain for 45 years on Alberta’s northern waterways retired in 1962 and moved to Edmonton in 1970. He then captained the Klondike Queen, a diesel-powered paddle wheeler that offered cruises on the North Saskatchewan River to Big Island, a recreation park near Edmonton. (It is believed that the North Saskatchewan waters were too dangerous to keep the paddle wheeler as a cruise boat thus it was sold.)
In the 1960s, after Karen and Les Solymos took over the Waskesiu marina, they looked for a suitable boat for pleasure cruises on Waskesiu Lake. They brought the paddlewheeler to Prince Albert National Park from Edmonton where it had been in dry-dock.
Karen Solymos wanted the paddlewheeler to have a Cree name because Waskesiu is a Cree word (meaning Red Deer) so she chose Neo-watin which means “no wind”, ideal conditions for a paddlewheeler.
The Neo-watin’s inaugural trip was a charter for the very first Premiers’ Conference to be held in Waskesiu.
The Solymos family operated the Neo-watin until the spring of 1975 when it was sold in an auction sale at the marina. A group of Waskesiu businessmen bought the Neo-watin, boats and motors.
Dave Balon took over as marina manager, and later became owner of just the Neo-watin with partners Vic Davidson and Joe Krieg. They added food and beverage services on the Neo-watin.
Over the years that the Neo-watin cruised its waters, hundreds of passengers enjoyed a leisurely hour gliding along the shoreline of Waskesiu Lake.
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