I took a day sail aboard the classic schooner Adventuress last fall, and loved the experience -- the combination of getting out on Puget Sound, exploring a beautifully restored ship, and environmental education is unbeatable.
Adventuress, maintained and run by the non-profit organization Sound Experience, offers a number of family-friendly sailing experiences, from the day sail I was lucky enough to take to teen overnights and grandparent-grandchild sails.
The weekend of Aug. 5, families with kids ages 8 and older can climb aboard for the only family sail of the season, a three-day, two-night adventure that departs from the Friday Harbor Marina on San Juan Island.
The sail is a chance for families to learn about Puget Sound, help sail and run the ship, and see some seriously beautiful land- and waterscapes.
"Everything we do on Adventuress we do old-school style -- just with our arms and our bodies and our songs," says development and communications coordinator Zachary Simonson-Bond. Families sing chanteys and help hoist the sail up the 110-foot mast, sleep below deck in dorm-style cabins, and work together to prepare meals.
There's work, yes, but family sails also include down time. According to Simonson-Bond, every family sail includes time when the crew anchors the ship and families can scramble out onto the bow net over the water, take out the ship's dinghy, or climb the 80-foot rigging (harnessed for safety, of course) to take in a phenomenal view of the surroundings .
"I'm always really touched, every time I'm on board, by families climbing aloft. It's so special to see kids climbing the ship's rigging -- some of them are conquering a fear of heights, and some of them are up there all of a sudden," says Simonson-Bond.
Environmental education is a key part of the experience. Crew members and guests cast a net to catch plankton, which they examine under a microscope, learning along the way about plankton's fascinating properties and importance to the ecosystem.
One of the more interesting parts of the family sail experience is that you won't know exactly where in Puget Sound you'll be going -- it's part of the adventure. "We sail around the San Juans, and much of our course is determined by the wind and the weather and the current," Simonson-Bond says. As soon as the schooner gets underway, "we sail as far from Friday Harbor as we can and find a nice little niche" to drop anchor.
"There are so many wonderful and beautiful little niches in the San Juan Islands --it's a really powerful place," he adds.
Sound Experience's Family Sail runs Aug. 5-7.
Tickets are $425 per non-member adult, $290 for youth ages 8-18.
Sails are appropriate for families with kids ages 8 and up.
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Photo credit: Zachary Simonson-Bond, Sound Experience