The Strait Goods
the meanderings of TVI around the Juan de Fuca and Georgia Straits  :  5-17July 2011


—Here's the Deal—  

2011 being the 30th year since the founding of Thames, an epochal event was required;  
we settled for a leisurely dance tour though points of interest in the Pacific NorthWest.

Now read on ...

acPaul met up with Ian & Val in the evening in Vancouver Airport, Air Canada bringing them in with the proper 35-minute delay.  We stumbled off happily to find our rental van.   So ... actually, they didn't have a van ...  not as such;  but they did have a solution.  Having heard Ian's description of our intended use of a vehicle, they, with nods, pursed lips and furrowed brows, recommended their largest & thirstiest vehicle, a Ford Expedition.  Skeptical of this diagnosis, we checked our alternatives and soon decided that we did not need a Ford Expedition.   What we needed was a Ford FLEX.   Totally nerdy-looking vehicle, but more space both for legs and gear that that honking SUV.  Turned out to be just the thing.  The built-in GPS insisted (persistently in French) on our doing U-turns to return to YVR until we found the mute button.  Then we enlisted the services of Charles the TomTom, and he cheerfully helped us in our travel to Burlington, WA.  Indeed we grew comfortable in his care.  Until he told us we were at our destination (Fairfield Inn & Suites), when it was clear to casual inspection that there were no signs of ANY sort of habitation:  it was, in fact, as dark as pitch;  no lights anywhere.   First principles reasoning and dead-reckoning however got us to our night's destination at 11.30 PST.

uaWhile all this was going on ... ... La Familia Naar arrived, courtesy United Airlines, mid-afternoon at SEATAC.  Despite or perhaps because of?) having made a trouble-free booking of a VAN, Alamo Rent-a-Car  actually HAD no vans ... ...  Cunning diplomacy was deployed ... ... and, a mere 75 mins later, a Toyota Sienna appeared.  And, lo! — it was NAVY BLUE!  What a portent of good fortune.  Yet more:  to avoid ill-feelings, the chaps at Alamo offered a free tank of gas.   By tea-time, the AKA group arrived at Jenni's houseboat where they had supper with Kimberley and Dave of Sound & Fury (more of them anon), and drank Freemont Ale and Freemont IPA.   The food and drink were found to be "very good".   After-dinner conversation over cigars included plans for our time in Seattle at the end of the tour.

The morning took Paul, Ian & Val to Anacortes for the ferry to Friday Harbour.  Charles behaved himself.

After a pleasant passage, we duly arrived, disembarked and got to business.  We were the first of the Company to arrive, and we were charged with shopping for groceries to cater for Ian and Val's Veggie Biryani and Paul's Full English Breakfast.  

Paul was anxious about acquiring all needed ingredients, especially black pudding. Indeed there was some general anxiety about whether the recommended source of victuals — King's Market — would have more than a mere fraction of what was needed, and this despite assurances from our source of local intelligence, la Famille Voorhees, particularly Jenni.   The best in town, is what she said.  
Paul, Ian and Val were so concerned about the prospects of servicing their exacting culinary needs that they felt it advisable to steady their nerves, and so cast about for suitable sources of general anaesthetic.  The Cask & Schooner appeared well-equipped, so we repaired there to plan our campaign.   After careful perusal of their offerings, we chose, as a starter, two pints of Chuckanut and one of Total Domination IPA.  You can just distinguish these brews in the accompanying picture: the Chuckanut is in the tall, fashion  glasses, while the IPA is in the plain manly sleeve.

c&slogoThe Cask & Schooner had a respectable collection of bottles behind the bar, including one that looked like whiskey (or even whisky) but was in the company of gin and similar poisons.  Being of curious disposition, we inquired, and were informed that it was Ransom "Old Tom" Gin, and would we like a taste.  Appropriate decorum (remember we are guests in this country) required that we not offend, and we  can report that it was interesting.  A PNW specialty, apparently.

