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The First Generation
Joseph Van Schaick, with a wife and 7 children, bought the property and a boat in the spring of 1972. They were surprised to discover on the day after moving in, that tourists were knocking on the door, looking for a boat tour! The boat, ‘Ciboux’, came with the property but no mention was made of tours! Immediately grasping the tour’s potential, a regular departure schedule was created, and reservations were taken. The property still had 2 cottages to rent, which proved to be a viable second income source. So, Joe built 2 more cottages in the following 3 years. The business grew steadily from about 200 boat passengers per season to over 5000 by 1991. Most of his children became involved in the business at least part time over the following summers. The phone number for Bird Island Tours has not changed since becoming a regular land-line in 1974.
The boats changed over the years, with a new boat purchased in 1975 called the ‘Marie Antoinette’, a 42 ft, 32-passenger Cape Islander style. After 2 summers, he returned it and purchased an older boat called the Sea Wolf, which was a 40 ft long narrow boat that was gradually converted to a tour boat. In 1982, he bought a 3 year old fishing boat, the Eastwind III, from a local fisherman. It had been built in 1979 by a boat-builder here in Big Bras d’Or. This was a beautiful sea boat and was gradually converted to a covered tour boat, which Joe then operated for 27 years.