I was walking along the Inner Harbour in Victoria, British Columbia this past weekend when I spied an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time: the classy and elegant Schooner Zodiac.
The Schooner Zodiac is an absolute win for anyone that loves classic sailing vessels. Built in 1924, this 160-foot long ship has been lovingly preserved and restored and can take 26 guests on overnight cruises, or a maximum of 49 on the ship’s one-day sailings that usually depart roundtrip from Bellingham, Washington between April and October.
The day-sails are a great chance to get out on the water and see what it’s like to sail aboard this gorgeous ship. For me, though, nothing beats the ship’s multi-night cruises through the San Juan Islands.
In the past, I’ve sailed on two special voyages: a wine-themed cruise, and a beer-themed cruise. Both voyages called on some of the most picturesque places in the San Juan Islands, from remote anchorages that you’d be hard-pressed to find on a map to more popular tourist attractions like Friday Harbor and Port Townsend.
My first voyage back in 2012 was something of an accident. My editor at the Vancouver Province at the time offered the sailing to me because she wasn’t all that interested in sailing ships. I, on the other hand, definitely was. That the ship left from Bellingham – just across the United States border from the suburb of Metro Vancouver I lived in at the time – and didn’t require anymore long-haul flights cinched the deal for me.
It’s the smell that hits you first when you step onboard: the sweet, woody scent of decades of varnish and pitch that mingle together like the scent from a fine glass of scotch. Then, you notice the wooden decking beneath your feet, the brass brightwork at the tiller, and the massive sails that have been keeping the Schooner Zodiac under way for the past 92 years.
The sails are new, of course. But the Zodiac has been so lovingly maintained by Captain Tim Mehrer and the ship’s legions of volunteer crew members that she looks – and more importantly, sails – like the day she was launched back in 1924.
Perhaps the best part about the Zodiac – besides her friendly crew and the ship its