Nestled in the northern Midwest United States, Lake Superior boasts a plethora of submerged opportunities for recreational and technical divers – scuba explorers who require the best conditions to dive. In May of last year, charter operator Isle Royale Charters of Isle Royale, Michigan, added a new vessel to its Lake Superior excursions, the Discovery, which meets these demands.
By John Tapley
The custom-modified, 42-foot-long boat offers a swath of amenities including a fireplace, hottub, a walkthrough transom, and plenty of space for storing and donning equipment – especially important for technical divers. Since the Discovery’s launch, it has earned acclaim from divers local and abroad.
“The boat’s been running great and everybody loved it: the additional space and layout of the boat; how they’re not on top of everyone all the time,” explains Isle Royale Charters owner Ryan Staley. “We’ve booked up three years in advance so that’s something!”
A big part of the appeal is a number of improvements and additions made to the vessel throughout 2018.
“We’ve added a nice covered area in the back where people can get suited up out of the elements,” says Staley. “There’s a nice walkthrough transom and benches on both sides of the boat where they’re able to sit down, put their gear on, and just walk off. There’s now a ladder on the starboard side so there’s no congestion anymore.”
Veteran diver, instructor, and captain, Staley was introduced to scuba through a friend in college, and he earned his open water certification in the summer of 1993. Following his graduation, he earned his instructor status and became part of the scuba diving industry: sharing dive trips and connections; learning valuable skills along the way; working with Isle Royale Charters. In 2008, Staley took over operations from owner Ralph Soren (who retired), and since has overseen charter trips and management.
Isle Royale Charters primarily explores Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior: an area well-liked for its numerous wrecks, which offer a good variety of recreational and technical opportunities for clients of different interests. Recreational divers enjoy sites such as the American and portions of the Emperor while technical divers explore wrecks like the Kamloops. The charter also offers trips to other areas in Lake Superior, such as the Apostle Islands and North Shore. The company provides these services from early-June to mid-September each year when conditions in Lake Superior are at their finest.
Beyond diving, Isle Royale Charters complements group excursions by sharing the majesty of Lake Superior’s wilderness. Hiking trips are especially popular, and the groups often travel to historically significant destinations such as the Rock Harbor Lighthouse. As Isle Royale Charters’ season comes to a close, it offers excursions to the Apostle Islands where shallower wrecks and wild hiking and kayaking await.
“We’ve added two kayaks that we bring with us full-time, even if there’s a day where we can’t get out and dive – if the lake decides to get dicey – customers can go kayaking; or on evenings when we’re tied up and they want to stroll around,” says Staley. “It adds another dimension to what we can offer while out on the islands.”
Isle Royale Charters frequently shares these adventures with local dive clubs and businesses, and other organizations such as the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth: cementing a community of Lake Superior scuba explorers.
“It’s developed. Every year we pick up a handful of new shops or groups,” says Staley. “We have a large return rate from the dive shops: many have come back year after year since I took over Isle Royale Charters. It’s nice to have return customers, but it’s always fun to bring in new people who have never been there.”
Through Isle Royale Charters, Staley has experienced and shared many exciting adventures; and it is this fervor for adventure and fellowship that inspires him to keep pushing forward. With the Discovery, he will continue to drive his business through dedication to scuba diving and outdoor adventure.
“It’s sharing those wrecks and experiences – learning to dive them – with new divers and repeat divers who have come up year after year with me,” he continues. “It’s having that bond with them and enjoying the island itself along with the wrecks.”
For more information on Isle Royale Charters, including scheduled trips and rates, visit www.isleroyalecharters.com or connect with the charter operator on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isleroyalecharters.