Eventually we were ready, and ventured into King's Market, and found it well-equipped.  Paul uncertainly eyed the packages of blood sausage with added tongue;  he demurred.  All later expressed their gratitude at this far-sighted concern for the Company's welfare.    Shopping done, we followed another piece of Jenni's advice and went off in search of the "best burger in town" at Vic's.  I am sure it was.  Along the way, we encountered these items of local colour:
Meanwhile, other things had been happening ... ... Karl and Jenn arrived at SEATAC and were duly met by Jenni.   Alex and Karen felt the need for a tech-update and acquired Android SUPERphones.  The van was suitably labeled (see below) and the crew rushed to the ferry, arriving at 13.28hs to find that there was not much of a line-up, thus gaining passage on the 14.00hs ferry to Friday Harbour.

While THIS was happening, Jan was taking the shuttle from SEATAC to the ferry terminal ... ... but ... ... she had to settle for the 16.45hs ferry.

Back in Friday Harbour, Ian, Val & Paul awaited the ferry carrying Los Naar, Los Voorhees, Karl & Jenn.   Here's what it looked like:
And then ...
And then this became inevitable:
Eventually it came time to ferry the gear, food, people etc. across San Juan Is. to Snug Harbour and then ferried over to Henry Island. Snug Harbour is in the inlet s.w. of San Juan Island Natonal Historical Park, which commemorates the famous Pig War. Why is it famous? Glad you asked:  it shows how individuals and nations can resolve disputes without resorting to violence. For it was here, in the mid-1800s, that Great Britain and the United States settled ownership of the island through peaceful arbitration.  Imagine that, people;  peaceful arbitration.  The Pre-Oil Age.
Then some of us returned to Friday Harbour to rendezvous with Jan, and do some more shopping for others' meals.   We also bought wine, and were persuaded by the attendant ("'07 was a great year for Pinots") and the price tag ($12)  to try Mary Elke Pinot Noir.   It turned out to be a Company favorite, and we eventually drank their entire supply.   Mission accomplished, some of us decided to sample the town's offerings with a little more care.  That is to say, we dropped into a local winery outlet to sample the local efforts.   We very much liked the Sangiovese and the Shiraz (the latter was on sale, so we took a couple for the Company on Henry I.).    Then, since Alex had not yet tried the Cask & Schooner, we returned there to allow him a go.  He chose Manny's Pale Ale, and pronounced it good.

While all this was happening,  the first party, including Val, Karen and Axel, shipped from Snug to Henry I.   While Axel provoked parental concern by his fascination with the near-vertical 25-foot ladder up from the dock, bags and chattels were schlepped and either loaded into the 'Gator and trucked off to the brand new Swanson cabin or dragged to Main Camp.  

Eventually, after several trips by Jenni and Simon in the family boat, all were transported to what would be our home until when, on The Tenth, we would all ship back to San Juan I. again and get the ferry from Friday Harbour to Victoria, in that unassertive and peaceful land to the north (and it's VERY BIG.  In fact, it's bigger than Australia, and that's a continent).  

A brief word about our accommodations.  AKA stayed in the team's focal point, the New Cabin, which was not so much a a cabin as a luxury holiday home:

newcabinBehind and to the right of New Cabin is Old Cabin, and right at the top of it you can see the windows of Paul's lodgings.  He didn't really believe the assurances that there'd be no mosquitos, and certainly didn't believe that it wouldn't rain.

Ian & Val set up on a sleeping platform just down grade and off to the right  from these two cabins.  They had occasional visits from Mule Deer.

I am unclear where Jan slept, but the rest of the crew opted for Main Camp.   Simon shut himself in one of the huts and was rarely seen thereafter except for meals. Karl and Jenn took a fine platform on the bluff above the dock, and Young Adam (he actually arrived on The Eighth), dove into a hammock.
Jenn modelling Karl & Jenn's lodgings by the dock
Young Adam in festive mood

So The Sixth, as you can easily see, was a busy and decisive day.


Cinnamon buns and coffee were followed by scrambled eggs + morel (!) mushrooms + spinach.  Yum!    No doubt someone did the washing up thereafter.  Since it was, by East Coast standards, shall we say, a little cool out there surrounded by the ocean's great heat sink, some of us thought it would be prudent to make sure that the woodstove worked as it should.   At some point, it was recognised that there was an insufficiency about the diaper supply, so, back to Friday Harbour it had to be ... ...  Those who remained were entertained by the acrobatics of a small pod of ORCAS, that cavorted at the bottom of Henry's "H".

