If you’re a book lover intrigued by sailing or a sailor intrigued by books, check out Books A’ Sail. Each September, Schooner Zodiac and Village Books team up for a three-day adventure, which casts off from Fairhaven in Bellingham, Washington and sails through the San Juan Islands National Monument. Only the wind knows in advance where the schooner is headed.

Schooner under sail

Paul Hanson and Kelly Evert of Village Books guide the literary journey. They bring a famous author to discuss the writing life by night and perhaps join passengers learning the ropes of schooner sailing by day. This year’s author, Jim Lynch, came with his lovely wife, Denise, and shared insights into his thought-provoking new novel, Before the Wind.

Novel, Before the Wind 

Having already read the book, passengers dove into a number of stimulating topics. One was the novel’s Johannssen family. Like them, some of us passengers grew up in sailing families and recognize the highly-motivated father, struggling to keep his boat business afloat and his “total mess of a family” together to crew one last great race, the Seattle to Victoria Swiftsure.

Of course, since we saw our families in the book, we asked if Jim’s family was there, too. He admitted to one member, the kindly old grandfather, anchor of the clan. But I suspect the well-intentioned Josh Johannssen is endowed with Lynch-family genes as well.

Another discussion focused on Einstein, who was himself a sailor. Through Before the Wind as well as the companion book, Einstein’s Dreams, the second evening saw passengers delve into the concepts of time and space, as well as the physics of sailing.

On day three, Zodiac first mate, Sam—the most charming Scottsman you’ll ever meet—led a discussion on the book, Tides, a topic increasingly important to us student sailors as we tried to navigate the Salish Sea.

First Mate, Sam, explains TIDES.


While aboard the Schooner Zodiac, you are sailing on a piece of history, commissioned by the Johnson and Johnson family in 1924.

World Heritage Registration plaque

As such, the schooner requires a crew much larger than the eight or nine regulars. Therefore, Captain Tim offers a “gentle invitation” to participate in as much or as little sailing as you want.

Our fellow passengers were not only interesting but, for the most part, a willing, hardy lot and accepted Tim’s challenge. Everyone participated in the rotation assignments.

Step One: Go to the chart room and learn about the tides and currents in the Salish Sea.

Using charts and computer to determine the tides and currents.


Step Two: Go to the helm and learn how to wrestle with the winds, tides, and currents.


Nancy at the Helm

Nancy at the Helm.


at the helm

Perry Adair at the helm


Paul Hansen at the helm

Paul Hanson at the helm (courtesy of Jack McBride)


Step Three: Go to the bow and be on the lookout for logs, other boats, whales, and porpoises (or were those dolphins?) Check, check, check, and check.

Lookout on the bow


Step Four: Relax in front of the helm, enjoy the view, and relay messages to the captain.



If you really want to stretch yourself, you can join a team to be in charge of one of the four sails. This is my team, assigned to the mainsail.

Mainsail crew

John teaching the mainsail crew: author Jim, blogger Me, Village Books owner Kelly, author Jes; (courtesy of photographer, Jack McBride)

Hoisting the sail.

Hoisting the sail

Finishing off the hoist.
Hoisting the sail



Striking and flaking the sails.

Lowering and packing the sail

folding the main sail


While our ports of call were Lopez Island and Friday Harbor, those may not be yours. So much depends on the wind. While you are moored or on break, however,

Zodiac in the Bay

Moored at Spencer Spit, Lopez Island (courtesy, Jack McBride)

you can kayak,


Make new friends with some fascinating characters,

meeting new people



Reading on board

or relax.

The only guarantee on this trip is that wherever the Schooner Zodiac goes, your surroundings will be stunning. In spring, summer, or fall, few places on earth are as beautiful as Puget Sound.


The Zodiac schooner with Mt. Baker in the Background

courtesy of crew member, Taylor Hodges


Feature image courtesy of Jack McBride@ McBride PhotoGraphics