Mariners Set Sail on the Zodiac

Possibly the last year of this Sehome Tradition


Sehome’s annual Zodiac trip takes place from May 31 to June 2. The crew will voyage to and explore the San Juan Islands while learning how to sail the historic boat. "It’s really a cool feeling to have the boat being powered by the wind," Hageman said.

Lucy Sun

Student Sailors from a past voyage enjoy the view from the main bow of the Zodiac.

The annual Zodiac trip will be taking place soon, and all Mariners interested in taking part in this unforgettable experience are encouraged to apply. There are only two spots still available. The three-day and two-night long trip starts this Friday, May 31, and ends Sunday June 2. Students explore the San Juan Islands while teaching each other lessons and learning how to sail the historic Zodiac.

Located in Fairhaven next to the Ferry Terminal, the Schooner Zodiac is a historic vessel in Washington State and is preserved as a local non-profit. It can sleep up to 30 people and has four sails. Even more impressive is its sail size, which currently reigns as the largest in the entire west coast.

“It’s pretty historic in that it’s not mechanized, so you need to have everybody pulling on ropes and working together to raise and lower the sails,” Shannon Eubank (social studies) said. “It’s kind of like a physical aspect, but it’s also really relaxing because when you’re sailing, you can just sit back and feel the wind in your face.”

Though most of the expedition consists of sailing and exploring, the Zodiac trip is also an educational experience. Students choose topics related to sailing, such as marine invertebrates or navigation by the stars, and create their own fun lesson to present to their peers throughout the trip.

“We’ll do a couple of lessons here and there to keep the learning going,” Eubank said. “It’s an educational field trip, but it’s student driven. It’s not the teachers that are running it and deciding what they should learn.”

Though the final deadline for the Zodiac trip this year has passed, all Sehome students and staff who are interested in signing up for next year should visit Mrs. Eubank in Room 268.

History of the Zodiac

Modeled after the typical west coast fishing schooner, the Zodiac was made in the 1920s for the heirs of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company. In 1928, it competed in a transatlantic race for the King’s Cup and was later sold to a company in California during the Great Depression. It sailed under the name California before retiring 40 years later. The boat was restored by the Vessel Zodiac Corporation in the 1970s.

The Zodiac trip has been an annual Sehome tradition for over 20 years, and was started by former Sehome teacher Dave Hageman in 1996. It all started when Hageman saw the schooner Zodiac sailing in Bellingham Bay.

“I love to sail and thought to myself, ‘I have to get on to that boat,’” Hageman said.

He later learned that it was a boat for charter and planned a trip for three days in the San Juans for thirty students. The program has since received national recognition from the National Council of Social Studies and has become a cherished Sehome tradition.

Hageman’s favorite part of the trip is getting everyone together to raise the sails. “[The sails] are raised by all hands aboard. Once we raise the four different sails, it’s really a cool feeling to have the boat being powered by the wind,” Hageman said. “The student talent shows are always fun and so is the Polar Bear swim.”

After Hageman’s retirement, Eubank took the reins as its organizer and has been leading it ever since. Eubank said that this year may be the final year of this Sehome tradition, due to financial reasons, unless someone else takes over next year. Until then, students will nonetheless enjoy the opportunity to the fullest this next weekend.