In the afternoon, the main party hiked off to Kellet Bluff, on the s.w. corner of the "H", perhaps hoping for close-up views of said Orcas.   Paul decided on a solo exploration of the s.e. corner of the "H" so as to maximize prospects of bird sightings.   The Kellett Bluff contingent reported no whales of any sort close in shore, but the interpid Ian ascended to the top of the bluff and claimed four orcas off shore.   Untrusting souls expressed skepticism about his claim, but his honour as a trusty reporter of the natural world was vindicated when Paul, unprompted, mentioned seeing the same four beasts from his vantage point across the bay.   The Kellett Bluff day, though marred by much discomfort in the socks from grass seeds, was saved by a close encounter with four Bald Eagles, and Jenni got a pretty nice shot of one of them.   The Company returned to base, tired but happy, and found their confidence in life restored by fruits of the vine and of barley PLUS excellent CALZONES, courtesy of Karl & Jenn.   Late in the evening, some began to wonder when Gus would show up.

The Company's determination was challenged early in the day by a very full English Breakfast (sans black pudding).  Though some quailed momentarily at the prospect of mucho grease, all rallied eventually, and all acknowledged that it were reet tasty.    Not to make too much out of this, but this breakfast did put all those volunteers who set to work to MOVE THE FRIDGE in good stead, I think.   This was the Mother Of All Fridges.  Jenni suggested it would be "no problem".  Many will recall that this is a phrase often enunciated by Rob Coles, and we all know what that means.   I mean, it didn't have to go VERY FAR, but it DID have to pass through a door way that, sure as eggs, looked like it might be just a bit too narrow.   It was like the sofa in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency;  it was, in a phrase, topologically challenging;  it really didn't seem that it actually COULD have passed through that same doorway going in he opposite direction not so long ago, a job apparently manageable by a 5-year-old child (according to Jenni).   Ah! yes! maybe there was no trim on the doorway on that earlier occasion ... ...  OK, so take all the doors off.  An hour or so later, it was in its old resting place, never to move again, I suspect.
As compensation for these exertions, some of the Company were treated to that wonderful natural spectacle:  Sun Dogs.   These are usually most often seen in winter skies, but you can get them whenever there is a sufficient high-altitude haze of ice crystals.

Young Adam arrived, just in time to claim his hammock, learn how to chop wood, courtesy Simon, and miss moving the fridge.  Instead, Adam carried around with him a door-stopper volume all about the world of finance.   All the time.  His explanation for this bizarre behaviour was that "it is interesting".  Go figure.  Nonetheless, the exertions of carrying this 50lb book no doubt provided him the benefit of extra heat-output, compensating for his skimpy, East-Coast-appropriate clothing.

The day was closed with wonderful JAMBALAYA, courtesy of Jan.
  I believe this was when the last bottle of Mary Elke Pinot Noir disappeared.  You can readily appreciate to spartan condition in which we languished by inspection of the picture opposite.  I am unsure where Young Adam's book is.   You can see the temperature out there, right?


practiceWhales again.  This is in danger of becoming tedious.  Young Adam began his day by polishing off most of the remains of the FULL ENGLISH, then amazed us all by going off for a run "around the island".  No doubt he was concerned that he might otherwise be unable to maintain the high-level output of the rest of the team later on the tour.

Other highlights include:  the ferrying of as much of our gear as possible back to the vans at Snug Harbour (to save us time early on The Tenth, when we are to rush across San Juan I. back to Friday Harbour for our ferry to Victoria);  the arrival of Stephen, looking tanned, fit & relaxed;  PRACTICE!

Paul had innocently sent his button box across to Snug, so Stephen leapt into the breach and offered the use of his fine old Hohner pokerwork.   A faux pas ensued:   in his efforts to encourage the team to the snowiest heights of performance, Paul managed to snap the left-hand wrist-strap of the button box ... ... dang!   Ever adaptable, the dancers continued:  Ian played;  Jan played; the team hummed.  Eventually, Stephen fashioned a new strap from some part of his luggage — very well done, that man!

