Don’t worry about Fritz Schreiner, the 83-year-old former owner of Oak Bay Cobbler whose live-aboard home burned and sank recently while anchored off Oak Bay Marina.
He’s already busy fixing up his other sailboat – he built the plywood 36-footer Edson four decades ago – and expects to move aboard before long.
“It was sitting there empty and (has) got to be fixed up,” said Schreiner, who retired at age 58 after selling his shoe repair business to his apprentice.
Anchored close to where the 45-foot concrete-hulled sailboat Steadfast sunk, he says the Edson will take lots of hard work before it is good enough to live aboard.
“I like living on water. (It offers) freedom and mobility,” said the six-foot, 200-pound senior who considers himself in excellent health, except for a bum left knee, which he expects to have replaced this year – he walks with a cane.
Schreiner said he was lucky to escape the Dec. 29 blaze unharmed – nearby boaters rescued him – after his diesel cooking stove caught fire and quickly engulfed Steadfast.
“It was terrible,” he recalled. Dressed only in his pyjamas he tried to fight the blaze, “but there was nothing I could do.” The flames took seconds to engulf the uninsured vessel.
“It was like stepping into hell,” said Schreiner, whose greatest loss was his pet dachshund, Lusi.
“No more dog. The loss of Lusi was too much.”
Although he lost most of his possessions, he said “I’m not broke” and still has a small bank account and some investments.
Schreiner appreciates the “unbelievable” help he has received from the community. He singled out Beach Drive resident Teresa Kambites, who has spearheaded efforts to collect the clothes and supplies he needs until he moves onto Edson. He could still use a few tools like a used jigsaw.
Temporarily living with his ex-wife and their 16-year-old son, Schreiner plans to re-donate everything he doesn’t need to a local charity.
Having immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1950 with $30 in his pocket, he’s an avid garage saler who also who buys at thrift shops.
He’s shocked by today’s rampant consumerism. “This country is crazy with what people throw away,” he said, remembering the poverty he saw visiting developing countries.
Schreiner has signed the sunken Steadfast over to a salvage firm for $1.