This week we continue with Tony Fleming’s
“world’s longest shakedown cruise” and visit the Sea of Cortez. Also called the
Gulf of California, this body of water is about 800 miles long and is 75 to about
150 miles wide. It teams with several species of whale and dolphin, sea lions, and
all manner of bird life. Game fishing is still good in the summer time and a large
charter fleet is based at Cabo San Lucas at the very tip of Baja California. Everyone
should see the Sea of Cortez at least once in their life.
The water at the southern end of the Sea of Cortez has a deep green color unlike
what you find in the Caribbean. Fleming 65 Venture at rest.
On March 25th, 2008 Venture slipped her lines and headed north from the excellent
Costa Baja Marina in La Paz, Mexico. On board were Captain Chris Conklin, myself
and a delightful couple we had come to know during our earlier cruising in the waters
of British Columbia. The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is
famous for its wealth of wildlife and, even though many who have cruised the area
for many years, feel it is not so prolific as it once was, the natural world did not disappoint, and for us at least, lived up to its reputation.
A Sea of Wildlife
Fleming’s cruise took Venture 150 miles north to Loreto at the north edge of
this map. Cabo San Lucas can be seen southwest of the “Mex Route #1” sign.
On the very first day we encountered a pod of killer whales as we headed for a rocky
islet teeming with seals while fork-tailed frigate birds wheeled about our heads
and pelicans plummeted into the water to feed on teeming schools of fish. Over the
next few days, we made our way slowly north encountering numerous whales including
the huge, endangered blues as well as fin whales and the more athletic Hump Back
whales which breached repeatedly clear of the water.
Humpback whales close by the boat were a highlight of the cruise.
It became almost routine for dolphins of several types to stop what they were doing
and speed towards the boat to body-surf in our wake and cavort around the stem,
some turning on their sides, as if to gage the height of the bow, before using powerful
thrusts from their tail to launch themselves clear of the water higher than the
Good Weather in Late Spring
For two weeks, we enjoyed perfect weather with warm days and cool nights anchored
in a series of secluded bays surrounded by the stark beauty of the Baja coast. The
sky remained a pastel blue streaked with ever-changing patterns of wispy clouds
while the sea took on the shade of a kingfisher's wing. Every evening mountains
as high as 4,000 ft were etched in sharp relief against the backdrop of a lingering
Thar she blows! She blows! It is possible to see as many as one hundred whales
swimming together and blowing as they move slowly along.
Places to Go
We spent a couple of nights anchored in the perfect protection of Puerto Escondido
(Hidden Harbor) from which we took a taxi to the charming town of Loreto with its
old mission. Here we stumbled across the most perfect gem of a hotel and, at a nearby
restaurant, enjoyed the most delicious coffee. Like La Paz, Loreto had direct flights
to and from LA so, remote as it is, you can be on your boat from a major metropolis
in less than two hours.
We went ashore on Isla Carmen and wandered through the crumbling remains of what
had once been a thriving salt producing operation and I was struck once again by
how swiftly nature works to break down the detritus of mankind's failed operations
which he so casually abandons when deemed no longer useful.
Sea lions are playful and when not sunbathing like to dart around near the boat.
BS Bahia San Avaristo, a panga (local boat) filled mostly with children of all ages,
including a babe in arms, came by and asked if we had fresh water to spare which
of course, having a water-maker, we were pleased to give them. Cruising these waters
without a watermaker would be difficult as water sources are few and far between
- as of course is fuel.
Electronic Charts Are Wrong!
We had heard that the charts in Mexican waters were far from accurate and, indeed,
we found the actual land to be as much as half a mile out of position compared to
where it was shown on the electronic charts. It was not unusual for the chart to
show us anchored well inland so prudence was needed!
Dolphins loved to playing just forward of the bow as the boat moved along in
the clear waters.
For those of us lucky enough to enjoy the privilege, a well-found yacht offers a
way, like no other, to embark on your own voyage of discovery. Only a boat can provide
the means to explore remote spots or visit hubs of human activity not knowing who
you will meet along the way or what lies in store around the next corner.
Each participant, even on the same trip, has the opportunity to weave their own
unique tapestry of lasting memories. This, surely, is the true benefit of having
a yacht capable of taking you in safety and comfort to wherever you may wish to
When going to the Sea of Cortez prepare yourself for barren landscape and fantastic
rock formations. It is a geologist’s paradise.
Venture has not only made this possible for myself and others but has also provided
the opportunity for us to gain priceless feedback in the areas of technical operation
and convenience of amenities in the boats we build.
[In the next issue of Offshore Motoryacht, Venture travels to Costa Rica.]
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