Cruise the San Juan Islands on the Schooner “Spike Africa”

Spike Africa is more than a schooner.  She is a beautifully crafted vessel with her own league of admirers.  Lovingly built by Bob Sloan in the late 70’s over a period of 7 years, Spike Africa was both his conception and his construction save for the interior, which he hired another man to build as he did not consider himself a cabinet maker.  He was however a prominent figure in the working boat industry on the west coast as well as a skipper and shipwright.

An 80 foot, 42 gross ton schooner, built in the classic construction style of the freighting schooner that has remained relatively unchanged since the late 1700’s, Spike Africa was birthed in Southern California and now makes her home in Washington State and is the last operating schooner that not only carries with her such a legacy but continues to display admirable seaworthiness with absolute grace and loveliness.  But even in her beauty, she is and continues to be a working lady.  Her builder was always insistent that she was a working schooner and not a yacht.  Once proudly carrying American goods as far as Alaska,Mexico and Hawaii, she now works as a charter ship out of Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands.

Built entirely of wood, iron, bronze and canvas, Spike Africa has two masts, runs on a crew of three and can accommodate up to 28 additional guests.    She and her crew are US Coast Guard inspected.  Although she has been completely refitted as of 2009, the restoration remained completely true to her history, Bob Sloan’s vision and her original design and function.  When you board Spike Africa you are sailing on a piece of history. The large cargo hold was converted into staterooms and a salon in the 1980’s making her completely passenger friendly.

With a name like Spike Africa, it’s to be expected that you might be curious about the name.  Bob Sloan named her for his friend and mentor, Spike Africa, whom he had met in Tahiti and who was known on the west coast as the “President of the Pacific Ocean.”   Spike Africa (the man) was born Philip Africa in Newark, Ohio, 1906, and was a first mate on Sterling Hayden’s Wanderer, he was a true character, an archetypal salty dog, someone who could spin a sea yarn as skillfully as any storyteller.

In keeping with both her working girl and star qualities, Spike Africa starred in the 1990 film “Joe vs. the Volcano” in which Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters sailed off into the sunset on her decks.  She has also appeared in the television shows “Baywatch”, “Riptide” and “Hotel”, as well as numerous national advertising campaigns both in print and on billboards.

Spike Africa is now operated by Schooners North out of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island,Washington.  They offer various charters from a few hours up to 10 days including island explorations, Alaskan cruises,  Canadian getaways, sunset cruises and full and half day sails as well as special events.  Spike Africa is also available for private charters such as weddings and burials at sea.  Guests of Spike Africa are allowed to bring their own beverages, however, snacks and beverages are provided for day sails and on-board meals are provided for all charter or longer duration cruises.

The San Juan Islands are somewhat of a hidden gem on the northwest coast of theUnited Statesand were voted the number two destination in the entire world by the New York Times!  Imagine the view of the magnificent San Juan Archipelago, the surrounding sea, the Olympic peninsula containing hundreds of islands, and the majestic volcanic peaks of the Cascade mountain range all from the deck of the already gorgeous Spike Africa and you can imagine the perfection that is to be had relaxing on her decks.  If you so desire you can help sail the ship or relax with a drink in hand and let the friendly and experienced crew do all the work.  There’s a vast biodiversity both onshore and in thePacific Oceanand Spike Africa has a naturalist onboard to inform and educate you on many details.  TheSan Juan Islandshas one of the largest marine park systems in the nation!

You’ll enjoy exploring the San Juan Islands including San Juan Island, Orcas Island,Shaw Island and Lopez the tiny Brown Island that has no cars, and Yellow Island and Jones Island, both and other state parks accessible only by boat.  The islands are rustic and beautiful, offering peace and serenity;   picturesque and green, meadows dotted with cows, alpaca or sheep.   You can taste wine in a historic schoolhouse, walk landscape from farms to deep forest to sandy beaches and rocky coves.  A pod of Orca whales may pass by as a bald eagle flies overhead.

In Friday Harbor, where Spike Africa makes her home you can stroll through art galleries, chandleries, bookstores, and antique shops and enjoy local cuisine – no chain restaurants here!  Find a cozy cafe for lunch or pull out all the stops and enjoy world-class seafood and other cuisine overlooking the harbor at a variety of restaurants such as the Cask and Schooner.  You can visit The Whale Museum or the San Juan Historical Museum or wander through the marina.

Spike Africa and her crew are waiting to welcome you aboard to enjoy the breath-taking beauty that is the San Juan Islands.   Get ready for an experience you will never forget.

Click the link to visit Spike Africa’s website:


  1. Kit Africa says:

    Spike Africa (the man), born Philip Africa in Newark, Ohio,1906 was an American, not an “Englishman” as stated in your website.

  2. Kit,

    Thank you for the corrections, constantly seeks to review content
    for accurate and up to date information.

    All the best,

    Publishing staff at

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