History of the Longboats
On June 16, 1790, the Spanish ship Princessa Real, under Captain Manuel Quimper, arrived off present day Sooke Harbour. The ship’s log noted:
“Day dawned with the sky clear, the land all covered with mist and the wind calm….three canoes of Indians came out from the inlet and insisted that we should go in…”
The Spanish accepted the invitation but used their longboats, as it was far too dangerous to risk the ship until the inlet had been properly surveyed. This was typical of the essential role carried out by longboats as the west coast was explored, surveyed and mapped in detail.
Building the Longboats
The building of T’Sou-ke and her sister longboat, Doña Rosa, was undertaken in 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the founding of Sooke. Following a design by Master shipwright Greg Foster, students from the Edward Milne Community School and local volunteers, working under the guidance of both Greg Foster and shipwright Sean Luttmer, completed the two longboats for launching in April of 1990.
The initial construction of the boats was made possible through support from the Sooke Festival of History Society, Britton Capital, and Sooke Marine Industries. Initial provisioning of gear was supplied by Telus (BC Tel) and HMCS Naden.
The two boats are 27 feet in length, 7 feet in the beam, with an empty weight of 2300 lbs. They were designed approximately 10 feet longer than traditional boats so that two boats could accommodate a class of students. Each longboat has 10 rowing positions and carries 3 lug sails: mizzen, main and fore.
To continue the historical connection the names were selected to reflect the meeting of the Spanish and aboriginal cultures of the local area.
T’Sou-ke: The name is derived from Sooke’s first peoples, and translates as “Stickleback Fish.”
Doña Rosa: This was the name first given by Captain Quimper to present day Secretary Island. We are led to believe it was named after the wife of the Spanish Governor of what is now California.
Since their launch, the longboats and their crews have represented Sooke in numerous events. The boats were a prominent part of Sooke’s 1990 bicentennial celebration of Manuel Quimper’s landing in the Sooke area. This was the first staging of the King of Spain’s Cup competition, which was hosted in Sooke each year from 1990 until 2000 when the cup was retired. Crews have also participated in the international boating competition Pacific Challenge, which takes place each year in various communities around the Pacific Northwest. The boats took part in the Tall Ships Festival of 2006, wooden boat festivals in Vancouver and Port Townsend, and the Victoria Classic Boat Festival, where T’Sou-ke won the ribbon for best pulling boat and best replica in 2004, and best pulling boat in 2007.