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Here & There: Sails and Ales cruise mixes microbrews, relaxation

My brother Gary lives on a classic wooden yacht in Southern California. Now, wait a minute: Before you start thinking how romantic and adventurous that sounds, let me tell you about the constant rubbing this sort of life requires.

That boat demands cleaning and shining nonstop. She is one harsh mistress.

But you can get a taste of the upside for yourself, while someone else does most of the work, with Maple Leaf Adventures’ tall ship escapades.

At least one of these outings involves a lot of beer – something else of which Gary is fond.

The 92-foot schooner, based in Victoria, B.C., has been hauling passengers on natural and cultural history cruises since 1986. Frommer’s has called the Maple Leaf one of Canada’s six “Best Travel Experiences.”

How beer fits into nature or culture I leave for you to determine, and you can perform your primary research during “Tall Sails and Ales,” this year running from April 1 to 7.

The microbrew tasting tour of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands features 50 different beverages, sampled under the guidance of local brewing experts.

Throw in what organizers are calling “succulent food” to go along with your drink – including cream ale apple fritters and stout brownies – and the Gulf Islands’ natural beauty, and you just might have something.

You’ll stop along the way for tasting tours not available to the general public and visit usually inaccessible spots popular with porpoises, sea lions and seabirds.

Should you (for some reason I can’t imagine) have trouble remembering all you’ve learned at the breweries, just turn to your resource booklet, a take-away full of tasting notes, historical anecdotes and more.

Tall Sails and Ales rings in at $2,550 Canadian.

Maple Leaf Adventures has several other April offerings. “Art at Sea in the Gulf Islands” covers similar waters from April 9 to 14, although presumably with more painting and less drinking.

Professional painter Mark Hobson leads the program, steering most of his instruction to intermediate-level watercolorists. The majority of classes are held on board, and daily visits to shore will give you an opportunity to try your hand at pencil or pen and ink sketches to which you may apply watercolor washes later.

Class size is limited to ensure you get plenty of one-on-one instruction in such subjects as driftwood in morning light, wet on wet skies, composition, lighting perspectives and water and reflections. The voyage costs $1,950 Canadian.

The excitement continues April 16 to 21 with “Spring Fling in the Gulf Islands,” another $1,950 trip, this one a celebration of the islands themselves.

Organizers wax rhapsodic about the “green flames of new growth” and the “exuberant, noisy clamor of seals, whales and birds flocking around millions of spawning herring.”

April offers one more shot, and it’s swank enough to earn its own made-up word.

From April 25 to May 6, the “Great Bear Rainforest and Kitlope Supervoyage” takes you into what organizers call “the landscape of the sublime.”

You’ll sail along two-thirds of British Columbia’s coast, through the islands and fjords of the rainforest. The naturalists on board can point out sights of note like mountain goats and natural hot springs.

The Kitlope has been preserved as a wilderness area since 1992. Cecil Paul, an elder of the Killer Whale Clan, will guide you in, tell you stories, relate area Sasquatch lore and more.

The most “super” part of this voyage may be the price: $5,710 Canadian. But I suppose moving a ship that big from place to place isn’t cheap.

Tickets include accommodation, meals, shore excursions, and use of such onboard gear as kayaks, fishing equipment and sea boots.

To book passage or to get a look at what else Maple Leaf Adventures has to offer, visit or call (888) 599-5323.

Catch their drift

You’ve been waiting for it. And it’s finally here.

Grayland, Wash., part of the state’s “Cranberry Coast,” has announced the 46th Annual Driftwood Show and Fifth Annual Glass Float Round-up, March 15 and 16.

As the name suggests, the former event showcases natural driftwood, driftwood carvings and floral arrangements incorporating driftwood, 22 divisions in all.

No such community celebration would be complete without a pancake breakfast, and this one is no exception. And if that’s not enough for you, they’ve got educational opportunities, too.

The editor of Beachcomber’s Alert, Curtis Ebbsmeyer, will be on hand to teach the fine art of “Tracking Flotsam.” Also, a number of artists will show you how they do their thing.

And let’s not forget the round-up, wherein you receive a “hunting license” for a “Lucky Sand Dollar” you can exchange for a hand-blown glass float.

You’ll find more information at or (800) 473-6018.

Regional events

“Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Ceremonial Start, March 1, Anchorage. More than 1,000 dogs set out on their 1,100-mile journey to Nome. (

“Billings Home Improvement Show, March 7-9, Billings. They’re expecting 30,000 people to make their way past 450 exhibit spaces at Montana’s largest home show. (