Practice reportedly included Charrington Toby, Steve's, Dick, Gypsy, Nutting Girl, Brighton Camp, Barrowshouse.  And probably others.  

The rest of the evening was occupied by desperate efforts to use up all remaining food.  We ate large quatities of pasta + kitchen-sink sauce and RICE PUDDING.  4 doz eggs remained.


VIC FairmontOff to Victoria for public performances of our ancient art.  This necessitated much early morning back and forth boating for Jenni to get us all back to Snug.  It is reliably reported that this involved "much crashing into the dock".  From Snug we departed thence to Friday Harbour, for the ferry to Sidney, BC and eventual descent into central Victoria, "home to the newly-wed & nearly-dead" as one wag put it.   Shortly after leaving the Sidney terminal, we spotted a chap on the roadside with a placard saying "Morris Dancers". He turned out to be called Alan, and strangely enough, he was looking for us, so as to give us sure-fire instructions for arriving safely at our destination.   Thus we securely gathered at a pleasant pub, The James Bay Inn, changed into kit in the parking lot and entered, the better to sample the beverages and lunch offerings.   Duly fortified, we shuffled off a short way to convene with the local sides (Island Thyme, Holly Tree and Quicksbottom) to dance in front of the Provincial Legislature.   This location being a mere hop and skip from the Fairmont Empress Hotel, it was an easy amble for Jim Moskin who, no doubt had been availing himself of the in-house sauna and massage services.  At any rate, he seemed in fine fettle, and managed to keep up with the ferocious pace set by the rest of the team.   Having entertained the assembled multitudes for the required period, we attempted to make use of the Legislature's fine flight of steps for a grand group photograph.  These efforts were subverted effortlessly by an endless stream of day-trippers who unaccountably felt it necessary to join in and smile winsomely at all cameras (see below;  what we have to put up with, my life!)  We eventually gave up and moved on to the other side of the Inner Harbour for more dancing by the Victoria Visitor Centre.  

This included an unequal Bampton Nutting Girl contest between our stalwart Steven and an oddly-attired fellow with a black face, green beard and hob-nail boots.  After all this we had to go to a pub, called Spinnakers which, though a thoroughly nice place, calls itself a "gastro-brewpub", which I must say doesn't convey the right image, somehow.  There the man with the green face, and many others besides, redeemed themselves with a song or two.   Thames was well-represented in the singing.
StevenNutsnuts spinnaker


From our several billets scattered around town, we convened once more in downtown Victoria, anticipating some pre-ferry tourism.  This turned out to be not so straightforward, since several of us had been told to "Meet On The Ledge".  Or perhaps under, behind, beside, by, with or from, to or for the ledge (how I wish English had retained declining nouns:  it would have made such things so much easier).   Anyhow, while some were vainly sifting the lyrics of the song for any clues they might offer, it all became clear when we realised that we were enjoined not to meet anywhere near any "ledge", as such, but behind the Leg(islature), where we'd spent part of the previous day.   Having become reunited, the company dispersed to their various tourstic activities, such as visiting the BC Provincial Museum (see opposite).

Some of us then went to try out oysters at a recommended bar called Ferris's, on Yates St.   I believe we were all satisfied with both the oyster selection (and their chilpotle sauce) and the beers.   All, that is, but for Adam, who lost us during our visit to the museum.  He settled for ice cream to go along with reading his enormous tome on derivatives trading, or some such.

At the appointed hour we offered ourselves at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal for boarding (that's our boarding the ferry), and in no time we were aboard the "Queen of New Westminster" and on our way to Tsawwassen.  This is quite an exciting trip, since you run the winding narrows between Galiano Is. and Mayne Is., sometimes meeting another ferry going the other way. On arrival on the Canadian mainland, our skilfull drivers and navigators swiftly delivered us to June's house.  June turned out to be an artist, and it was she who was to host the end-of-day eats-drinks-party. She seemed busy and we were pleasantly but firmly advised to go off into town to drink beer, on Granville Island.  This we did, and an eventful time was had (see below).

