Fleming 65 Cruises the Sea of Cortez - 05/27/2009

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.

Fleming 65
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.

Mex Route
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.

A Sea of Wildlife

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 foredeck handrail.

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 sunset.

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 Lion
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 visit.


Sea of Cortez
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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