Day two began with the ringing of the breakfast bell at 7 am sharp. After a robust breakfast of French toast, bacon, fresh fruit and fried potatoes, we prepared to set sail. The exhilaration of raising the main sail was short-lived as we soon realized that there was a tear in the sail. So down it came and we continued on our journey using the two smaller sails.
Our port on this day was Lopez Island – and a visit to Lopez Island Vineyards. The winery produces both estate grown organic wines, wines sourced from the Yakima Valley and fruit wines. My favorite was estate grown Siegerrebe. Siegerrebe is a newer grape variety developed in Germany by crossing Madeleine Angevine with Gewurstraminer. The wine is light and crisp with flavors of grapefruit and spice. It is a perfect wine for a warm summer day, and went particularly well while sitting in the lovely yard of Lopez Island Vineyards.
While we were enjoying the sun on Lopez Island a couple of the crew members headed to Friday Harbor in one of the tenders to find the appropriate material and thread to repair the sail. So – how exactly do you stitch up something that is 4000 square feet and weighs a thousand pounds? You can’t hoist the sail to get at the tear because that would further damage the sail. Even though we were dealing with a tear of inches – it is clearly a two person job. One person to climb into the rolled up sail and one to stand outside the sail – passing the needle back and forth. It was quite an operation to watch.
After another night in our cozy little bunks we woke up to discover that we were solidly fogged in. It was a mystical experience to sit on deck, not able to see anything beyond the side of the ship and listen to the fog horns of passing ferries. But – there were important schedules to keep to so we headed out under power. There are certain protocols to sailing in the fog. The captain was in constant contact with the coast guard to keep track of ships in the area. We sounded the fog horn at 5 minute intervals, not only to warm other ships but also to hear the sound bounce of land masses as a way to track where we were. And there was the brave crew member who volunteered for lookout duty high up on the main rigging.
Soon, the sun came out – which was really good since this was to be our longest sail of the trip. It was a good day for some ship maintenance so we were all called to our teams for various jobs. My team was responsible for swabbing the decks. Since the decks are wooden – the best thing for them is actually salt water, which is a great preservative. With newly swabbed desks and shiny polished brass fixings we had the Zodiac in ship-shape in no time. And then we had the day to relax and enjoy.
One of the more interesting members of the crew is Abby, a young cat who has lived on the ship for her entire life. It is not that unusual to find a resident ship’s cat. There are the obvious benefits of having professional pest control on the prowl at all times. There is even a financial benefit involved. Ships that dock in Canada are subject to a $300 rat inspection – except for ships that have a resident cat. So Abby earns her keep. And charms the passengers.
Once we docked at that day’s destination – Roche Harbor, we had a nice hike through the woods to our next stop for “spirit-ual” experience. San Juan Island Distillery, also the home of Westcott Bay Cider specializes in cider, apple brandy and gin.
Their signature gin, Spy Hop Gin is named for the photo-op leaps made by Orca whales when they want to take a look above the surface. The gin is flavored with a variety of berries, flowers, barks and botanicals found on the island. Depending on what is currently fresh and ripe, there is an interesting rotation of gins available only at the Distillery.
From the Distillery we traveled by taxi to San Juan Vineyards, located just 3 miles north of Friday Harbor.
The Vineyard cultivates Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe, and an acre’s worth of Pinot Noir. They also source grapes from the Yakima Valley. Their 2008 Siegerrebe won the Silver Medal at the Washington Wine Competition. The tasting room and gift shop is located in the last standing one-room school house in the San Juan Islands.
After some free time wandering around the picturesque town of Friday Harbor, we returned to the ship for our last night. Dinner that night was Ian’s Famous Paella – cooked on the on-deck BBQ in what looked like the world’s largest skillet. What a treat – prawns, clams and oysters in a delicious sauce.
Along with the visits to various vineyards on the islands – we had the pleasure of two wine experts on board. Carl Pietrantonio of Bellingham wine shop The Purple Smile brought us samples of the shop’s hand selected wines from the Northwest. Carl is also the proprietor of Purple Space which is a premier wine storage facility where customers can keep their “liquid assets” in climate controlled lockers.
Chuck Egner of 37 Cellars Winery shared some award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. For those who prefer un-oaked Chardonnay, their 2011 vintage has a wonderful pineapple-ly note. It went perfect with the Paella and one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Chuck also serenaded us with some lively tunes, played on his 1937 Martin guitar. (Yes – that is where the name of the vineyard comes from.) Chuck and his brother Frank (co-owner) not only make beautiful wine together – they also make music together in their blue grass band. A totally magical evening.
Seven am sharp the next morning the breakfast bell woke us to our last day of sailing. There was feeling of bittersweet in the wind. We started the trip as strangers to one another, we came home with new friends and wonderful memories.
The Schooner Zodiac offers cruises out of Bellingham bay for many different tastes. Not so crazy about wine? The Octoberfest Brewery tour might be more to your liking. The full calendar includes a Photography Cruise, Nauti-Girls – Women Only Cruise and a pirate inspired Mystery cruise. The Schooner is also available for charter trips. Whatever the theme of the cruise is, the Zodiac offers a unique and amazing way to explore the Pacific Northwest.