The trees on Thetis Island, British Columbia are the similar species of the Pacific Northwest that I know and love: Western Red Cedars, Doug Firs, Sitka Spruce. Thetis is one of many small Islands off the eastern shore of Vancouver Island. Home to only about 200 permanent residents, two miles wide and three miles long, this is a unique place to be. From what I’ve gathered, many of the folks here live in boats parked in the marina or are just passing through by boat. Fishing vessels, sailboats and yachts gather at the main marina in front of the pub where we played a three hour set last night and will again tonight. We are one week into our two weeks in British Columbia already.
Last Monday we rode the ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia. The ferry is huge and sturdy and fast, taking a little over an hour to cross the 40 miles across the Salish Sea. We are first encompassed by a thick fog but as the morning progresses and we near Victoria, the sun is shinning on the open water. Seaplanes and water taxis go about their business and are dwarfed by the huge ferry as we approach the provincial capital. Customs goes along smoothly and we are soon on our way to Duncan, where we meet up with Meryl (by coincidence also traveling on the island) for lunch, check into our Airbnb and play our first show of the B.C. tour as part of the 39 Days of July Music Festival (where we play again the following Saturday). Seeing Meryl boosts my spirits. Being one of my closest friends, it is a treat to meet up with her while on tour. We did the same last year here, as a place we both love and just can’t get enough of.
Since we stayed at our Airbnb one week with only three gigs, a gorgeous tree house style studio with a beautiful view and very cool hosts, we got to explore this area of the island in depth. Wine tasting, dessert sampling, produce finding, hiking and general wandering was how we spent most of our off days while in the Cowichan Valley. The environment here is similar to the Olympic Peninsula yet has its own unique beauty.
Thursday, we played a casual gig (tips only) at Riot Brewing in Chemainus. We played here last year too and had a great time. It’s a brewery with a friendly local crowd and is very dog friendly. Next Friday we’ll play here again, a more official gig. Saturday, we played again at the 39 Days of July Music Festival. Hosted and organized by Longevity John, a man with a long grey half beard, this is an amazing music extravaganza with free music in a central park of Duncan for 39 days straight from noon to 8pm. Musicians from all over Canada and the U.S. perform. It’s a homey, community focused event and a gift to the folks of Duncan.
We could have stayed in the Cowichan Valley for another two weeks and not even come close to exploring all of its hidden charms. One of our favorite vineyards was Averill Creek, where not only did we find some delicious Foch, but they offered free tastings and live music on their beautiful patio, which overlooked the water. A favorite hike was Stoney Hill, a loop through a thick forest to spectacular views of the water and the nearby Salt Spring Island.
Monday morning, we caught the ferry in Chemainus to Thetis island and later played our first of two evenings of music at the marina restaurant. There is a different and slower feel here, a true “island time” sort of community. I suspect many of the folks who live here decided to get away from the chaos of the mainland for a more focused and humble way of life. We’ve been welcomed and have gotten to know some of the locals as well of those who are passing through. This is a place where I do not feel like an outsider when I mention we live out of our van, as that simpler way of life is respected and sought after here.