Schooner Zodiac Spirits and Seafood Cruise – Day 1

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Schooner Zodiac Spirits and Seafood Cruise – Day 1

WJ Tested: Sailing the San Juan Islands Aboard Schooner Zodiac Included Visits to James Island, Lopez Island and Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.

First Mate Kris Jones Welcomes Passengers Aboard Schooner Zodiac

First Mate Kris Jones Welcomes Passengers Aboard Schooner Zodiac

Sometimes the second time around is even more exciting than the first! Well, that’s just how we felt as we joined Schooner Zodiac for the 4-day Spirits and Seafood Cruise, our second trip aboard this historic wooden tall ship. Upon boarding all passengers were assembled on the deck and First Mate Kris Jones gave an overview of the ship and safety.

Life Vest Demonstration

Volunteer crew member Jacki gives a life vest demonstration to passengers

Next up was volunteer crew member Jacki, who gave us more safety info, a life vest demonstration and introduced Captain Tim Mehrer and various members of crew – Richard, Sam, Amanda, Ken, Jordan, Cook Ian Relay… and Abby the cat. Following Jacki’s demo we were given our assigned bunk numbers and shown below to the main salon by another member of the volunteer crew.

Schooner Zodiac Salon and Bunks

Schooner Zodiac Salon and Passenger Bunks

Although the bunks are comfortable, they are not well-suited to anyone claustrophobic (Viv slept with the curtains open and was fine) as they afford very little headroom (forget sitting up in bed). A pillow, sheet, blanket and lamp are provided in the bunk, but passengers should bring their own sleeping bag to use during the trip.

Schooner Zodiac Bunk 28

Viv was assigned bunk 28 in the salon on Schooner Zodiac

By 10:30 am Schooner Zodiac motored out into Bellingham Bay – which we didn’t even realize had happened until after we went back up on deck (good news for anyone that gets seasick).

Passengers on Schooner Zodiac cruises have the option of participating (or not) in the daily sailing activities. From complete novices to experienced sailors this is a wonderful learning opportunity to help sail this magnificent wooden schooner built in 1924. For those that just want to sit back, take in the scenery and leave the sailing up to others, that’s perfectly acceptable, too.

Schooner Zodiac Volunteer Crew Member Ken

Viv was assigned to the main boom. Under the guidance of volunteer crew member Ken, the main boom was maneuvered using lots of muscle power.

So you’re not familiar with sailing terminology? No problem! Working alongside Schooner Zodiac’s skilled crew that are used to training complete novices is one of the best ways to learn. Jill was assigned to assist with the topping lift on the mainsail and Viv was on the main boom. When the cry of “Sailing Stations” rang out, all crew and passengers quickly made their way to their assigned tasks.

Time to Raise Schooner Zodiac's Sails

Many hands and lots of muscle are needed when it is time to raise Schooner Zodiac’s sails.

Raising the 4000 sq. ft. mainsail of Schooner Zodiac, the largest on the west coast of North America, is no easy task. As many hands and as much muscle that is available are required to raise the mainsail as the First Mate called out “Haul away peak!” and “Haul away throat!”.

Schooner Zodiac's Mainsail is 6000 sq. ft.

Schooner Zodiac’s mainsail is 4,000 sq. ft., the largest working mainsail on the west coast of North America.

Once all of Schooner Zodiac’s four sails were raised and secured it was time to coil the lines on deck before sitting back and enjoying the spectacular scenery of the San Juan Islands as we sailed by.

Passengers pitch in to coil the lines.

Passengers pitch in to coil the lines once the sails are raised.

Jill Enjoys Sailing on Schooner Zodiac

Jill enjoys sailing on Schooner Zodiac

After all that expended energy, we were happy when at 1:30 pm Cook Ian Relay rang the bell calling all passengers and crew to lunch. One thing to note, nobody goes hungry! For lunch we enjoyed tomato basil soup, Reuben sandwiches, Shepherd’s pie and two kinds of salads.

During the time spent both motoring and under sail, passengers were able to take part in duty rotation. These 30-minute assignments included the chart room (learning how to read sailing charts and GPS), time at the helm (in charge of keeping the mighty “Z” on course), bow watch (looking out for obstacles of all sizes) and messenger (relaying messages between the bow watch and helm).

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

What Goes Up Must Come Down! Time to drop and secure Schooner Zodiac’s mainsail.

As well as taking all hands to raise the sails, it also takes them to lower and secure the sails.

Passengers and Crew Furl the Jib

Schooner Zodiac passengers and crew help furl the jib.

Viv at the Helm of Schooner Zodiac

Captain Tim Mehrer instructs Viv while at the helm of Schooner Zodiac while sailing through the San Juan Islands.

Once our sailing was finished for the day, Schooner Zodiac dropped anchor in the bay between Decatur Island and James Island. At 5 pm passengers were transported on one of the motorized dinghies over to James Island (a state park) where we enjoyed a picnic (salami with cheese, cashews, crackers, hot crab dip and assorted cheeses) and wine tasting.

Zodiac to James Island State Park in Rosario Strait

Passengers take a dinghy over to James Island State Park in Rosario Strait for a wine tasting by Masquerade Wines.

Michael Davolio, the host from Masquerade Wine Company of Bellingham, Washington, introduced passengers to six Columbia Valley wines:

  • 2012 Chenin Blanc – Columbia Valley
  • 2012 Pinot Gris
  • 2011 Chardonnay – Columbia Gorge
  • 2011 Rose Cabernet Franc
  • Syrah Columbia Valley
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Zodiac to James Island State Park in Rosario Strait

Michael Davolio introduces Schooner Zodiac passengers to Masquerade Wine Company during a visit to James Island State Park.

The crew returned at 6:45 pm in the small motor dinghies to take us back to the Zodiac.

Schooner Zodiac with Decatur Island in the Background

Schooner Zodiac with Decatur Island in the Background

Spectacular views of Mt. Baker and surroundings were visible from our location between Decatur Island and James Island as we enjoyed the evening light flicker off the ocean.

View of Mt. Baker and Anacortes Ferry from Schooner Zodiac

View of Mt. Baker and Anacortes Ferry from Schooner Zodiac.

Dinner aboard was served around 8:30 pm and dining on deck was enjoyed by all as the sun started to slowly slide behind Decatur Island. Cook Ian filled our stomachs once again with choices including spaghetti (served with a white clam sauce or red mushroom and sausage sauce), cheese sticks, bread, two salads, and dessert (cherry shortbread cookies and a coffee/almond mousse). Schooner Zodiac provided a few bottles of Masquerade wine to accompany dinner.

Dining on Deck of Schooner Zodiac as the Sun Sets

Passengers and crew enjoy convivial conversation while dining on the deck of Schooner Zodiac as the sun sets.

Once the sun set and darkness fell, some of the crew and a few younger passengers huddled around, passing Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, to read out loud.

As the night was beautiful and not chilly, at 10 pm we decided to sleep out on deck. So we brought our sleeping bags and sleeping pads (we had brought them with us just in case) up on deck and hunkered down under the stars.  What a spectacular way to complete an exhilerating first day back aboard Schooner Zodiac!

Next… Sailing on Schooner Zodiac to Lopez Island

If You Go:


Note: WAVEJourney were guests of Schooner Zodiac for their July 18 – 21, 2013 Spirits and Seafood Cruise. Read our full disclosure statement to see that this has no effect on our reviews.


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