Despite all blandishments and cajoling, Jim refused to buy the M.V. Meander for the team, which we thought a bit mean really, since it would suit us very well, we thought.   I mean, take a look.  You can see what I mean, right?  Would look lovely with sky blue & navy trim.


After all that we went back to June's for more food and drink with our hosts, the Vancouver Morris Men and Tiddley Cove, but there was also dancing done down in the driveway, just for appearances.  We unveiled Steve's and jigs were also done.   There was much singing aloft, and there are unreliable reports— actually I just don't believe them— that there was too much box-playing.   Bob Doucette put in a surprise appearance.  Perhaps he just wanted to be sure that we'd actually arrived in Canada.  He played and sang "Ship, Ahoy!" in his own inimitable way, much to the delight of all.

Gus was reported as missing all this day.   Actually, come to think of it, no-one's seen him yet this trip.

Order of the Day:  Breakfast at Sophie's.    

Having decided—even Jan, who took a while to decide— that, yes, we were hungry, we entered Sophie's Café, sat down and ordered.    A fine traditional breakfast for most of us.  No black pudding was available.  Gus wasn't there.

Hunger assuaged, we once again joined the hurly-burly of Vancouver street life, noting, in passing, that Sophie evidently has developed the same attitude as our own team to the provisioning of an audience.  Most of us decided we'd like Sophie, if we should ever get to know her.

After breakfast, Adam, Karl, Jim and yours truly returned to our billet for re-orientation and noticed something we'd missed before:  our billet evidently at one time performed a very valuable social function in Vancouver.  We just thought you'd all like to know.vd
many of us then went off to spend a good while wandering around UBC's Museum of Anthropology
The Museum proved sufficiently disorienting that some of us felt the need to go and have another fond look at the MV Meander from Granville Island.
Somehow we learned that Alex and Jan had instead found themselves ensconced in the Manchester Eatery so we were persuaded to go there to sit in the sun and sample the Fuller's ESB.   It was good.METhen, in the later afternoon, the team assembled in Hadden Park, adjacent to  Kitsilano Beach where we were to share the turf with our host teams.   We started out on a paved walk way which some saw as a cycle path, so we re-located to a convenient parking lot, hard by.   Even though some of our number complained as ever of insufficient dancing, be it registered that we did the entire available repertoire save for DD and Touchbridge.  We appaently did an excellent Jockie, and finished with The Gypsy.  
As yet I have no pics showing the faces of any of the VMM, or of their box-players at full steam.  If you have any, do pass along ...

Still no sign of Gus.
I believe this day we all had supper at an Italian restaurant, where our hosts had arranged a room for us.  This was a fine supper, with good food, drink, songs and speeches, offering thanks to our fine hosts and to our fine tour organizers, Alex and Jenni.  

 Anyone recall the name/location of this restauant?

This day we transited to Bowen Island, home to Black Sheep Morris.  But first, we must mention or trip, guided by Dawn Lessoway, of  Tiddley Cove, to Capilano Park.  We were duly gobsmacked by the enormous Douglas-firs, Sitka spruces, and Western Redcedars.  The coastal rainforest is AWESOME.

Sobered by our encounter with nature's majesty, we continued to Horseshoe Bay ferry dock and took the 20-minute ride over to Bowen Island.  The approach was impressive and perhaps a little forbidding ... bowenBut then we saw signs of habitation, and shortly after disembarking, we found ourselves among ... border morris persons who looked ... well ... perhaps a little forbidding too...especially that chap at #1 (6'2" at least, biker boots, leather chaps and coat) bsheep
Our encounter took place at Doc Morgan's, hard by the ferry dock.   We readied ourselves with a few drinks, changed into dance-gear and went out to dance on the boardwalk (see above).   It drizzled a bit occasionally, but all was well.  Having exhausted the interest of a local dog, we moved on up the road to The Snug Café where we did further dancing.   My notes remind me that, once again, the unspeakable happened and Jockie once again imperceptibly slid into Dearest Dickie.  Look, just for the record, I'd like to point out that this had only happened TWICE before in all recorded time, but you make ONE mistake and they'll never let you forget it.  Just saying.  All (well almost all) were very kind, and the festivities continued until we decided to quit (our final dance was once again The Gypsy), tired but content, and await the arrival of our food.  This took some time.   Not the hearty fare some had anticipated.  But all finally was well, as you can see.  Except Gus still hadn't arrived.

