Charity Island Beckons For Dinner & Cruise
July 17, 2011
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By: O. J. Cunningham
Robert & Karen Wiltse own the Charity Island light-keepers' home and are the Island's only "full time" residents.
Wiltses make the Island their home nine months of year from which they manage Charity Island Excursions, a family owned and operated ferryboat service.
Their daughter, Sarah, provides help with marketing and merchandizing and son, Jerry, provides the technical computer assistance.
Reservations are strongly suggested !
Call 517-579-3182 or 989-254-7710 for Dinner Cruise Information. Price is $79.00 per person and boat transportation will run any day with 36 people or more on board.
The 2011 schedule began with Bird watching cruises to Charity Island the Last Week of April and every weekend through May 22nd.
Sunset Dinner Cruises To Charity Island began Saturday May 28th and will run through the second Saturday in October.
For the General Public, boats run every Friday, Saturday & Sunday from Mid May to Mid October and the Wiltses typically have tour groups scheduled for weekdays with General public seats available on those dates as well. Call for weekday availability.
Scheduled dates and times are subject to change so check the schedule often.
Reservations are strongly recommended.
Dinner Cruise Trips depart from both East Tawas and Caseville this summer. East Tawas Departures will be from the East Tawas State Dock and tickets may be purchased there at Dockside office.
Caseville Departures will be from Hoyle's Saginaw Bay Marina located at 6591 Harbor Street.
Guests should arrive at least 40 minutes before Departure to purchase tickets and obtain boarding passes. The entire cruise experience lasts 5 1/2 to six hours. Tickets for this Dining adventure are *79.00 per person
The night begins with a relaxing cruise across Saginaw Bay to Big Charity Island to dine at a lighthouse built in 1857. Complimentary soft drinks, coffee, bottled water & appetizers are provided during the 45 minute boat ride to the Island.
Diners may bring your own adult beverages if they wish. Wiltses provide the coolers, ice, & glasses aboard the vessel for passenger's convenience. Upon arrival at Charity Island passengers are greeted by hosts, Bob and Karen Wiltse, the islands only residents.
The Wiltse's share their island home and their unique story with their guests who arrive thoughout the summer on the ferryboat "Shirley Ann".
Upon arrival there is a short 8-9 minute walk along a forested trail to the island Lighthouse where guests are treated to a lively and entertaining history presentation that touches on the unique archeological site located on Charity Island.
The presentation includes a memorable and moving story of one of the Island's lightkeepers from years past who worked the night a winter gale drove the wooden passenger ship Oconto onto a reef just offshore of Charity Island in December of 1885.
Dinner is promptly served after the history presentation.
While dining, chances are that guests will observe sailboats and freighters as they make their way to distant ports and as diners enjoy the warm breezes, for a moment, they may be transported back in time as they envision the watchful eyes of Lightkeepers from years past peering out from Charity Island over Saginaw Bay. "This is a truly unique dining experience," says owner Bob Wiltse.
Dinner includes a choice of lightly breaded Great Lakes Perch or Sautéed Tenderloin Beef Tips served with Michigan Baby red potatoes simmered in a special broth with fresh dill and Oriental style Green Beans, (cooked in fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, & honey) and rolls baked fresh during the history presentation.
After dinner, guests are treated to a tour of the lightkeepers home by Karen Wiltse and will have time to take pictures of rare & endangered plants, visit the island gift shop or just sit and relax on the porch of the lightkeepers home and enjoy the view and ambiance of this unique island setting. When the ship's bell is rung it is time to get back to the boat.
Hot coffee and desert are served on the return trip that is timed to catch the sunset halfway back to port.
*Prices subject to change.
After acquiring the Island in 1992, the Wiltse's made the decision to sell most of the island to the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service in 1997 to ensure its natural resources were protected from future development.
Included in the "Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge" system and managed by the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service (F& WS) since 1997, Big Charity Island was acquired by the F&WS to be held as a wildlife sanctuary. Its isolated beaches and unique hardwood forest provides excellent habitat for a variety of plants and animals. Many rare and protected species of plants grow on the Island including; Pitchers Thistle, acres of Trillium, Jack in the Pulpit, and Pink Lady Slippers; to name just a few.
Big Charity Island is located approximately ten miles offshore in the middle of Saginaw Bay between the port city of Caseville to the East, and Au Gres to the west. The Island consists of almost three hundred acres of forest and three miles of shoreline on Lake Huron, and is home to a multitude of wildlife species including neo-tropical songbirds, bald eagles, raccoons, foxes, mink, and more.
Big Charity Island is also home to a very unique archaeological site. The limestone bedrock formation that outcrops along the Island's northern shore has mineral deposits known as "chert" embedded in it.
Chert is a form of flint that was a very important material for making stone tools to the people who lived in this area long before there was contact with European explorers. Known as a quarrying site, Big Charity Island is heavily littered with the remains of the stone tool-making activity by generations of Native Americans from over 1500 years ago.
Outdoors Article 06020
O. J. Cunningham
O. J. Cunningham is the Publisher of MyBayCity.com. Cunningham previously published Sports Page & Bay City Enterprise. He is the President/CEO of OJ Advertising, Inc.
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