Friday, January 26, 2007

Part I: The Start

In 1945, as a young boy of 15, I was taken to Isle Royale with my father aboard the Copper Queen, pictured above berthed in Rock Harbor, Isle Royale National Park. The Copper Queen was owned and operated by Charles Kauppi. a commercial fisherman who wanted to expand his business to include ferrying people to Isle Royale which was about to become a national park.

I was part of a family outing consisting of my two sisters, my uncles Jack and Bill, and one or two of Jack's kids. Upon arriving at the Kauppi dock in Copper Harbor, we discovered that the boat was already filled to capacity. Speaking in Finnish, Kauppi's native tongue, my Uncle Jack pleaded with him; they were well acquainted because Jack lived in Calumet, a few miles south of Copper Harbor: Uncle Jack used every argument he could think of including, "we go the the same church," though I was to learn later that Kauppi didn't really go to any church, and "my brother drve 600 miles for this trip," an argument which we have heard many times after we owned the boat. Finally Kauppi relented and stuffed us aboard. Since then, though I have made hundreds of circumnavigations between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale (a trip of 56 miles), that one still sticks out as one of the roughest: we were half under water most of the time. Uncle Bill sat me down in the galley which was forward and a few steps lower than the weather deck and had me eat sandwiches and crackers to keep from getting seasick. I didn't get sick and as I learned later I don't have a propensity for the malady because I have never been seasick.

Here's a picture of Charlie Kauppi looking out from the Copper Queen. He was a great man, fearless almost to the point of reckless, and as hard a working man as one could find. Before he began his service to Isle Royale in 1930, he was a fisherman on Lake Superior. As time goes by I will relate some of the stories about Charlie. They are gems.

After that overnight trip in 1945, I waited for 43 years to take my own family to Isle Royale which we did in 1968 and every year thereafter until we bought the ferry service in 1971, we, none of us, ever looked back.

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