Sea chanteys swell over Port Gamble Bay

PORT GAMBLE — A storm front moving in over Port Gamble, screeching gulls and a steely cold Port Gamble Bay provided the perfect backdrop for the haunting melodies and upbeat jigs that echoed out from the lawn near the Port Gamble General Store Sunday afternoon. Residents bundled up with blankets, coats and loved ones, allowing themselves to be transported back to the olden seafaring days during the second annual Port Gamble Maritime Music Festival.

The celebration harbored five bands and performers with their best sea chanteys and nautical yarns and welcomed attendees to stay after the music ended at 8 p.m. for an outdoor showing of “Captain Blood,” starring the original swashbuckler himself, Errol Flynn.

“It seems to be going pretty well,” said Northwest Seaport volunteer Alice Winship. The Seattle-based organization works to preserve and enhance tall ships, and the songs and tales that accompanied them when the boats were a mainstay on area waterways. “It’s wonderful music. This setting is really beautiful, too. I love the background and I love the historical feel of this old mill town.”

Many of the musicians not only belted out older Celtic and seafaring songs, but also sang to the new, modern tune of the Pacific Northwest and some of its gems, like the geoduck. Winship said this is one of the reasons this type of music and lifestyle have continued to thrive over the years, the musicians adapt to current times and create new songs to accompany the ways people travel the sea now.

“I came up from Port Orchard, we’re having our murder mystery weekend soon, and I wanted to see if the Budd Bay Buccaneers would work for that,” said Seabeck resident Sharon Pierce. “I am part of the group, and I said I would scout for some of the music.”

“I like the sound of it,” added her 4-year-old granddaughter, Katrina Couch, who was already doing her own jig to the lively music as soon as she arrived.

About 50 to 60 other residents enjoyed the music as well, staying for a particular band or spending all of the five hour festival on a blanket with friends and family. Kingston resident Noel Leary brought her husband and her knitting along, creating socks while enjoying the tunes of Watch the Sky.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “I wish more people knew about this so they could come out and enjoy it too. We really love Celtic and maritime music, so this music festival is perfect for us.”

The music was organized and put on by Puget’s Sound Productions, which started the swashbuckling tradition last year. Winship said it allows Seattle-area organizations, like the one she works with, to come across the water and enjoy one of the true historical naval towns.

“I like how the performers mention the Northwest,” she said. “There’s such a wonderful Northwest maritime music and working maritime tradition in this area.”

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