The tugboat Swell was first launched in 1912 and has puttered around Vancouver Island’s waterways for the best part of a century. Over the years, she has undergone multiple refits, with the most recent restoration in 2004 costing $3.5 million, upgrading it into a greener, more luxurious, boutique cruiser.
Maple Leaf Adventures took her on and since 2006 have been offering guests plush trips around Vancouver Island and the rest of the archipelago.
This fall, Swell will host twelve guests on a craft beer expedition, travelling out of Sidney and chugging to the southern Gulf Islands. The itinerary includes visiting island micro-breweries, learning about brewing history from the onboard beer historian and, of course, supping fine ales.
“People that love wooden ships and people who love exploring often love great craft beer,” says Maureen Gordon, owner of Maple Leaf Adventures. “We also like to take people to some of the remoter islands, like Cabbage Island or Tumbo Island, places where they can’t get to by ferry.”
The start of the trip will feature micro-brewing elder statesman Paul Hadfield, who was a key member of the fledgling B.C. craft brew movement in the 1980s, and still owns Spinnakers Brewpub in Victoria.
“We’re very honoured he comes out and he often does an amazing beer pairing with chocolate truffles. He usually brings some special, private, family brew that’s from the cellar of Spinnakers and you can’t get anywhere else. The trip is full of special little touches,” says Gordon.
It’s not all liquid gold though, with an onboard chef whipping up foods flavoured with beer; from soups with a twist to porter infused brownies. Nature also plays a big role in the cruise, with shore walks, whale spotting and optional kayaking trips to the outer islands available for those on board. Beer geeks will be well catered for but the company says people often come as much for the cruise and nature as for the suds.
The cruise has some activities and island stops confirmed, with the rest to be determined in the coming weeks and on the trip itself. Swell maintains its tugboat charm but World War One era sailors might have a hard time recognizing the facilities. As well as comfortable cabins, featuring double beds, there is an on-deck hot tub for guests to watch the sun set.
In the past, the beers sampled have included brown ales, lagers, stouts, alt beer, kolsch, bock and wheat beers. Islands on the menu have included Salt Spring, Galiano, Mayne, Protection and Russell. Expect a selection to be paired from each list, based on time and weather.
The four night, five day trip between Oct. 29 – Nov. 1 costs between $3,025 and $3,875. For this and other cruises, contact mapleleafadventures.com.