“Ships are the nearest things to dreams that man has ever made.”

–          Robert N. Rose

Sunset aboard the Schooner Zodiac; a magical moment. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Sunset aboard the Schooner Zodiac; a magical moment. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I’m always asked what my favorite cruise is, and I never have a good answer. The truth is that I have enjoyed all of my cruises for different reasons. But when someone asks what the most unique cruise experience I’ve ever had is, there’s always one ship that instantly comes to mind: the Schooner Zodiac.

Based out of Bellingham, Washington – little more than 45 minutes across the border from my Canadian home – the Zodiac is an authentic schooner originally constructed in 1924 for the Johnson & Johnson family. Today, she is lovingly maintained by a crew of willing volunteers led largely by Captain Tim Mehrer (who has also served as an Officer aboard the exquisite Sea Cloud) and Port Captain Chris Wallace.

Heading back to Schooner Zodiac in preparation to move to her overnight anchorage at Parks Bay. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Schooner Zodiac at anchor off Friday Harbor. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The onboard experience is one-of-a-kind: guests get to take an active role in sailing this beautiful vessel, from standing bow watch to actually steering the Zodiac. And then, of course, there’s the raising of the sails themselves.

It’s truly a sight to behold.

Guests helped polish Zodiac's brightwork to keep her sparkling! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Guests helped polish Zodiac’s brightwork to keep her sparkling! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

While I’d gladly go back for another wine cruise or brewery tour, the Zodiac offers so many diverse and unique theme cruises that I’d almost feel compelled to try them all before repeating one.

The best of both worlds might be found in their August 30 – September 2 San Juan Islands Wine & Seafood Cruise. This four-day journey features excursions and tastings at vineyards like Lopez Island Winery and Westcott Bay Cider, which makes some amazing ciders and distilled spirits. If you’ve tried the grocery-store-variety-cider, you haven’t tasted real cider yet! The ship will even drop her crab pots and feature some finely-prepared seafood to boot.

Step onboard for a truly classic sailing experience! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Step onboard for a truly classic sailing experience! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Then, there’s the Oktoberfest Brewery Cruise on September 26 to 29. Having just experienced their Summer Brewery Cruise, my mouth waters just thinking about this. Celebrate Oktoberfest in the San Juan Islands and meet some of the fine folks involved with Pike Ales, Snoqualmie Brewing Company, Port Townsend Brewing Company, and others.

Zodiac's Chart room and kitchen skylight are visible in this photograph. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Zodiac’s Chart room and kitchen skylight are visible in this photograph. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

October 4 sees the start of a three-day Windjammer Gam itinerary that will have the Zodiac rendezvous with the Pacific Northwest windjammer fleet. If you love the sight of tall ships sailing (who doesn’t?), then this itinerary offers some amazing photographic opportunities, not to mention a chance to meet up with the largest fleet of windjammer schooners in North America.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If you just want to get your feet wet, there is an evening Winemaker’s Dinner Sail that is still available on the evening of Tuesday, August 27. This sailing features Bellingham’s Masquerade Wine Company and includes wine tastings, dinner, and a complimentary Zodiac wine glass.

Enjoying a glass of wine aboard the Schooner Zodiac while at our evening anchorage near Frost Island. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Enjoying a glass of wine aboard the Schooner Zodiac while at our evening anchorage near Frost Island. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The season ends this year with a San Juan Islands Autumn Getaway on October 11. This three-day sailing is also something of a fantastic mystery, with wind and tides determining the exact itinerary. But Zodiac could toodle out in Bellingham Bay and still offer an enjoyable experience; indeed, it’s almost like having your own privately-crewed yacht.

My travels in the next few months are taking me from Europe to the Maritimes to Asia and back again to Europe – yet the experience aboard the Zodiac is so enjoyable that I’m trying to find the opportunity just to hop onboard one last time this year.

Judging by the number of familiar passengers – and passengers who have become crew – I’m not alone!

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Related Live Voyage Report: Schooner Zodiac’s San Juan Islands Winery Cruise 2012

Related Live Voyage Report: Schooner Zodiac Bellingham to Seattle Brewery Cruise 2013

From the Deck Chair will return tomorrow with a run-up to our next Live Voyage Report beginning this Friday from Rome, Italy!

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!