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Sailing Charter on the Sea of Cortez

A charter to remember from a captain that has seen them all...
by Mike Rickman
(Click on images in this article to expand)

Moorings Charter at anchor in Bahia de La PazMost of the time you get a report from groups that charter. This is a report from someone who takes people out. My name is Mike and I am one of the part-time skippers at Moorings Charters in La Paz, Mexico.

We never know who the people are or where they are from before the trip starts. This is a report of a nine-day trip from La Paz north to Puerto Escondido and back. I first met the family of three at the end of the briefing given by Fred, one of the other skippers. They were a family from Switzerland and they came primarily to see whales and dolphins.

The Sea of Cortez is loaded with marine life but producing it on demand can sometimes leave you a little empty. This trip surprised me especially and sent the family home with more than enough pictures and memories to cover the distance they flew, not to mention the expense of the trip.

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Whales in the Sea of CortezDay One: We left the base at close to noon and headed out the channel. Just after clearing and approaching Roca Lobos, we saw sea lions cavorting and feeding. As we proceeded north and off Balandra, we saw our first humpback whales.

Our Moorings Charter started off slightly astern of us and to our port. They gradually drifted across our stern and passed us as they headed up to Bahia San Gabriel. As we approached San Gabriel, the show began. Spy hopping and breeching were the order of the day. We drifted for probably an hour watching them and then moved north when they slowed the show. As we moved toward Isla Ballena they seemed to follow us again and went out into deeper water to put on another show for both us and for some dive boats that were returning from the islands.

Whale breeches in the Sea of Cortez

As this show slowed, a large group of dolphins less than one-half mile away were playing, so these were our next feature. They were into jumps and flips and the family could not believe their luck; and neither could I. We ended up in Caleta Partida for the night and all went to sleep happy.

Day Two: We got up early and had breakfast. First thing up was a dinghy ride through the sand spits at the east end ofPartida and out into the other side. I showed them the osprey nest and on the way back in found a large number of whalebones in about ten feet of water. They then explored the cave above the fish camp on the west side of the bay.

Keyhole rock on Isla PartitaWe then upped anchor and headed off to Los Islotes to swim with the sea lions. It was a little choppy with the wind from the south so once there, I dropped them on the north side of the island. The mom and daughter went in with both still and underwater video cameras while Dad took pictures from the boat.

 The females and pups almost always give a great show and this time was no exception. They spent over three quarter of an hour in the water, taking pictures the whole time. Apparently their plan was to later mix the above- and below- water scenes for their family video. We do not anchor here at Islotes, as it is too deep, so I just idled around until they were finished.

Arial shot of Isla San Francisco in the Sea of CortezNext up on our Moorings charter was Isla San Francisco for the night. We had some good wind of 10-12 knots so we sailed along nicely while lunch was being made. About ten minutes after we sat down to eat we thought

we had the whole area to ourselves… WRONG! Sylvie, the mom, looked right ahead of us and saw a sleeping humpback directly in our path. They all jumped to the rail with cameras as I tried to miss the critter and not gibe the boom, which would have put the whole family into the water. As it was, we did miss it but the dinghy and fishing line went over the whale’s nose. The dinghy did wake it up and it sounded. I never want to get that close again!.

Isla Espritu Santos in BajaDay Three:  We got up early and had coffee and rolls. Anchor was up by 7AM with our next anchorage to be Puerto Gato. We had a little wind so up went the main and the jib went out. I decided to go outside San Jose for a different view, as most people go between Baja and the island.

About two-thirds of the way up to the island, we were surrounded by spouting whales. We were in the middle of a really large group of blue whales. We had been motor sailing by this time so we turned the motor off and we had three-hundred-sixty-degree surround-sound of whales. Some were close, within one hundred yards or so, and others were within a mile. All you could hear were whales spouting. You could hear the ones way off by time-delay from the spouts. We must have spent a good two hours drifting, with just the main up and watching. The family was taking pictures. Priceless!

Morrings charter sails north in the Sa of CortezSome of the pairs would swim in a circle of approximately 100 yards for three or four times before diving. There was at any one time over thirty whales on the surface. As the sun got higher in the sky they slowed down and we had to move on, so it was off to Puerto Gato.

We arrived mid to late afternoon and my amigo Manuel was waiting for us. Manuel is the local lobster guy. He took Mom and Dad out in his panga and they came back with nine lobsters. Dinner was solved. We were also the only boat in the anchorage. Simply one of the most amazing days I have ever spent on the water.

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