The big news for Gull Rock in 2013 was the lighthouse serving as a featured attraction during a sold-out sunset cruise and fundraiser held on the Isle Royale Queen IV. The cruise took place on July 5 and was the brainchild of Captain Ben Kilpela, whose family has owned and operated the Isle Royale ferry service for decades. They have a long tradition of holding sunset cruises out of Copper Harbor as well, and we were thrilled to have Gull Rock as a featured cruise destination this year.
The cruise itinerary was ambitious: the Queen circled Manitou Island and included presentations about Gull Rock and the Manitou Island lighthouse. The trip sold out within weeks of being announced, and the boat was graced with a lively and curious crowd. Captain Ben, a gifted tour guide, did a wonderful job narrating the natural and human history of the Keweenaw. The tour also included presentations from me about Gull Rock, and from Joe Kaplan, about the Keweenaw Land Trust’s work to restore the Manitou Island light. The Big Lake cooperated by providing wonderfully clear, calm conditions. The timing worked well too: just as we were wrapping up our talk about Gull Rock, the sun dropped below the horizon and the lighthouse’s automated lantern began to flash, bidding the Queen farewell as she headed back to Copper Harbor.
The cruise brought a very generous sum to both lighthouses, which we quickly put to good use at Gull Rock. Using local money to employ local people, we hired Robert E. Johnson Contracting in Lake Linden to re-stain the lighthouse roof. As most of you will remember, we installed an entirely new roof on the keeper’s dwelling in 2008, replacing the deteriorating asphalt shingles with bright red cedar shingles that matched the original 1867 design. But in five years, Lake Superior’s brutal weather conditions (with a little help from Gull Rock’s seagull population) caused the red shingles to lose much of their original scarlet luster. But now, thanks to proceeds from the sunset cruise, the roof looks good enough to pass inspection by the old U.S. Lighthouse Service. The shingles, having weathered a bit, soaked up a lot of new stain this year, and the work crew expects the second coat to last much longer.
We would like to thank Captain Ben and the rest of the Kilpela family for graciously offering a Gull Rock/Manitou lighthouse cruise this summer. Given the enthusiastic turnout, we hope to offer this tour again. Please keep an eye on the “news” section of our website, as well as the website for the Isle Royale Queen, for information about future tours. In the meantime, as the holiday gift-giving season approaches, we hope that you all will consider including Gull Rock Lighthouse in your year-end giving plans. We wish all of you a wonderful and safe holiday season this year.
Peter AnninExecutive Director
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