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Bring a designated skipper

Sun., Feb. 26, 2006

When I was in college, one of the biggest social events of the year was the boat cruise. It involved music, dancing and, I seem to recall, a fair amount of heaving over the side.

Port or starboard, didn’t matter.

So the idea of intentionally mixing alcohol with six days and five nights of sailing sounds a little sketchy to me. But presumably you can control yourself better than the young scholars at my institution of higher learning did.

If indeed you can, go right ahead and sign up for the “Tall Sails and Ales Cruise,” April 5-10. Maple Leaf Adventures, named a “Best Travel Experience” by Frommer’s travel guide, will send you out from Sydney, B.C., bound for the region’s craft breweries and the Gulf Islands.

The 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf accommodates eight in four “cabins” created with curtains hung in the main berth.

Brew historian and all-around raconteur Greg Evans will regale you with color commentary along the way. I’m guessing he knows his stuff; he’s the executive director of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, a member of the Victoria chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale, and the holder of a master’s degree he earned with a thesis on the Vancouver Island brewing industry from 1858-1917.

Sounds like maybe he cares a little too much about beer – though he might meet his match in my friend Billy, who has been known to come home from work, head straight for the refrigerator, hold a bottle to his cheek and coo, “Thank God you’re here.”

Let’s have a look at what else you can expect onboard:

You’ll spend Day 1 cruising the islands, stopping for a walk along the shore and a visit to the Brentwood Inn and Spa, where you’ll taste a little beer, tuck into dinner and get an introduction to the history of brewing.

On Day 2, you’ll head to Nanaimo for lunch and a tasting at the Longwood Brew Pub, followed by dinner and yet another tasting at the Crow and Gate Pub. As you go, you’ll learn about Nanaimo, the historical significance of beer, the days of prohibition and more.

The following day balances the beer-centric material with a little attention to your environs. Take a shore walk, observe the area’s wildlife, get a natural history lesson. Done? Time for more beer!

Evans will discuss food and brew pairings, and recipes that include beer. No doubt, you’ll get to taste a few concoctions, too.

There’s more of the same on Day 4, and the trip winds up with a special dinner, tour and tastings at the Canoe Brewery in Victoria. Even though the sailing portion of the trip is over, you’ll spend one more night on the Maple Leaf, sharing breakfast on Day 6 and disembarking at noon.

Tall Sails and Ale costs about $1,650 U.S., which includes all meals, beer, lectures, recipes, tasting charts, shore trips and optional sailing instruction. Book the trip at or (888) 599-5323.

Bless this boat

A more spiritual take on boating takes place March 18 in Newport, Ore.

The community has been observing the Blessing of the Fleet for more than 50 years. Organizers say the custom hearkens back to 13th-century Italy.

The daylong event kicks off with the Survival Suit Races, wherein teams of three don safety gear and race 50 feet to a life raft.

Later, after a parade of fishing vessels through Yaquina Bay, families gather to pray for their loved ones’ safety at sea. The afternoon also includes a Lost Fisherman’s Memorial Service for those who have died at sea since 1990.

You can find out more at or (800) 262-7844.

Happy campers

Okay, shake it off. Back to alcohol.

For a tidy $400 per person, you can rub elbows with other folks who have $400 to burn at the 15th annual Washington Wines Festival in Seattle.

The March 11 gala and auction isn’t the usual fodder for this column, but one of the auction items caught my eye.

During a two-day, two-night “Winemaking Camp” for four, you can learn the art of winemaking from Ron Coleman of Tamarack Cellars and Walla Walla Vintners’ Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri. Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant will host you for a winemaker dinner, as well.

You’ll head home with a collection from both wineries, and the promise of 30 gallons more of the 2006 harvest. Your hosts will blend their wines together and bottle it later for your future drinking enjoyment.

For tickets to the auction, which includes a winemaker dinner, dancing and art by featured painter Dennis Evans, call (206) 236-6167.

Web site seeing

Like the idea of traveling to Seattle, but just too lazy to get yourself there?

TurnHere, Inc. has the thing for you.

Visit the Web site ( for a virtual visit to six neighborhoods and Pike Place Market. A series of three-to-five-minute films shows you the sights of, say, Belltown or Ballard, introduces you to the locals, and clues you in on what’s hip – while you sit right there in your chair. And (this is the best part), it’s free!

Goodbye authentic experience, hello fuzzy slippers and big bag of Funyuns.

Now I understand this could be a useful tool in planning an actual trip, so if you want to use it that way, I can’t stop you.

The site also gives you a look at Portland’s Alberta Street, Main Street in Vancouver and other spots farther afield.

Regional events

•National Ski Joring Finals, March 11-12, Red Lodge, Mont. Some crazy Scandinavians invented this sport, in which horses pull skiers through a speed course. And being Americans, we absolutely have to figure out who’s No. 1. There will be beer on hand, of course. (; 406-446-3232)

•Dodge National Finals Rodeo, March 15-18, Pocatello, Idaho. Cowboys from 12 national circuits will compete in the country’s second-largest points-qualifying rodeo. (; 208-233-1546)

•Seattle Golf Show, March 17-19. Soak up meetings, seminars, the latest and greatest club technology, and all the golf paraphernalia 175 exhibitors can sling your way. (;



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