This Wine Diva loves …well… her wine. That includes pretty much anytime and anywhere. But it’s the unexpected wine adventures that call my name and beckon me to throw caution to the wind. Perhaps one of my most unique wine escapades was the sunny summer afternoon I spent on a wine cruise aboard the Schooner Zodiac in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The 160 foot windjammer Schooner Zodiac set sail for 6-hour wine and dine tour in the scenic waters of Puget Sound. My vision for the day was a wine and dine where a professional staff would take care of its guests every whim – mine included. Well…there’s a yes and a no in that scenario.
With a main mast that towers over twelve stories high and the largest working mainsail on the north coast, the gaff-rigged two-masted tall ship Schooner Zodiac is a living, working piece of maritime history. Her decks and beams are living testament to the wide array of faces and places this Windjammer has seen on her 88 year journey.
The Zodiac is operated by a licensed captain and experienced team of volunteer crew members. Note the term “volunteer.” This would have a big impact on my time on the boat. She departs her dock in Bellingham, Washington for a wide variety of public and private charters, as well as evening and day sails from spring through fall, exploring the untouched anchorages of the San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf Islands. It’s a gorgeous “ride,” but wait there’s a catch. Guests are encouraged to help out with some of the sailing duties.
Yup, whether you are there for a day or a week, you become part of the sailing team. At first I resisted the “call” to assit, wanting to soak in some rays, chat with friends, enjoy the changing landscape and sip some Sauvignon Blanc; but darn there’s something about the wind and the tides and the romance of getting involved with this old schooner that dictates a self-immersion course on volunteer activities.
Actually raising sails and dropping anchor between sips of great wine and food is quite special. In all honesty, I did more cheering for the other volunteer crew than actual hands on stuff, but still the thrill of being involved was very cool. The crew is patient and good at reinforcing positive participation and tolerating guests with minimum skill and strength. As Captain Bob Bitichin says, “The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude.”
The opportunity to learn to sail, reading charts, and taking a watch at the helm is all there for each guest to be a part of should they wish. If you take a multi-day cruise expect a day of beautiful sailing and in the evenings, after anchoring in a peaceful bay, time to explore an island or paddle a kayak. Anticipate seeing pods of orca whales, spiraling bald eagles, sprinting porpoises and inquisitive harbor seals on your voyage. Hearty, delicious meals are served by the Zodiac’s experienced cook. My sail included lovely hors d’oeuvres, wine, a deck-side barbeque, lots of yummy side dishes and a lip-smacking dessert. Certainly, there is no rustic living in the food and wine department.
Sleeping arrangements are a bit more casual. You’ll sleep on board in the ships’ quarters. The ship has three bathrooms and two hot showers on board. Expect to share most facilities, but you can pay extra for your own compact stateroom. Pack light but purposeful. Summer can be anywhere between cool to warm to hot on any given day – bring sunblock and a hat, and a pair of sunglasses. A pair of shorts is a must and if you feel like braving the ocean temperatures, swim wear is a great idea. Part of the fun of visiting the islands is going ashore on remote beaches. There isn’t always a dock, so you may be landing on the beach trekking through water, sand and mud. A pair of cheap waterproof boots – or just sandals that can get wet – is a good idea. Layered clothing, including turtlenecks and tights or long underwear are necessary for most mornings and evening comfort. Foul-weather gear like waterproof footwear, pants and jacket is necessary when it rains or you’ll be stuck down below in your cabin or bed while everyone else is having the time of their lives in the summer rains. An inexpensive hooded rain jacket and pants is a good idea.
If you’re like me, you’re already thinking about your next vacation. The Schooner Zodiac offers a cruise, theme and price point for everyone. Coming up in 2013 there are 16 cruises to choose from. You’re sure to find one of the following to your liking. Here are a few of my recommendations.
Father’s Day Get Away Cruise
Date: June 14 – June 16, 2013 (3 days)
Standard Bunk: $600.00 per person, includes all meals
Stateroom: $675.00 per person double occupancy.
Celebrate father’s day by embarking on a San Juan island cruise on schooner Zodiac. Let the wind and the tides dictate the itinerary. Raise sails each morning and drop anchor in secluded bays come afternoon.
Summer Northwest Brewery Cruise ~So many brews, at last enough time!
Date: June 27 – June 30, 2013 (4 days)
Standard Bunk: $875.00 per person, includes all meals. (Early Boarding W/ Dinner And Tastings $95 Extra) /Stateroom: $975.00 per person double occupancy
Join fellow micro-brewery lovers and home-brew fans from around the world on the Schooner Zodiac as she sets sail for famous San Juan Island brew-pubs!
Nauti-Gals Women Only Cruise- a Tall Ship Sailing Adventure for Women
Date: Aug 6 – Aug 8, 2013 (3 days)
Standard Bunk: $600.00 per person, includes all meals.
Stateroom: $675.00 per person double occupancy
Join other women sailors (and women who are wanting to become sailors), on this fun and exciting cruise aboard the historic tall ship Schooner Zodiac! The Zodiac will embark on a three-day excursion into the San Juan Islands. Our female crew members will demonstrate and supervise sail maneuvers. Passengers can raise the largest working mainsail on the west coast and take their turn at the helm of this 160 ft, 147-ton vessel.
PNW Seafood And Wine Excursion
Date: Aug 1 – Aug 4, 2013 (4 days)
Standard Bunk: $975.00 per person, includes all meals.
Stateroom: $1,075.00 per person double occupancy (includes meals on board and tastings at wineries)
Join us for a unique and memorable cruise in the San Juan islands as we visit local wineries and experience the flavor and variety of Pacific Northwest seafood
Schooner Zodiac http://www.schoonerzodiac.com/default.htm
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism http://www.bellingham.org/