Zodiac (schooner)

Zodiac motoring east along the Lake Washington Ship Canal, just east of the Ballard Bridge, Seattle, Washington
  • Zodiac (1924–1931)
  • California (1931–1973)
  • Airdene
  • Zodiac
Builder: Hodgson Brothers Shipyard
Launched: 1924
Status: Historic landmark
General characteristics
Tonnage: 145 tons (gross) 89 (net)
Displacement: 220 tons
Length: 160 ft (49 m) (LOA) 127 ft (39 m) (on deck)
Beam: 25.2 ft (7.7 m)
Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Depth of hold: 11.5 ft (3.5 m)
Propulsion: Caterpillar 540 hp (400 kW) diesel
Sail plan: Gaff-rigged topsail schooner 7,000 sq ft (650 m2)
Speed: 13.4 knots (24.8 km/h; 15.4 mph) (max), 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph) (powered)
Zodiac (schooner)
Location Seattle, WA
Coordinates 47°37′56.5″N 122°19′38.1″W / 47.632361°N 122.327250°W / 47.632361; -122.327250Coordinates: 47°37′56.5″N 122°19′38.1″W / 47.632361°N 122.327250°W / 47.632361; -122.327250
Built 1924
Architect William Hand, Jr.
NRHP Reference # 82004248[1]
Added to NRHP 29 April 1982

Zodiac is a two-masted schooner designed by William H. Hand, Jr. for Robert Wood Johnson and J. Seward Johnson, heirs to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals fortune. Hand intended to epitomize the best features of the American fishing schooner. The 160-foot-long (49 m) (sparred length; 127 feet (39 m) on deck), 145-ton vessel competed in transatlantic races.[2] In 1931 the vessel was purchased by the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association, brought from the Atlantic, modified and placed in service as the pilot vessel California serving as such until retired in 1972.

Design and construction

The schooner was the largest vessel designed by William H. Hand, Jr., a renowned naval architect, who was a primary developer of the V-bottomed hull motorsailers.[2] Zodiac was built in 1924 at the Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard, East Boothbay, Maine.[2]

As built the vessel was 126 feet 10 inches (38.7 m) length over all, 25 feet 2 inches (7.7 m) beam, design draft of 13 feet 11 inches (4.2 m) and a water line length of 98 feet 6 inches (30.0 m) on design draft.[3] Propulsion was by an Atlas 140 horsepower (100 kW), six cylinder, four cycle engine driving a 54 inches (1.4 m), two bladed propeller for a speed of about 7.5 knots (13.9 km/h; 8.6 mph) under power.[3]


Robert Hood and J. Seward Johnson sailed the yacht as far north as Nachvak, Labrador and in 1928 entered Zodiac in a race from New York to Spain with the yacht finishing fourth among the large yachts.[2]

Pilot vessel California

The San Francisco Bar Pilots Association bought the schooner in 1931 on the Atlantic Coast and brought the vessel to San Francisco for modification and operation as the pilot vessel California bearing the name of an earlier vessel of the Association.[2][4] The vessel was the largest schooner operated by the San Francisco Bar Pilots who operated her in peacetime and through wars until 1972 as the last sailing vessel in the United States to serve as a pilot vessel.[2]


As a pilot boat is required to be on station during all weather and, in the case of the San Francisco Bar Pilots of the time, remain on station for about five days supporting a crew of seven hosting up to ten pilots, modification was required.[3][4] The Association had the vessel modified by The Moore Dry Dock Company of Oakland, after consultation with the original designer, increased power with a 275-horsepower (205 kW) Atlas-Imperial diesel engine to replace the original Atlas 140 hp (100 kW) diesel engine that in turn required modifications to the stern to accommodate a larger shaft and 65-inch (1.7 m) diameter propeller with 59-inch (1,500 mm) pitch replacing the original 54-inch (1.4 m) diameter, 2-bladed propeller.[3][note 1] The propulsion change increased speed from approximately 7.5 to 9.73 knots (13.89 to 18.02 km/h; 8.63 to 11.20 mph) knots.[3] Deck houses and accommodations were renovated to fit the needs of pilots serving long waits on station with a pilot house added that was unusual for a yacht and resembling that of a commercial vessel.[3] The galley had an Ingle oil burner range and accommodations were heated by a steam heat system based on an Areola boiler.[3] Modifications resulted in an increase in draft from the original designed 13 feet 11 inches (4.2 m) to 14 feet 11 inches (4.5 m) with a new waterline length of 103 feet (31.4 m) and displacement increasing from 210 to 245 tons.[3]

Pilot service

California was delivered and on station in early 1932 serving as one of the pilot boats, rotating duty on the bar at five-day intervals.[3][4] The other active pilot vessel was Gracie S. with Adventuress serving as backup vessel.[4] The offshore pilot vessel station was approximately nine miles off the Golden Gate.[2] Operating in close proximity with large ships had its risks with California losing her bow three times and once being grounded in San Francisco Bay.[2]

California was retired in 1972 to be replaced by pure motorized vessels, including a more modern vessel built in 2000.[2][5] This made her one of the last three sail-powered pilot vessels in the United States, along with the Boston-based schooner Roseway, which was retired sometime between 1971 and 1973,[6] and Adventuress, also once a San Francisco pilot boat, which was retired in 1952, and is also a registered National Historic Landmark.[7][8]

Sale and return to Zodiac

California was sold in 1973 returning to the name Zodiac and, in the late 1970s, the private Vessel Zodiac Corporation was formed to operate and maintain her. She was professionally restored, and her rig, which had been altered during her time as a pilot boat, was returned to its original configuration.[9] Zodiac now operates charters and cruises in Washington State's San Juan Islands and British Columbia's Gulf Islands.[10] The not-for-profit Northwest Schooner Society partners with the corporation to provide sail training programs for youth and adults.


  1. The National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form[2] notes a different propulsion plant and may reflect a later modification.

See also


  1. "Ships To Visit Listed By Name - Valley Camp to Zodiac". Maritime Heritage Program. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 McKoon-Hennick, Kathleen (1982). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form / Schooner Zodiac; Schooner California" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Pilot Schooner California". Pacific Marine Review. Pacific American Steamship Association/Shipowners' Association of the Pacific Coast. 29 (3): 114–115. March 1932.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "San Francisco Bar Pilots". Pacific Marine Review. Pacific American Steamship Association / Shipowners' Association of the Pacific Coast. 32 (4): 106–107. April 1935.
  5. Foley, Owen (18 May 2013). "California - IMO 9245471". Shipspotting. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  6. "History of the Schooner Roseway". World Ocean School. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
  7. Delgado, James P. (11 April 1989). "Schooner Adventuress National Historic Landmark Study". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  8. Cunliffe & Osler 2001, p. 137.
  9. Cunliffe & Osler 2001, p. 241.
  10. "Schooner Zodiac". Vessel Zodiac Corporation. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
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