Wailing at Whales

Sitka Historical Society 2019 Brew Cruise.

It was weird, we were on an Allen Marine boat and the whales were playing all around us, and while some people took time to watch them most people were pre-occupied with beer, brats and bagpipes. (One friend said, we can see whales every day, but bagpipes!!!) It was the Sitka Historical Society’s annual Brew Cruise.  Sitka commemorates the day the United States “took possession” of Alaska from the Russians, and of course there is all sorts of Russian American references but as long as I have lived in Sitka the biggest draw of Alaska Day has been bagpipes.  Every year the Seattle Firefighters Pipe and Drum Corps comes to Sitka to play for dances, in school, in the parade, on the radio, at the Sitka fire hall and, mostly, in bars.  Bagpipers and Keystone Kops dressed in Keystone Kop uniforms that include feather boas.  October is usually the rainy month and people get a little silly, well a lot silly.

Alaska Day is this coming Friday but Sitka celebrates for a week. And the pipers will be here for a week.  The rest of the state does not know what the heck Alaska Day is, although state workers do get the day off.  Sitka feels obligated to party on behalf of the rest of the state.

This year some of the fire fighters have spiffy new Seattle Fire Department Jimi Hendrix patches on their arms.  The drummer also has the amazing ability of setting her beer on her snare drum and playing the drum on a moving boat without spilling a drop.  These guys and gals are real pros. 

Some of the New Archangel Russian Dancers are also on-board dancing in XTRA TUFFS (Sitka Sneakers.) When the two Allen boats rafted up in Silver Bay they danced to the pipes and drums, which has also become kind of a Sitka Tradition.  I don’t know how the whales reacted to the wailing pipes but they were pretty active and pretty close. 

Drew, Rich and Pig Nosed Bob were on a lower deck playing rock and rockabilly.  Russian Dancers can dig that too.  And someone played the turtle, which looks like a flying saucer, or perhaps a squashed “death star” but I think is kind of a steel drum.  You can see him holding it up in one of the pictures.  It was an ethnically and musically diverse party, and what a party it was on a crisp, clear fall day in Silver Bay.

I wandered around with a brat in one hand and a camera in the other.  I must have operated the DSLR and zoom, one handed, pretty adroitly because several people (i.e. almost everyone who doesn’t know me) asked if I was a professional photographer.  

“Nope, a DJ.”

The brats were excellent, I am told the beer was good, I had some but am really not a good judge of beer.  The fact that I actually had two cups of something called 9.2 beer says it was better, to my palate, than most beers.  I’m a wine kind of guy.

2 thoughts on “Wailing at Whales

  1. Rich…I’ve never heard that instrument being called a “turtle” before but rather a “handpan”. It is a relatively new instrument in the music world and one my husband has decided to learn. (He is one to go for unique hobbies!) If you Google it you will find many YouTube videos…so calm and relaxing to listen to!

  2. Hal introduced it as a turtle and it looked like it fit. Perhaps he made it up on the spot.

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