No dance-out today, but we make good use of the free time in a local school with a practice session, wherein we worked up / resurrected four additional dances:  Touchbridge, Ninety-Eight, Charrington Toby and Local Hero.  Later on we all went over to Dwayne's place for a great feed, with much great beer, singing, dancing, recitations** and the Google-Street-viewing of  family seats over in Jolly Old.   New members of the team became acquainted with a good sampling of Doucette's repertoire of improbable songs.    Ian sang "98" and, not to be outdone, the team followed with the accompanying dance.   Many other dances were done, regardless of the furniture and small children.   Many were amazed— in fact, some were in open disbelief— at the arrival and conversation of Dmitri and Alex the Scotsman.

**Martin and yours truly gave a spirited tag-team rendition of Marriot Edgar's immortal Albert and the Lion and The Return of Albert.  

We departed Bowen Island, with Black Sheep still vivid in our memories, on the 9.30 a.m. ferry ... we lost Alex in the traffic ... and began our long drive south to Seattle.   We were miraculously reunited and began our first US dance-out of the tour with Sound & Fury, a local team, notable for dancing in heavy-looking black leather kilts.  Alex asked them why theye did so;  appears the answer was that their founder/leader had one, and it was different ....  

We opened at a busy cross-roads in down-town Ballard (cnr. 22 Ave. NW & NW Market St;  where the new Harry Potter was showing, so I am informed).   We did a few there, including our newly-resurrected Touchbridge.  Do note the giant toadstool street ornament.  And the Nordic national flags.   We'd see more of them the next day.

Evening spent upstairs in this loud, dark and & pub, with indifferent food.   Adam and Karl played pool.  Altogether, not our best day.   Of course, things would have been helped if Gus had been around, but he still hadn't shown.

This day we began, again with Sound & Fury, and in light rain, at South Lake Union Park.  S&F wanted to dance on the grass, braving the dangers of copious goose shit, but we insisted that we only dance on hard surfaces, where goose shit is easier to spot.  We did several there, including a couple of jigs.  Here you see us hard at work on Mr. Morse.

Then we moved off to some sort of fairground around the Space Needle, watched some leaping dogs for a while, then found a spot and did a bit more dancing, with some competition from an Andean band and a solitary bluesman.   Having satisfied ourselves that we had exhausted local interest in our art, we noticed that it was time to move on to our next appointment, at Poulsbo, which required our taking yet another ferry, this time to Bainbridge Island. Ten dollars of tour resources were saved by our securing passages for one child and one senior.  We must invite Alistair.  Perhaps someone noticed that this was our final ferry-ride of the trip;  but for whatever reason, we decided to do a few dances shipboard.   Anyone have any pics?

In Poulsbo (where the nordicness was palpable), we began in a sort of band-stand on the waterfront park.  Pretty picturesque location, with nice views and a good sprung floor.  The Swanson clan was much in evidence.

We did many dances there before going off for lunch at the Hare and Hounds.   After some food and drink, we got down to the best part of any tour:  impromptu dancing in the side-walk.
After all that, we had an important engagement, chez fficth, with the salmon you see below.   Once again, many thanks to the hosts for a wonderful end of tour feed;  much appreciated.

But food and drink was not all:   there was yet more impromptu dancing down in the yard.  Even Brighton Camp made an appearance!

Hugo and Lacy were offered the King's Shilling, and they were so gracious as to accept.   It was not just for show, either:  they showed up in full kit at out next event down DC way later in the fall.  Welcome aboard, both!

We lost Karl early today.   Which was a shrewd move on his part, since it released him from the health-threatening exertions of the Great Boxspring Migration stunt at the Swanson houseboat.  During the day, others made their several ways homewards, resign that Gus would not be making the tour after all.
A fine memorial to 30 years of Thames Valley;  all should be proud of what the team has achieved in that time, and should look forward to future glories.
!Long Live Thames Valley International!