Next year, one of my favorite ships will celebrate her 90th (yes, 90th) birthday. Originally built in 1924, the lovingly-restored Schooner Zodiac will sail a full season of unique voyages through Washington State and beyond in 2014, in celebration of this auspicious occasion.

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

Schooner Zodiac at anchor off Friday Harbor in Washington’s San Juan Islands. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Despite the fact that the Zodiac sails from Bellingham, Washington – less than an hour across the border from my Canadian homebase – I had never heard of her until last year. I discovered her entirely by accident, and through almost no involvement on my own. But I enjoyed the experience so much that I’ve been back onboard three times since then, and am already planning to return again in 2014.

Read our Live Voyage Report from onboard Schooner Zodiac’s 2012 Wine Cruise

Read our Live Voyage Report from onboard Schooner Zodiac’s 2013 Brew Cruise

Part of what makes the Zodiac unique is her crew. While some change with each season, there’s an astonishing number of regulars onboard, most of whom volunteer their time aboard her in order to increase their seagoing hours. But there’s one interesting constant with the Zodiac that’s worth mentioning: nearly all the crew return because they love this ship, which – thanks to the care put in by people like Captain Tim Mehrer and Port Captain Chris Wallace and, frankly, the entire team – doesn’t look a day over a year old.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The other aspect that has drawn me back again and again is the onboard experience. There’s simply nothing like it. These sailings are active and educational; you not only learn about sailing, but you help to actually sail the ship by raising sails, pulling in lines (there’s no such thing as a ‘rope’ here), and even taking turns on bow watch, reading charts, and actually steering this magnificent ship under the watchful eye of several senior crewmembers.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Learning all about beer onboard Zodiac’s Brew Cruise this past June. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There are two kinds of accommodation aboard the Zodiac: berths and staterooms. Berths are, as you might imagine, just what they sound like: individual sleeping bunks situated in the ship’s attractive, wood-panelled Salon. Staterooms are small but cozy and effective for those who want a bit more privacy. I’ve personally stayed in both, and I loved both equally. The stateroom feels fantastically nautical, but there’s nothing wrong with a standard berth, either.

Passengers enjoying themselves in Zodiac's Lounge. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Passengers enjoying themselves in Zodiac’s Lounge. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

On the first day, there’s always a bit of trepidation as the 20-or-so guests look nervously at each other before turning in for the night. And then a funny thing happens: morning comes, and everyone realizes that sleeping in private berths situated in the same lounge isn’t bad.

It’s actually fun!

By the second morning, people feel comfortable enough to stroll across in their pyjamas to the “head” for a quick freshening up, and at night, spontaneous card games break out in the main lounge that often last until the generator is turned off at 11pm and the lights are extinguished.

The cozy Salon aboard the Schooner Zodiac. Yes, those are proper "berths" behind the curtains - and they're very comfortable!

The cozy Salon aboard the Schooner Zodiac. Yes, those are proper “berths” behind the curtains – and they’re very comfortable! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Next year, I’ll be sailing with the Zodiac aboard her Forest Sun Cruise on August 7 – 10, 2014. Since I’ve done a special Brewery sailing and a Vineyard sailing with them, the next obvious choice is this unique musical itinerary featuring San Francisco-based singer-songwriter Forest Sun. Accompanying him on this voyage are his singing partner Ingrid Serban and Grammy-nominated Adam Roszkiwicz on mandolin.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Zodiac’s 2014 itinerary scheduled has just been released, and includes everything from the always-popular Brewery Cruises and Wine Cruises to the massive voyage up to Desolation Sound. These always sell out well in advance, so it’s a good idea to book early.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, the Zodiac is one of the best-kept secrets around. And if you’re headed this way next year for an Alaskan cruise, do yourself a favor: make time for a quick sailing, because you won’t experience anything like it anywhere else.

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

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

More information on the Schooner Zodiac’s 2014 itinerary lineup can be found by viewing their website!


2 Responses to Schooner Zodiac 2014 Itineraries Released

  1. Melinda Cooper says:

    We took the Desolution Sound trip a few years ago and it was a trip of a lifetime. The crew and passengers were awesome. We met so many great people, the 12 days went so fast. We tell our friends it’s a MUST trip.

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