BHS students sail on historic schooner

rbhs By John Foster

Students in Ballard High School’s Ballard Maritime Academy celebrated 10 years of their partnership with the Schooner Zodiac last weekend, serving as crew aboard the historic 160’ sailing vessel.

The Ballard Maritime Academy received a grant to take their students sailing aboard the Zodiac for the first time in 2004, and since then they have done an annual trip aboard the former San Francisco bar pilot vessel as an integral part of their students’ training.

This year’s group departed from Bellingham and set sail for James Island. While aboard the vessel, the students were divided into “sailing stations” while underway, and acted as crew to set, adjust and strike the sails.

In between sailing maneuvers, the students stood watch on the vessel, rotating between the helm, messenger, bow watch and navigation station.

After anchoring at James Island, the students were ferried to shore to explore the popular Marine State Park.

Check out the video below of the students raising the sails:

The next morning, students helped keep the vessel ship-shape, scrubbing the decks, polishing brass and preparing the ship for the day’s sailing. The group spent the day honing their sailing skills, heading for Stuart Island under strong winds.

While underway, the students taught lessons to the crew about such maritime- related topics as sailing superstitions and tattoos, tides and currents, knots and navigation. After anchoring in Prevost harbor, the group hiked across Stuart Island to the Turn Point lighthouse. While there, the students saw seals, sea lions, otters and eagles. On the final day, the crew stood watch in the driving rain to bring the boat back to Bellingham.

In the ten years that the Ballard Maritime Academy has been partnering with Schooner Zodiac, they have had a number of students volunteer to help work on the boat in the winter, and serve as crew in the summer. One of their former students, who attended California Maritime Academy, is now a relief mate aboard the vessel.

The Ballard Maritime Academy is now able to take their students on the annual adventure thanks to the fund-raising of their steering committee. This year’s fund-raising dinner will be May 30th at Leif Erikson Lodge. For information or tickets contact

Photo and video courtesy of Ballard Maritime Academy.

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I always wondered how to spell “skallywag” — go Maritime Academy!