Sea of Cortez, Baja & Gray Whales – Loreto to La Paz – 2019
DATES: 2019 – Jan 18-29; Feb 08-19; Mar 01-12
DURATION: 12 DAYS/11 NIGHTS
EMBARK: LORETO, BCS
DISEMBARK: LA PAZ, BCS
A 12-day/11-night expedition among the scattered islands along the shore of the Baja peninsula. Snorkel with young sea lions, walk along desert island ridges and palm-lined arroyos. Cruising aboard this historic 1924 wooden yacht will be reminiscent of John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts 1940 voyage aboard the “Western Flyer”, but with modern comforts!
• Sailing aboard a beautifully restored 1924 yacht, with original Atlas Diesel engine
• Kayak, hike, nature walks
• Blue Whales
• Snorkel with Sea Lions
• Frigate Birds
• Sea Turtles
• Visit Loreto and La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur
Includes all meals, beer, wine and standard liquor (You may bring your own preferred brands), taxes and fees, transportation, hotels, excursions, and transfers.
- Flight to Loreto
- Return from San Jose del Cabo
- Trip insurance
- Gratuities to crew
Plan to arrive in Loreto via the Alaska/Horizon Air flight from LAX. Our crew will meet you as you emerge from Customs and Immigration and escort you to our hotel in old Loreto. You will have a couple of hours to explore the many shops and sights, including the first mission church in the Californias, and milepost zero of El Camino Real, which was built to link the missions. We will have a group dinner in a garden restaurant near the old square.
Loreto to Bahia Magdalena
After breakfast at a small cafe, you will meet your van transportation to Bahia Magdalena, which is a gray whale birthing and breeding lagoon on Baja’s west coast. Bring an overnight bag.
It is about three hours from Loreto to Bahia Magdalena. There will be stretching stops along the way. In Bahia Magdalena, the van will drop you off at the panga landing site. 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 visit 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 your overnight accommodations in a small beach-front hotel. Your meals will either be at the hotel, or in nearby restaurants., and a welcome night’s rest after a day filled with fresh sea air (and perhaps whale breath!).
Bahia Magdalena to Loreto
Breakfast will be at the hotel, 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 the hotel 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 in Loreto.
Loreto – Board Westward
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
Cruising Sea of Cortes
We cruise 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.
Isla San Jose – Los Islotes – Isla Partida
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 haul out 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.
Isla Espiritu Santo
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.
Isla Espiritu Santo – La Paz
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.
La Paz - Disembark
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.
Or add a visit to the amazing Copper Canyon. You will fly from La Paz across the Sea of Cortes to Los Mochis, where you will overnight in a beautiful historic hacienda in El Fuerte. In the morning, board the El Chepe narrow gauge train to climb from sea level to 8,000 ft – one of the world’s most scenic railways. Spend two nights at the beautiful Mirador Hotel, built on the rim of the canyon. End in Chihuahua for you flight home.
Westward was launched in 1924 and was the very first boat built specifically to convey charter guests in Alaskan waters. She is designated as a Historic Place by the National Park Service. The 1924 Atlas, the oldest running one in the world outside of the Smithsonian, graces the WESTWARD with the same life beat. We use large battery banks that allow us to go for 12 hours without starting an engine to disrupt the quiet solitude of an evening at anchor in a secluded cove.
Our warm interiors, with decade’s old varnished wood paneling, heavy beamed ceilings and glowing mahogany trim and furniture takes us back to a time when craftsmanship was the rule rather than the exception.
Built 1924 Vashon Island, WA
Length 86’ Beam 18.5’ Draft 9’
Powered by original Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine
MV 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 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.
WESTWARD and Alaska Coast served a noteworthy clientele of hunters and fishermen for nearly twenty years. Distinguished guests included Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, George Eastman, A.C. Gilbert, E.F. Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post, Paul Mellon, Richard K. Mellon, Hal Roach, Rudolph Schilling, John Wayne, Dean Witter, and numerous other VIP’s of the era.
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.
In 1967 WESTWARD was purchased by a California couple, Donald G. and Anna Louise Gumpertz and moved to Los Angeles. From this new homeport WESTWARD cruised the world extensively, including a 47,000 mile circumnavigation of the globe from 1970 to 1976.
WESTWARD was purchased by Hugh Reilly and returned to the Pacific Northwest in 1993 to resume her career as a charter and expedition vessel operating in southeast Alaska.
Hugh Reilly had WESTWARD’s hull extensively rebuilt in 2005 – 2006 to mitigate the impact of more than eighty year’s operation and to ensure her vitality for a second century. Then he and his wife, Teresa, circumnavigated the Pacific Ocean from 2007 – 2008. WESTWARD continued to be used as a personal yacht for his family until December 2012.
In December 2012, Bill and Shannon Bailey, of Pacific Catalyst II, purchased her for use in their adventure travel business.
WESTWARD remains dependably powered by her original Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine and has benefitted from continuous upgrades to her engine, systems, structure, and accommodations. She is listed with the US National Register of Historic Places, having her life well documented through the efforts of Hugh Reilly and John Sabella, as to her contribution to maritime history in the Pacific Northwest and the United States of America.