Check out this great article published by the Manitoulin Expositor!
LITTLE CURRENT—As the sun set and a beautiful inaugural sail on the North Channel came to a close, friends and family gathered on the front deck of Le Grand Héron as shipowner Chris Blodgett smashed a bottle of Champagne on the bow, officially christening the North Channel’s new (and currently only) sightseeing tour vessel last Saturday evening.
Mr. Blodgett, owner of North Channel Cruise Line Inc. in the Port of Little Current, purchased Le Grand Héron last year, making the 3,200 kilometer voyage from the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Manitoulin Island last fall, bringing the 75- foot long, 30-foot beam, tri-hull boat to the North Channel and her new home port of Little Current.
Throughout the winter, the boat received a makeover—getting a fresh paint job inside and out, undergoing renovations to the galley and heads and interior decorating.
This Canada Day, the North Channel Cruise Line will officially welcome the public aboard Le Grand Héron, kicking off the first season of North Channel boat tours.
On Tuesday, July 1, there will be an open house from 11 am-1 pm and from 3-5 pm to allow community members and visitors a tour of the new Manitoulin attraction.
From 1-3 pm, the boat will set sail on its first tour, a leisurely 10 mile, two-hour afternoon cruise, venturing west of Little Current and north into the Wabuno Channel rounding Halfway Island at the tip of La Cloche Island and returning back to Little Current.
The tour is $29, with bookings available through ncclinc.com or by calling 1-800-268-8222, and the snack bar (serving snacks and pub fair) will be open as will ‘The Cove,’ the North Channel’s floating licensed pub.
If you’re not available on Canada Day, there will be many more chances to experience the North Channel aboard Le Grand Héron throughout the summer with regularly scheduled Saturday sunset cocktail cruises, Sunday Benjamin Islands and Baie Fine Fjord trips (alternating destinations each Sunday), Monday sees beach party cruises and Wednesday will be Killarney trips.
The Benjamin Islands trips will run Sunday, July 6, July 20, August 10, August 24 and September 7. Boarding at 10 am, the 40 mile, 6 hour tour will depart for the Bejamins at 11 am. Passengers will be treated to an extraordinary first hand view of the world renowned ‘Benjamins.’
“Formed from the smooth granite rock, the Benjamins are an ancient molten formation, formed billion of years ago before the earth had an atmosphere,” states the North Channel Cruise Line website. “This area is surrounded by windswept pines and picture-perfect rock shorelines in every direction.”
The tour (along with all the regularly scheduled adventures to Baie Fine Fjord, Killarney and beach party Monday tours) include a buffet lunch featuring sandwiches, vegetable/cheese/fruit platters, salads, treats and drinking water. Other menu items from the snack bar such as burgers, wraps, nachos etc., soda, juices and alcoholic beverages will be available at an additional charge (credit cards and cash are accepted forms of payment, but no debit).
The Baie Fine Fjord tours will take place on Sunday, July 13, July 27, August 17 and August 31.
Boarding at 10:30 am, the 40 mile, six hour tour will depart at 10:50 am sharp, sailing the rich rugged shores of the North Channel, taking you to the picturesque Baie Fine Fjord inside the seclusion of Killarney Provincial Park.
Trips to Killarney will run Wednesday, July 9, July 16, July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13 and August 20.
Boarding at 11:30 am, the 40 mile, eight-hour round trip will depart at the Little Current dock at 11:50, docking in the town of Killarney at 3 pm for two-hours, giving passengers the opportunity to explore.
Departing from Little Current at 11 am and returning at 6 pm, Le Grand Héron will head to a nearby anchorage (within one and a half hours), anchoring in shallow water and allowing passengers the chance to swim or relax on the beach.
“The barbeque and blender will be in full effect, as will the tropical party vibe,” states the tour’s online description.
The Saturday sunset cocktail cruises will take place on Saturday, July 5, July 12, July 19, July 26, August 2, August 9, August 16, August 23 and August 30.
Boarding and cocktails will begin at 6 pm, with departure at 8 pm, returning to the dock around 10:30 pm. Featuring a night of music and cocktails, guests will enjoy the Northern sunset on the water.
There will also be special Haweater (August Civic Holiday weekend) cruises, including two-hour cruises on the North Channel and a Sunday evening sunset tour that will become part of the annual Haweater parade of lights and take in a one-of-a-kind view of the spectacular fireworks display.
The boat has a capacity of 50 people this season, but Mr. Blodgett explained that next summer it could be up to 100 passengers.
Le Grand Héron will be captained by John Gillespie this summer and is a seasonal resident of the Bay of Islands and a former tug boat captain. Mr. Blodgett will be acting as first officer and machinery operator in order to spend more time with clients.
As to why Mr. Blodgett expanded his yacht charter fleet to include a tour boat, he shared, “I wanted to meet the demand of tourists who are looking for things to do.”
“I would like to see Le Grand Héron become the number one attraction in the North,” continued Mr. Blodgett. “The North Channel features some of the most beautiful water and natural scenery in the world and I want to help individuals experience it. In the past, most tourists could only hear about the waterways, Islands and beauty of the North Channel, but now they will be able to experience it first hand.
With tours ranging from two to eight hours and from $29 to $95, there is the perfect adventure for every taste and budget.
Le Grand Héron is also available for private special event charters such as weddings, reunions and corporate events, all featuring the licensed pub.