Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tobermory, Flowerpot Island Lighthouse Story

Bruce County is well known for it’s many lighthouses that dot the shoreline of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. These beacons have lots of history and stories to tell, and long gone are the keepers who would echo these stories in journals and logs....

Flowerpot Island is one of my favorites. It’s picturesque setting off the shores of Tobermory is only accessible by boat. Last year on summer solstice weekend, myself and five other friends committed to being the lighthouse keepers for 4 days. The “Friends of Fathom Five who look after the lightstation, have a program in place where you pay to stay, and while there you run the Museum, Souvenir Shop, housecleaning duties, groundskeepers, and generally act as a tour guide to greet the visitors who choose to get off the tour boats and explore this magnificent island.

This year was our 2nd annual summer solstice weekend, and our group grew in numbers. I brought my sister along with us who resides in Burlington, Ontario…a true city girl. For the two weeks leading up to our departure, she would call each evening and ask what she should pack, as you have to hike all of your belongings, including clothes, food, drinks, etc, 25 minutes by trail to the lightstation. Believe me, you really question how necessary each item is when you have to pack it.

The morning arrived and we all met at the Blue Heron Co boat rides dock to board the zodiac that would shuttle us to our weekend destination. It was great to see everyone whom we had not seen since last year, and to meet the “newbies” to our group.

After arriving and getting settled in, we all pitched in and greeted our visitors with enthusiasm. The required chores were executed, and before we knew it the day was over.

There are six campsites on Flowerpot Island. These sites have to be reserved through the Bruce Peninsula National Park. When the last tour boat leaves the island at 5:00 p.m., the island becomes your own oasis. It is hard to describe the feeling of calmness as you sit in a rocker on the covered porch of the original house built in 1901 and watch some of the best sunsets over the horizon. There are no telephones, no cell phone service, no television, no radio, just the sounds of the water as it laps against the rocky shore. Each evening we as a group would record in the lightkeepers journal the events of the day. We as friends would catch up on news, tell stories, and of course take many photographs of the spectacular sunsets.

This year one of my goals was to hike the loop trail to the Marl Beds. This is the inland
trail that takes you back to Beachy Cove and the Blue Heron Boats. We found this trail to be very different then the shore trail with it’s many elevations, large mossy rocks, stairways to climb, and diverse flora.

Being a photographer, another longtime goal of mine has been to capture a sunrise over the large flowerpot. Myself and two other “keeners” were up at 5:00 a.m. to hike 15 minutes in the dark to the exact spot. It was truly an amazing experience to sit on the cliffs, in the serenity of the early morning in anticipation, waiting for the sun to come up. It was well worth the effort as we captured some great photos.

All to soon our tenure as lightkeepers came to an end, and new “keepers” would be arriving to take our post.

It is sad to have to pack up and say goodbye to Flowerpot for another year. As we begin our trek over the trail to Beachy Cove, our packs noticeably lighter then upon arrival, the feeling of sadness was evident on everyone’s face. For my sister, the whole experience was the best medicine any doctor could have ordered. Over the weekend she shed all thoughts of her hectic city life. Feeling totally relaxed and stress free she talked about “next year” and how this place relaxed her more then she ever imagined.

For me, I am lucky that it is in my own backyard and I can visit anytime throughout the summer. It is amazing how many guests we greeted on Flowerpot that have traveled across the world to this unique destination. Have a look at our lighthouse tours. Does anyone have any light house stories in their family heritage? Please let me know, I'd love to hear it!


Anonymous said...

I was a lighthouse keeper at Flowerpot Island with my family. I am 15 and my time there shows that it is for people of all ages. I was amazed by the history and the serenity of Flowerpot Island ! I hope to be able to help out again! I can honestly say that it was one of the most memorable moments i have ever experienced! Thank you for this amazing opportunity.

Cedric Young said...

My grandmother, Dorothy Spears, was daughter of William Spears, Flowerpot Island's Lighthouse Keeper in the early 20th century.

As such, I have visited the island numerous times since I can remember. It is a uniquely beautiful spot, and one that will always have a special place in my heart.

Grandma used to always talk about how isolated life on the island was, but the Georgian Bay always had a special place in her heart, and she visited our cottage up there at least once a year right up to the end of her days.

As an adult I moved to Victoria and the West Coast. It is a beautiful area like no other, but part of me always missed the limestone and blue waters of the Georgian Bay. I look forward to the next time I'm able to visit, and hopefully I'll get a chance to get out to Flowerpot.