History & Reconstruction

The last American pilot schooner

Built for the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson family; the Zodiac was designed by William H. Hand, Jr., to epitomize the best features of the American fishing schooner.

In 1928, she competed in the Transatlantic Race for the Kings Cup where she finished in fourth place.

Zodiac when she was owned by Johnson Family
Schooner Zodiac when she was owned by the Johnson Family

Launched: 1924
Designer: William H. Hand, Jr.
Builder: Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard, East Boothbay, ME

Sparred Length: 160 ft.
Length on Deck: 127 ft.
Beam: 25.5 ft.
Draft: 16 f.
Displacement: 147 tons
Rig: Two-masted Gaff Topsail Schooner
Height:127 feet with topmast
Sail Area: 7000 square feet
Engine: Caterpillar 540hp diesel
Speed under power: 9 knots
Maximum hull speed: 13.4 knots
Passenger Capacity:
26 overnight, in bunks or private staterooms,
49 daysails

During the Depression, the Zodiac was sold to the San Francisco Bar Pilots, and renamed California. She worked the rugged waters outside the Golden Gate for forty years, retiring in 1972, as the last working pilot schooner in the United States.

Pilot Schooner California aka Zodiac in San Francisco
Zodiac in her California pilot schooner guise, photogeraphed from the deck of a returning troop carrier outside the Golden Gate bridge. Photo by Willard Carroll.

(photo at left) In late August 1946 Willard Carroll was returning from Pearl Harbor aboard the troopship USS Hermitage. The California (Zodiac) came out and put the pilot aboard. Willard was kind enough to post this and other photos of the event on our Facebook page.

In the mid 70s, the Vessel Zodiac Corporation was formed to operate and maintain the schooner, whose maiden name was promptly restored to Zodiac. Drawing on an experienced crew of sailors and shipwrights, the ship was restored to her former beauty and sailing strength.

In 1982 she earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. She continues to work the waters of Puget Sound, San Juan and Gulf Islands to this day.


History & Reconstruction Gallery

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