Cruising the Ontario Shore on a Sightseeing Tour
Discovery Charters’ owner Paul Turpin (in cap) takes a group out on a sightseeing tour in his Zodiac boat.
When the ice goes out in Rossport, the tour season begins. Last year, it was early April when Captain Paul Turpin of Discovery Charters took two birders from Minneapolis out in his 24-foot Zodiac boat. It was their third consecutive spring visit.
If the seas are safe, Paul continues tours into late fall. It was the second week in November when an 85-year-old woman arrived with a “tour of the Rossport Islands” on her bucket list. She and her son happily rode big waves to make a check on that list.
What makes a water tour of the 18 Rossport Islands worth the trip? Paul explains that you get to view both the “inside” of the islands and the “outside,” a local term describing the open Lake. “It’s where very few people hang around,” says Paul. “We’re basically in the middle of the biggest part of the Lake.”
Battle Island, home to a lighthouse perched on a pedestal rock, gives a good example. On the inner coastal areas (the “inside”), trees grow just 3 to 4 feet from the water’s edge. “Outside,” facing the expanse of the Lake, no trees grow within 150 feet of the water. “That’s really something to see, and that’s what’s known as being on the outside,” Paul says.
Paul’s wife, Beverley, tells us that many people like viewing the remote islands “because they’re so untouched.” But they are inhabited, so to speak; tours have yielded sightings of deer, moose, bears and loons. Eagles and peregrine falcons nest on several islands.
Harry Island, a safe refuge for boaters, has a cottage maintained by locals that’s been dubbed “Harry’s Hilton.” It’s one of the sites on the 1 1/2- to 2-hour tours.
Discovery is one of two charters operating out of Rossport. Bluebird Charter, owned by Come and Linda Castonguay, offers sightseeing, shuttle and fishing charters from Rossport and Terrace Bay Beach.
While a bright, sunny day makes a great trip, sometimes dicier weather brings unique experiences, Paul says. Once a mother and daughter from Lutsen, Minnesota, arrived when the harbor was thick with fog. “We went out anyway because they wanted to go out. We made it out to the lighthouse, approximately 8 miles off the mainland. Soon as we got to the lighthouse, the sun opened up, and the lighthouse appeared for about 15 minutes, and then it all closed up.”
His guest was thrilled. “Anybody can see the lighthouse on a nice day,” she said, “but when it’s foggy and you can’t see, it’s extra spectacular.”