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Friday Harbor, Navy-proof Gin and the Snoqualmie Brewing Company
Thursday, June 28, 2013
Today, guests aboard the Schooner Zodiac awoke to a calm morning at anchor off Eastsound on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan chain of islands nestled off the coast of Washington State.
Only the chirping of birds and the lapping of water against the hull could be heard until Zodiac’s cook Ian rang the bell at 7 am sharp, signalling the start of breakfast. On the menu today: pancakes and hashbrowns served with your choice of freshly-sliced pineapple or mango along with yogurt, granola or cereal.
Of all the days I have spent onboard the Zodiac (today marks my seventh), I have never eaten below decks. If the weather is nice, there is nothing like taking your meals topside under the shadows of the ship’s towering masts.
Today, I did just that, enjoying my breakfast and a piping hot cup of coffee up on deck, within sight of the wispy clouds that rolled over the low mountains of Eastsound.
After breakfast, I helped Zodiac’s UK deckhand Sam hose down the wooden decks with saltwater pumped aboard in order to keep them in tip-top condition. Of course, such an activity was entirely optional, but one that I truly enjoyed. Guests tend to develop a real sense of pride in helping Zodiac look her best, and while I was ‘swabbing the decks’, others were helping to polish the ship’s brightwork in preparation for her arrival in Seattle’s South Lake Union in time for the boat show next week.
Once we began our morning of sailing, Jacki gave guests a quick crash-course on some of the basics of sailing, and a bit of theory behind how sailing works and the role the wind plays in navigating a schooner. We learned about port and starboard tacks, the differences between sails, and why preventers are used to limit the range of motion of the mainsails aboard the schooner Zodiac.
Once again, I participated in a standard watch consisting of time spent in the chart room, on bow watch, acting as a radio relay, and at the helm. Much as I love the helm position (steering a schooner that’s nearly 200 feet long from bowsprit to stern is a heck of a rush!), I am growing to love standing on bow watch, as it frequently offers some of the most stunning – and serene – views aboard the entire ship.
At 3pm, we arrived at our anchorage off Friday Harbor. With a population of just over 2,000 people, Friday Harbor is a quaint town situated on a picturesque hillside and is, understandably, quite popular with tourists thanks to a Washington State Ferry dock that disembarks passengers in the center of town.
Our destination, though, was nearby Roche Harbor and the San Juan Island Distillery.
We visited here on my previous trip aboard the Schooner Zodiac as part of her wine-themed cruise, but I was looking forward to coming back here to sample their fabulous Dry Apple Cider again, not to mention the distillery’s stunning lineup of gin. In fact, their Spy Hop Gin was recently awarded a Silver medal by the Denver American Distilling Institution.
My personal favorite – besides their dry cider – was the “Navy Proof” gin, which clocks in at nearly 60% alcohol content. But the distillery is passionate about using local ingredients that can be found right in their own backyard, including lavender and Mdrone bark.
A few ciders and gin’s later, guests were able to explore – or wobble – around Friday Harbor. I went to the fantastic Griffin Bay Bookstore on Spring Street and purchased a book on the sinking of the Princess Sophia – is that bad luck? Superstitions waved aside, I continued on for some mint chocolate chip ice cream at the foot of Spring Street near the harbour, which I was able to enjoy while watching the various Washington State Ferries sail in and out.
At 6:30pm, we returned to the Zodiac at anchor and set sail for our overnight anchorage – the picturesque cove known as Parks Bay, located across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
We anchored here last year on my wine cruise, and the gorgeous sunset we experienced here became my most talked-about evening onboard the Zodiac.
Tonight, Mother Nature did not disappoint.
While the sky put on a show of vibrant colours for us, Dave Eiffert from the Snoqualmie Brewery – who sailed aboard as a guest – took time to organize an on-deck tasting of his varied brews for us, including a sampling of the best Kolsch I’ve had outside of Germany, appropriately named after the Schooner Zodiac.
Like last night, I confirmed IPA’s aren’t my bag – but that I absolutely loved their Copperhead Pale Ale, and simply can’t get enough of the dark, rich and creamy Steam Train Porter.
On top of it all, Dave is as personable and easygoing as they come. He spoke passionately about his love for beer (he and his wife Kit even have three taps in their house) and about the company he founded along with four others back in 1997. He answered questions about brewing, ingredients, and what makes a great beer, and I appreciated his fantastic sense of humour.
While at anchor, Zodiac’s Chris, Jeff and Captain Tim even brewed a batch of Zodiac’s own “Schooner Rat IPA”, which will be ready for sampling on the October brew cruise later this year. Past brews have included the clever “Plimsoll Line IPA” with the tagline, “It’ll Get You Loaded.” For a look at why that’s so funny, click here.
But once again in Parks Bay, the sunset stole the show, keeping guests and crew alike on deck until the last embers of the day faded into darkness just after 10:30pm.
You can’t buy memories like that.
Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow aboard the Schooner Zodiac as we sail over 40 nautical miles to Port Townsend! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
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