Let me start by saying this… I was SO honored when Maria from the US Lighthouse Society reached out and asked if myself and E would be up for going on a sailing adventure to seek out lighthouses across WA state! I mean really?!?! Who WOULDNT jump at a chance like that?!?! Little did I know ALL that was in store for us! Just so you know a little bit of history here…the US Lighthouse society is responsible for restoring and preserving lighthouses all over the country. They plan and execute trips and tours at SO many of them and I had NO idea how much of a prominent role they play right here in WA state with keeping this rich part of our history alive. I actually have visited a couple of lighthouses as a child but never really knew all the adventure (and AH-MAZING stories) that surrounded these incredible beacons of history! (Look at me getting all the lingo in there and sounding so LEGIT!) So, when we were asked to go aboard the Zodiac Schooer for a Lighthouse sailing adventure I THOUGHT I was up for the challenge… I had no idea all that was ahead of me but man was it an amazing journey! Many of you saw a lot of the story unfold on my Instagram stories and you can see that all right HERE on my highlights section under “Lighthouses”.
So first things first, when you are getting ready to visit a lighthouse… you MUST get your lighthouse passport first! Get it HERE! One of the men on our ship actually has visited over 400 lighthouses and man does he have some incredible stories to tell. We also had TWO gentlemen that were lighthouse KEEPERS aboard the ship and it was so wonderful to hear how even one the lighthouses we personally visited had been restored and updated so much since he had stayed there as the keeper. I saw the light in David’s eye just shine bright as he walked into the Dungeness Lighthouse and saw everything that the society had done to preserve something so special to him. Its experiences like these that really make an adventure like this so special.
Since this was a sailing adventure to visit the lighthouses, we got on the ship (or boat or schooner or whatever I am supposed to call it! – Sorry Dana, I really did TRY to learn all the correct terminology I SWEAR!) in Bellingham at the ferry terminal and were escorted right to our “state suite” which was a two bunk room with a small sink. Most everyone would be sleeping in the main parlor area with bunks that are curtained with a table in the middle. There is also a full kitchen aboard the boat and Caz of Seasoned at Sea kept us fed and indeed gave me a challenge with trying her unique and beautifully crafted meals! She really did create some amazing dishes that I never would have guessed I would LOVE as much as I did!!!
The 4 day trip was off to an exciting start when we were assigned specific sailing stations and learned that when our Mate Dana (or as I call her, QUEEN of the Zodiak) yelled down “all hands on deck! Prepare to lift sails!” we all went running to our stations to MANUALLY hoist the INSANE amount of square footage of heavy sails as a team! There were 14 passengers (like us, but many of them had previous sailing experience unlike I did) and 7 crew members aboard and I have NO idea how you accomplish this kind of sailing with anything LESS than 22 people but Dana assured me that her crew was actually able to do it all on their own! SUPER IMPRESSIVE. We were off to our first destination and ready to set sail to see about 8 lighthouses over the next few days! A couple we just floated past as they were actually on Canadian soil and so we were not allowed to go ashore, but it was so neat that each day we got shuttled into land to go explore these beautiful towers that literally guide people through the San Juan Islands and beyond.
Each day you also have a 2 hour set of duties you are assigned to that rotate every 30 min. The first station is “charts” and is where I learned how specifically these maps are in order to guide people through bodies of water. From colors of the lights to how often they flash and more, we learned to chart our course and keep us in our own traffic lane while sailing! (Who knew it wasn’t just a free for all out there?! HAH! 😉 ) The next station was at the helm and you literally were the captain for 30 min. IT.WAS.TERRIFYING. hahaha Ok I was VERY nervous as you can’t see the front of the boat at all (and I can see even LESS due to my height challenges) then it was onto bow watch where you would stand right at the tip of the bow and watch for crab pots, floating debris or anything in the way that might harm the boat. Finally you sat back near the helm as “messenger” to wait for any incoming “calls” on the brass tube system. (think about those little cone things you yell into at the playground form one end to the other…. yup, its a prettier version of those but with whistles!) After your 2 hour rotation you are off the hook until we need to either raise the sails or at the end of the day, tuck them away and then it’s all hands on deck again!
I think my favorite Lighthouse we visited was at Dungeness Spit because it was actually open to the public that day and we got to venture ALL THE WAY to the top and walk around on the outside deck. The keepers stay for usually 1 week each and are so knowledgeable about all the rich history. I highly recommend visiting this one when you can. IF you don’t go by boat, then it’s a 5 mile hike/walk in but don’t worry I say two toddlers who made it in just fine!
This sailing adventure was something I will not soon forget and has really opened my eyes to the magic of lighthouses. I DEFINITELY think that Eric and I will take a love for them onto any future travel we do and seek out seeing more of them wherever we go! Plus, it’s SO fun getting stamps added to your passport for each one! As usual, I am an open book and would love to give you ANY info you want! You can book lighthouse excursions here (and if you become a member you get discounts!) and the Zodiak Schooner tours here.