SOOKE HISTORY: A bicentennial bus trip to Port Renfrew

Marking European exploration into the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Before the re-enactment vessel Sylvia could sail down to Sooke on the voyage from its base at Port Renfrew, its crew needed to be bused to Port Renfrew. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Before the re-enactment vessel Sylvia could sail down to Sooke on the voyage from its base at Port Renfrew, its crew needed to be bused to Port Renfrew. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Elida Peers | Contributed

There was a lot of community spirit back in 1990 when all along the Pacific coast celebrations were held to mark the arrival of the first vessels of European exploration into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1790.

In our case, it was the arrival of the sailing vessel Princesa Real (Princess Royal) under the command of Sub-Lt. Manuel Quimper, into Sooke Inlet, flying the banner of Spain.

Some 6,000 well-wishers gathered at Whiffin Spit on June 23, 1990 to watch the re-enactment as a replica of the Princesa Real, the SS Sylvia, rounded the spit and entered the harbour to be greeted by a T’Sou-ke Nation canoe and a myriad of vessels. (Next week’s photo will feature the T’Sou-ke canoe greeting.)

Before the re-enactment vessel Sylvia could sail down to Sooke on the voyage from its base at Port Renfrew, its crew/passengers had to get to Port Renfrew and get organized. Already aboard the vessel and cooking up a storm was Peter Wilford, tasked with feeding the two dozen passengers/crew on their fun-filled journey.

The passengers mustered at the Sooke Region Museum, as shown in this photo, and were driven to Port Renfrew where they were feted by the coast community who entertained them with an evening bonfire and songfest.

Shown are Marguerite Beltz, Fred Rudd, Bud Gibbons, Lucy Gething, Ron Dumont, Nancy Robertson, Doug Enns, Faith Jacobsen, John Arnett, Edgar Samuel, George and Terry Bell, Ray and Bev Mostowy, Sally Bullen, Jennifer Fisk, Howard Elder, Frank Greenway, Freeman Tovell, Matthew Rimmer and CFAX’s Alan Perry. Joining them in Renfrew for the voyage were residents Lucille Tremblay, Beryl Smith, and Stephen Berrow.

The ship sailed at daybreak. John Arnett, garbed as Manuel Quimper, delighted in his role, and entertained on the way down. Meanwhile, on the spit the morning of the arrival day, tents and porta-potties were set up, 200 cakes were set out, one baked by a volunteer for each year, and the valiant Sooke Lions Club strove to keep order as a wind came up and threatened to blow everything into the water.

The bicentennial event was organized by Sooke Festival Society in conjunction with former CRD director Bob Clark. Virtually all local organizations participated, working in harmony.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.