I was so excited about my sailing trip on the Schooner Zodiac that I could hardly sleep the night before we set sail.
The Zodiac is a 160 ft. windjammer built in 1924 for the Johnson family (of Johnson & Johnson). It is a two-masted gaff topsail Schooner with 7,000 square feet of sail area. The main sail itself is 4,000 square feet.
During the Depression the schooner was sold to the San Francisco Bar Pilots, where she worked outside the Golden Gates until 1972, as the last working schooner pilot in the United States. In the mid 1970’s the Vessel Zodiac Corporation was formed to purchase and restore the ship, which now sails regularly out of Bellingham, taking passengers and crew on amazing adventures.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be a passive tourist on this trip – but rather a “para-crew member” I did my best to prepare. I downloaded a list of common sailing terminology from their website to learn them – and not sound so much like a “land-lubber.” I was a bit intimidated by the length of the list (5 pages) but charmed by some of the more picturesque terms – such as “Baggywrinkle” – which turns out to be large fuzzy things (think really giant caterpillars) on the rigging to prevent wear on the sails.
Bellingham Cruise Terminal, which is located in the historic district of Fairhaven. While we waited to board, the ship was a buzz of activity as the crew prepared for sailing. Soon the crew was ready for us and – full of excitement we filed onto the ship. The first order of business was orientation. We met the crew members, located the life preservers and were given the run-down on ship rules and customs – including toilet etiquette. (yes – you can flush while the ship is in port – and no, you CANNOT flush anything – other than the obvious – except single-ply toilet paper.) Chris, the first mate, explained the rotation of our jobs – but made it clear that participation was voluntary. Sitting back and soaking in the experience was totally allowed. But we all participated and learned quite a bit from the excellent and patient crew members.
Getting to know the crew was a highlight of the experience. A number of them were interns, working toward licensing, including 14 year old Juliette (daughter of first mate Chris) who will be more than ready to take her Captain’s exam when she reaches the minimum age of 19. Soon we were ready to set sail. We got our first chance to crew when it was time to raise the sails. It was definitely a team effort. We lined up on either side of the boom, taking hold of the line and getting ready to hoist.
One side is the “throat” (the part of the sail that goes vertically up the mast) and the other side the “peak” (the top of the sail that angles out from the mast). This requires timing – so we were guided by the first mate’s calls of “Haul away peak!” “Haul away throat!” to know when to pull; and “Hold peak” and “Hold throat” for when to stop pulling (which was a very welcome call. Even with over 25 people pulling – this was very hard work!).
It seemed that we had just gotten under way when the lunch bell sounded. For our first meal, Ian (our cook) prepared a delicious tomato-basil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The passengers ate first, then the crew, then we were welcomed to seconds. What had looked like enough food to feed a small village, disappeared quickly.
We soon arrived at our first port on Lummi Island. We anchored in the bay and then boarded the small tenders to land. Once on land we were transported by van to the Artisan Wine Gallery. The Wine Gallery is a mix of wine store, tasting room, party venue and charm. Owners Rich Frye and Pat Hayes host different vintners to showcase their wines. We were treated to a wonderful tasting by Masquerade Wines. Vintners Bill and Jennifer Kimmerly provided some excellent samples of their wines – made from grapes sourced mostly from Eastern Washington. The highlight, in both taste and label was the 2007 Effervescing Elephant, which is a Columbia Valley sparkling wine. It is 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, and 30% Chardonnay. The label on this bottle of delicious straw-colored wine is a piece of art that was drawn by an elephant! In collaboration with the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project, the winery uses artwork painted by elephants holding paint brushes in their trunks. This particular label was painted by Boon Rod – an eleven year old male. And the best part….10% of sales goes to AEACP to help their conservation efforts. So enjoy your bubbly and save the elephants!
As we prepared to head back to the ship, Chris purchased a couple of cases to take with us for our first on-board happy hour. We motored our way into Chuck-a-Nut Bay, dropped anchor (no drinking while the anchor is up!) and settled in for a delightful evening. While we relaxed on deck – working on the wine – Captain atim was hard at work in the galley preparing a delicious dinner of flank steak, fresh salmon (grilled on the on-deck BBQ) and potato salad.
After a wonderful day it was time to retire. The ship’s generator shuts off at 11 pm, which came a lot sooner than expected – we were all having so much fun getting to know each other. But I was looking forward to my first night in the bunk after all that “hauling and holding”. While it looked very cozy, I was also grateful that I don’t suffer from claustrophobia!
It was a beautiful first day – full of new experiences and new friends. For the next three days, we would explore the San Juan Islands together. In Search of Wind and Wine – Part 2 will be posted next Friday (8/17).