By Ann Reinhart on behalf of Tim Mehrer member of Pacific Northwest chapter

The Bellingham, Washington based Schooner Zodiac, designed by William Hand, was built in 1924 in East Boothbay, Maine for the Johnson & Johnson family. 127’ on deck,160’ overall, she spent most of her life as a San Francisco Bay Bar Pilot boat before being put up for auction in the early 1970s where she started a new chapter under the ownership of Captain Tim Mehrer and the Vessel Zodiac Corporation.

Tim spent his youth aboard the Schooner Adventuress, helping his father Captain Karl Mehrer restore the ship while earning his own Captain’s license. Now he and his crew, under the tutelage of master shipwright Frank Prothero, began the years long restoration of the Zodiac based at Lake Union Dry Dock in Seattle. While 99% of the frames below the waterline are original, everything else is new, from the Douglas fir decks and spars to the Caterpillar 3412 engine. A focal point is the Honduras mahogany deckhouse hand carved by Prothero himself. The 7,000 square feet of Dacron sail – featuring a 4,000 square feet main sail – are still raised by hand. Down below the crew has built small staterooms with sinks to provide passenger privacy along with large individual bunks in the salon. There are three heads, two with showers. She sleeps 26 passengers overnight and holds 49 passengers for day sails.

The three generations of Mehrer Captains

Schooner Zodiac is Coast Guard certified to sail from Olympia, Washington to Desolation Sound, British Columbia. She spends most of her long season in the San Juan Islands on a variety of themed trips, from Seafood & Winery to Books A’Sail. Day sails include salmon dinners and local brewery tastings. We also do private charters, with the ship well suited for family reunions. The ship’s secret weapon is our cook, Caz Ludtke, whose culinary wizardry is matched by her ability to provide food options for all needs (

As the ship heads towards her 100th year, she is joined by our third-generation ship’s captain, Calen Mehrer, Tim’s son. Calen is continuing in the shipwright path of his father and grandfather before him, working to forge new community partnerships to preserve our Salish Sea maritime history, and train a new generation of sailors in the specialized skills needed for work on a wooden ship.
For more on the ship’s history, technical specs go to:


  1. Our group (mostly unchanged) have been chartering the Zodiac for the weekend annually for over 20 years. It is always a great time, and since you are actually working the sails, you really get the experience of sailing a big vessel.

  2. Once again, you get my attention with the sailboats! This one is going on my post-pandemic vacation bucket list!

  3. May I share my encounter with the Schooner Zodiac, I was an able seamen on a British cargo ship the MV Pacific Northwest in 1970 and 1971 after lowering our Pilot Ladder, Not far off was a beautiful Schooner set on course towards our ship, Someone on deck stated it was the pilot boat for our ship, It was a master class to watch the Zodiac elegantly come along side and the Pilot just transferred on to the bottom of ladder with ease, the pilot boat didn’t stop it just glided away, we were high out of the water because we had unloaded most of our cargo in our last Port, I watched the pilots long climb up onto our main deck and welcomed him onboard and then escorted him to the bridge where our Ships Captain handed over command to the Pilot, not long after this my duty was to take the ships helm, I was slightly nervous because the Pilot was so professional I didn’t want to look foolish so I followed the Pilots instructions exactly , It was getting dark and we had lined up to enter the bay under the golden gate bridge, I remember the pilot stating the navigation lights were off on Alcatraz, and the island had at this time had American Indians living on it,
    we tied up at pier 43, Its great to see the Zodiac is still being used, I was 18 at the time I had joined the Navy at the age of 16, Thank you for letting share

  4. Awesome schooner, great opportunity for folks to experience a bit of a real sail, all hands on deck! I was, however, greatly disappointed in booking a “race sail” package and then watching as everyone else started, and our captain (#3) would not race, claiming “liability issues”. Do or do not…but keep your word. 😔

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