Kayaking in the Sea of Cortez
April 10, 2018
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November 18, 2016

Wooden Boat Cruise Loreto to La Paz


An amazing sailing trip on a wooden boat through the islands of the Sea of Cortez

A 12-day/11-night expedition among the scattered islands along the shore of the Baja peninsula begins with an overland visit to the gray whale breeding and birthing lagoons of Bahia Magdalena or San Ignacio, with up-close whale encounters! On other days snorkel with young sea lions, walk along desert island ridges and palm-lined arroyos. Visit a remote fishing village and kayak into a mangrove lagoon.

The Ship:

The Westward was designed by the renowned northwest naval architect L.E. “Ted” Geary and built at the J.A. Martinolich Shipyard in Dockton, Washington. The Westward was modeled after a salmon cannery tender and constructed around a 1923 Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine. She was launched in 1924 as the flagship of the Alaska Coast Hunting and Cruising Co. and pioneered hunting, fishing, and adventure travel in the remote regions of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

During WW II, Westward served as a patrol boat off the California coast before returning to the Pacific Northwest where she operated another twenty years, as both private yacht and charter vessel, for two different owners. Now owned by Captain Bill Bailey, the Westward is listed with the US National Register of Historic Places. Our itinerary for the trip is listed below. It is dependent on the weather and the tides and may change at the captain’s discretion.

The Experience:

Trips start in both Loreto and La Paz. Below is the itinerary for trips that start in Loreto, but please contact us for more information about all departures. This itinerary is dependent on the weather and the tides and may change at the captain’s discretion

Day 1: You will arrive in Loreto aboard the Alaska/Horizon shuttle from Los Angeles in the early afternoon. After clearing Mexican customs, a crew member will meet you and escort you to our van for the short drive to our hotel in Loreto.

After checking in, there is time to rest, or to explore the historic town square, which is lined with shops and cafés. We will meet in a small, outdoor restaurant that abuts the square for a group dinner.

Day 2: After breakfast at a small cafe, you will meet your van transportation to either Bahia Magdalena or Pueblo San Ignacio, both of which are gray whale birthing and breeding lagoons on Baja’s west coast.

It is about three hours from Loreto to Bahia Magdalena, and four to San Ignacio. There will be stretching stops along the way. In Bahia Magdalena, the van will drop you off at the panga landing site. In San Ignacio, you will change vans for the final one and a half hour drive from the pueblo to the lagoon. This is a lot of time in a van, but the payoff is extraordinary! Also your route will be through some of the most scenic country in Baja.

For your time in the lagoons, a video, or short lens is recommended, as the whales typically come to you. It is an extraordinary experience to make eye contact with a 30-ton animal that has seemingly approached your panga solely for the purpose of exchanging winks!

You will return to the camp for dinner, and a welcome night’s rest camping out after a day filled with fresh sea air (and perhaps whale breath!).

(Note: Some Loreto-based trips will visit Bahia Magdalena, where the overnight accommodations will be in a small beach-front hotel. Your meals will either be at the hotel, or in nearby restaurants.

Please look at the trip title when you book to determine which lagoon each trip will visit.)

Day 3: Breakfast will be in the whale camp commons, after which you will make your second visit to whale waters. The seas and winds are typically calmer for these morning trips, so you may be better able to get that picture that will inspire envy among your friends back home.

Lunch will be back in camp prior to taking the van to Loreto. Here you will check back into your hotel, take a nap in a cushy bed, and meet us all for another group dinner.

Day 4: After a final hotel breakfast, you will take the short ride to Westward’s moorage. You will have time to settle into your stateroom before joining us on the aft deck for a short safety orientation, following which we will raise the anchor and begin winding our way out of the harbor. Our anchorage in Puerto Escondido was one of Steinbeck and Ricketts collections sites during their 1940 voyage to the Sea of Cortez.

Days 5 through 8: We continue south, stopping at unique island and peninsula anchorages along the way. One stop may be a Ricketts/Steinbeck collection site; another may be the home of an endemic cactus or be the best example of a niche in the Sonoran desert ecology. This area is scattered with islands, some large, some tiny, all of which are Mexican national parks. Paddling kayaks in quiet coves, or walking the ridge lines and arroyos of isolated islands, we will have the opportunity to absorb their subtle beauty. Spending hours aboard the drifting Westward in what is referred to as the “Blue Triangle”, we hope to see blue and sperm whales, both of which congregate here to feed on the plankton and squid that thrive in the area’s nutrient-rich upwelling waters.

Day 9: Today we will visit Isla San Jose, where we will paddle through the labyrinth of mangrove lined passages that fill the lagoon on the island’s southern tip. After an afternoon cruise past the California sea lion haulout at Los Islotes, we continue on to Isla Partida, where we will anchor in Caleta Cardonal. Here we will walk past the mangrove fringed shore and inland to the island’s desert heart.

This area, along with several other of our anchorages, was home to a large population of prehistoric peoples who made their livings from the sea. Traces of their ancient pathways are still visible on the island’s hillsides.

Day 10: Our voyage’s final anchorage will be in Bahia San Gabriel, along Isla Espiritu Santo’s west side, where there is a nesting colony of frigate birds, as well as one of the most northerly coral colonies along the Pacific shore. If the conditions are right, we can don our swimming togs and snorkel over the colorful fish that live among the corals. The water here is both clear and warm, usually the warmest we will encounter in the course of our cruise.

Day 11: On our final full day together, we will continue our exploration of Isla Espiritu Santo by either foot or paddle. All too soon we will raise anchor and make the fifteen mile run into La Paz. We will celebrate our trip over dinner, and begin packing for tomorrow morning’s early departure to Los Cabos airport.

Day 12: An early breakfast before meeting our van for the two and a half hour drive to the airport. We will arrive there by 11:00 AM.

All cabins on the MV Westward are outfitted with a double (4’6″ w x 6’8″ l) and a single (2’6″ w x 6’6″ l) bunk, a settee, sink, toilet and shower.Cabin Descriptions for Westward All four cabins have double bunks (lower) that measure 4’8” wide by 6’8” long, and single bunks (upper) that are 2’6” wide by 6’8” long. Each cabin has a settee that is 3’ long, a 2’ wide sink cabinet, an almost 2’ wide hanging locker and 5 drawers that measure 8”H x 18”W x 18” D. There are also small drawers in the sink cabinet. The toilet/shower spaces are each 3’ by 5’. All of the rooms have about the same amounts of open floor space, about 4’ x 5’. The rooms themselves are 9’ x 8’, wall to wall. Headroom in the forward two cabins is about 6’4”, and is slightly less in the after two cabins. Each cabin will have its own hot water radiator, and multiple electrical receptacles.