Island Express preparing Georgian Bay water-taxi service launch

·4 min read

Georgian Bay Island National Park visitors will most likely be gaining a new water-taxi service in the next few weeks.

The Island Express, owned and operated by Fischer Campbell, is in the final stages to begin shuttling residents, tourists, and visitors in the waters from Midland to the scenic shores of other nearby areas.

Campbell is aiming to start the water-taxi service for the Victoria Day long weekend of May 21 through 23 this year, coinciding with the seasonal opening of Georgian Bay Islands National Park, which is boat-access only.

Costs for the trips aren’t finalized yet, and towns including Midland, Penetanguishene, and Honey Harbour are being cemented as points of origin.

“I’m shooting for three trips per day; I’m licensed to carry 12 passengers, so the more people I have on the boat the better. Cost for the boat is a tricky one, but I’m hoping somewhere around $50 including park admission,” Campbell stated.

The Island Express might be a new business starting up with the assistance of North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corporation, but Campbell is no newcomer to water activity in the Georgian Bay area.

At age 22, Campbell is an active paddleboarder who has been involved with watercraft throughout his life, when not helping out his family business at Grounded Coffee in Midland.

“This all started as a conversation with Parks Canada three years ago,” said Campbell. “We were running the coffee truck for the pow wow just outside of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. We were talking with them and they were saying how great it would be to have a boat running out of Midland.

“Last year we had an issue on the water, and I started talking to the captain of the tugboat; he told me what to do and how to get into the boating industry. A month or two later, I had a business plan and the boat lined up,” he explained.

Although registered as Deep Explorer from a diving company, Campbell bought the boat previously named as Wanderer II from Bon Echo National Park, which he admits he is partial toward.

His business plan was enough to impress Midland council at a recent regular meeting, who granted approval of a one-year lease for the business to provide water-taxi service and tour boat or charter boat from Midland town dock for the tourism season of the year.

It’s not all smooth sailing, however.

Assigned slip 26 in Midland harbour along with other docked watercraft, The Island Express making multiple trips per day would require tight turns and slow spins to navigate in and out amidst other boaters. Passengers frequently carrying their gear and accessories could also pose additional waves, which made Campbell not want to rock the boat in terms of disrupting the otherwise peaceful atmosphere of the harbour.

“Right now I’m in slip 26; I think the best place for me would be slip 30,” stated Campbell. “There’s a lot of reasons (including) getting the fuel truck down to that dock and ease of access for myself to get the boat in and out, because I’m trying to make several trips per day. Just to make things easy for me: being on the outside."

Along with unexpected charges in the leasing agreement, Campbell is looking at his options.

“Page 42 of the Honey Harbour Development Plan talks about the (Parks Canada vessel) DayTripper and turning people away. Having a set schedule like them is what I'm hoping will help me capture most of their lost traffic.”

Campbell is undecided on whether he should be called Captain, Skipper, or just Fischer by his fares. He expected that a cycle of the business leading to more purchased boats for operation, which would in turn feed into more passengers and so on, could allow him to retire by age 50 and buy a boat big enough to sail the world.

“How long will I be operating boats? As long as I can. I’ll be on the water in some capacity for the rest of my life,” he affirmed. “That’s part of why this started. If you can do something you love, you never have to work a day in your life.”

Although still in development, Campbell assured the public that further information and booking will be available shortly at theislandexpress.ca website.

The Island Express lease agreement, details, and report is available in full in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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