Iceberg tourism company opens for inaugural season in Red Bay after being docked with pandemic delays
Iceberg seekers have a new adventure option this year in Labrador: a local family has launched Whaler's Quest Ocean Adventures out of Red Bay, N.L.
The founder, Shena Fowler, was inspired to start her own company after seeing her stepfather be his own boss while she was growing up. Her own father died in a fishing accident when she was three, and her stepfather entered the picture a few years later.
"He had his own 45-foot-long liner and he always worked really hard," Fowler said.
"Despite all the challenges and complications, he always managed to keep food on our table. And I'm a bit of a tourist myself. So I wanted to have a company in the tourist industry to help people enjoy our region."
The family decided on Red Bay as it's where her stepfather is from and where Fowler spent a lot of time while she was growing up. Fowler began looking for a vessel, but it took about five years of searching to find the right one. She finally bought one that would be perfect in the fall of 2019.
"Then COVID struck and we ended up two years on the dry dock. So I was told when I initially bought the boat that changing the name was bad luck. But I didn't realize how bad [that] luck was," Fowler said.
Despite the pandemic delaying the business by about two years, Fowler said she was determined to push through the obstacles. Nothing is easy in life, she says, and you need to hold on through rough waters.
The business launched officially on their first tour during the May long weekend. Her stepfather is now the boat's skipper and her mother works in the company's office. Fowler is the main tour guide.
Since starting up, Fowler said they've taken out tourists from Quebec, Ontario, the United States, Germany and Switzerland. A strong northeastern storm near the beginning of June sent a number of icebergs into the Strait of Belle Isle so there have been plenty to see, she said.
Whaler's Quest Ocean Adventures isn't the only place in Red Bay hoping to welcome visitors. The Red Bay National Historic Site opened for the season shortly after Fowler, on June 1, and Parks Canada said it's going to be busy.
"There's approximately about 150 bus tours and nine cruise ships scheduled so far," said Philip Bridle, a spokesperson with Parks Canada. "It's going to be different than the past two years, for sure."
They're preparing for more cruise ships than normal but the bus tour numbers are about average what they were seeing before the pandemic, he said. Some cruise ships can hold up to 2,800 people while others hold about 300. There's a lot of logistics around the planning, he said.
Fowler said for her, she hopes to get experience during their inaugural year and continue to build their visitors in years to come. People can pre-book to go out on the boat or find them in Red Bay up to 15 minutes before departure time.