SOOKE HISTORY: Twinning with Port Townsend

SOOKE HISTORY: Twinning with Port Townsend

Elida Peers–Contributed

Sooke has traditionally been a maritime community.

A very special time in this culture was in the decade when we held the King of Spain’s Cup longboat competitions here annually, initiated for the Bi-Centennial in 1990.

Seen in the photo is Port Townsend Mayor John Clise speaking at our waterfront ceremony in 1992, standing alongside Lorna Barry, who was our Regional Director at that time. Also speaking at the ceremony was T’Sou-ke elected Chief Jack Planes, while the announcements were called by red-frocked Town Crier Mike Thomas.

It was a time when Pacific maritime history was in the forefront in Oregon and Washington, besides British Columbia.

As 1990 marked 200 years since Spain’s Sub-Lieutenant Manuel Quimper sailed into Sooke Harbour in the sloop Princesa Real, there was a great interest in wooden boat building. Phoebe Dunbar at Edward Milne Community School was one of the leaders in instigating a longboat building program at the school.

Spanish forces had captured the 65-ton British-built fur trading vessel Princess Royal upcoast, and the Spanish crew went on to plant the flag of Spain on our waterfront in 1790. It would be four years before Britain and Spain settled their differences and we once again became a British-claimed territory.

For the 1990 Bi-Centennial, then-regional director Bob Clark invited the King of Spain to be here.

When that didn’t work out, Joan Titus and I, co-chairs of Sooke Festival Society, with Director Clark’s help, were able to persuade Spain’s ambassador to provide the King of Spain’s Cup silver trophy to recognize the International Longboat Competition that was quickly organized.

An international fellowship soon developed, as maritime and wooden boat aficionados from as far away as the Columbia River took the Pacific Coast by storm. (Speaking of the Columbia River, maybe I should do a column about the time that Sooke’s own Bob Hudson was skipper of the longboat Pride of Esquimalt and it overturned in the Columbia, with a helicopter rushing to the rescue of its Sooke crew.)

Port Townsend in Washington, with its wonderful harbour, is an impressive centre for wooden boat building, and it was Port Townsend’s mayor, John Clise, who came up with the idea of twinning our two towns. He came to Sooke to proclaim the honours here in 1992.

This was prior to Sooke’s incorporation in 1999 and Lorna Barry was the regional director who had followed Bob Clark. She had the backing of CRD Regional Board Chair Frank Leonard, when she represented us as the honoured guest at Port Townsend’s City Council the next year.

We are indebted to Angela Bailey for these photographs.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.