Lighthouse Dispatches by Paul Morralee
It was an unexpected sound breaking the tranquility of routine Island life as our first helicopter Wine & Cheese party arrived. And Dennis McGonagle was contemplating his next brush stroke.
Fortunately for the helicopter visitors there had been a break in the weather, a parting of the clouds you might say, for a landing to take place, as the weather has been pretty inclement the last few weeks.
As the group exited the landing pad smiles could be seen as a sense of discovery took hold.
Having guests who are inquisitive always makes the tour around the site go quickly.
Starting with a basic outline of the different phases that the lightstation has gone through, this helped acclimatize our guests and puts everything into context.
From whale oil lanterns, clock windings, solar power and abandonment, the story of how Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS) is restoring, preserving and promoting our transportation heritage, is told.
Iloe Ariss our enthusiastic and hard working summer student is spun into action when any visitor appears onsite, including a chance sometimes to taste some exotic cheese along the way, the wine will have to wait.
Iloe is studying in Halifax and with her family owning a cottage locally; she has a good connection to the area and some of its stories. Her duties, other than being a tour guide includes; a lot of yard work, painting, cleaning and making the site presentable to visitors. She is excited to meet guests to show them the sites and beautiful panoramic views the area is know for.
Over the weekend the lightstation entertain several fishing boats that are part of a fishing derby on Black Bay. Across the horizon we can see many boats bobbing and patiently trawling the reefs, waiting for the big one. Sometimes the lightstation staff get to taste the catch, as generous fisherman share their days adventures.
Many visitors also come from the hamlet of Silver Islet to update themselves on changes taking place on the site, and there are many. Additional dock works for example have been completed thanks to the continued support from; the Thunder Bay Yacht Club and provincial and federal sources.
This past week Archie Hoogsteen from Archie Charters helped to install signage for the Great Trail of which the Lake Superior Water Trail is part. Stretching from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie in the south, the water trail passes Porphyry and Number 10 Lighthouses.
There are 15 signs across the north shore that provide a wealth of knowledge for paddlers which share; local history, provide regional orientation and give some pragmatic safety advice. Thanks to Gary and Joanie McGuffin who help craft these wonderful sentinels of the shore.
Corralling a prodigious collection of canvas, Dennis McGonagle has spent a week now on the island, painting to his hearts content.
From the dry arid climate of California where Dennis is from, to our cold and wet climate has been an adjustment. Extra blankets and hot cups of tea have been delivered to his along the trail. He says “I left in the middle of a heat wave to get here and my observations are that I am blown away by the history and subtle colours that raise themselves out of the rock. ”
Next week we will share the adventures of the Save Ontario Shipwrecks – Superior Chapter as they do some underwater historical documentation and an eco dive.
Paul Morralee is Managing Director for the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior Inc. established to preserve, protect and promote Lake Superior lighthouses. He’ll be sharing stories throughout the summer.