The sky is just starting to turn pink as we climb aboard the 40-foot steel hull and take our seats.
Kevin Johnston, the owner and operator of Collingwood Adventure Voyages and our captain for the evening, sits proudly at the helm greeting his guests as they settle in.
Johnston’s charisma is contagious, and we instantly feel at home.
The agenda includes a cruise through the Collingwood harbour before heading out into the bay. We learn about the rich history of the shipbuilding industry, the story behind the iconic Collingwood terminals, and the lighthouse poking out from Nottawasaga Island.
With the escarpment towering to the left and open water to the right, we finish the evening floating peacefully as the sun drowns in the horizon.
The sunset cruise is one of the many tours offered by the dual corporation, Collingwood Adventure Voyages and OSM Adventure Travel.
In the summer, participants can choose from fishing charters, shipwreck explorations, lighthouse tours and barbecue boat parties through Collingwood Adventure Voyages, and, in winter, the offerings include eco-hiking tours, bushcraft and axe skills and backcountry snowshoeing through OSM Adventure Travel.
All of the tours are led by Johnston, and his mission is to help you immerse yourself into the adventure.
Johnston moved to the Collingwood area in 2010 with one goal: to start a successful and sustainable business that had “something to do with the outdoor adventure industry.”
“You never really know an area well enough to know what type of business to start until you get there,” said Johnston.
Fresh off a gig as a raft guide on the Ottawa River, he initially wanted to bring that type of experience to Collingwood. There are no white water rivers in the region, but Johnston knew the bay had a history of getting quite rough, so he improvised.
With a 14-foot Zodiac and $100 to his name, OSM Adventure Travel was born.
The name OSM comes from Johnston’s high school days and stands for off-set minds. It represents the ability to look at something one way, and figure out other ways to do it. Johnston found it fitting for his company.
“How do I take the same thing everybody else is doing, and do it differently,” he said.
The only other company running tours through the harbour at the time has long since retired, and Johnston saw a need to preserve the area’s rich history. He thought, why not do it by boat?
The Collingwood harbour was growing and the potential was there, so Johnston took the opportunity to grow along with it.
“I always knew Collingwood had potential, but I never expected it to go this big,” he said.
It didn’t take long before Johnston traded in his inflatable raft for Solidsteel, as he so fondly calls his vessel now.
The past two years have shown a significant growth of interest in the fishing charters. The customizable tours can be anywhere from 2-6 hours, with the goal to catch sizable chinook salmon and lake trout.
“There is nothing more exciting than to watch someone else catch their first really big fish,” said Johnston. “You can’t do this job if you don’t enjoy interacting with people. The best part is I get to talk with people from all around the world. I get to share my passions and way of life with them.”
Johnston said he gets the odd look here and there, but it doesn’t bother him. A life on the water or in the bush is the only life he wants.
An adventure addict himself, Johnston was never in the business to make a quick buck.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” said Johnston. “I’m not here to make a business to sell. This is a lifestyle for me, and I am in it to create the best experience possible so I can continue doing this for as long as I can.”
His goal is simple: to continue to be able to employ himself, and hopefully a few others along the way. Johnston says he is always up to something, and to keep an eye out for new things coming to the harbour within the next few years.