Island Beach Frolic

Cruising the Sea of Cortez
BY: CATHY WATKINS

Lounging on the deck of a catamaran as it sails north of La Paz is a great way to spend a leisurely day. Three different tours are available on a big private yacht: Swimming with the whale sharks (from October to April), Baja remote beaches with the sea lions, and Isla Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit Island). We went on the Baja remote beaches tour and had a fabulous time. We went to Lovers Cove, Banderas Bay, and San Rafaelito, a rocky area with a lighthouse and more sea lions than you can shake a fin at.

The tour includes food, open bar all day, water activities, and round-trip van ride from Cabo to the boat in La Paz. The boat goes out of La Paz because the water is so much nicer there, and because the islands with their beautiful empty beaches and deep coves makes it more fun. We leave Cabo at 6:45 in the morning and return around 5, so it’s a full day. It takes about two hours to get to La Paz. 

The Island Cat is a beautiful and spacious catamaran with a professional crew, all of whom are informative, friendly and provide excellent service.   Chris is the captain.  He earned his 100-ton master's captain license from the U.S. Coast Guard. Scott is an amazing chef and also a licensed captain.  Scott was a paramedic for 17 years before sailing his ketch to La Paz some years back.  Mariana is a certified marine biologist, Padi dive instructor and hostess with a wealth of knowledge about ocean life, the Sea of Cortez, and the environment.  Leo is the deckhand, a competitive free-diver, scuba dive instructor, and tour guide. Leo has been driving dive boats since he was eight years old for his family’s scuba business. Terry pretty much just sits around and soaks up the rum. He gets away with that because he owns the boat.

As the boat slowly and quietly glides out of La Paz and up the coast, Scott cooks up a breakfast of scrambled eggs, salsa, tortillas, bacon, yogurt, donuts, and fresh fruit, all served in the air-conditioned cabin. While all this was being cooked up, we were lying on deck soaking up the sun and half listening to the marine biologist rattling on about the critters below the surface. Scott barely got the breakfast dishes cleared before he was offering up a mid-morning snack of fresh guacamole with salsa and chips. There’s no shortage of food or

 The first stop is Lovers Cove.  There we all, (six of us), clamber onboard a panga, (dingy) we’ve been towing behind us, which no one even noticed before this. (Well, I didn’t) our marine biologist  explains about the reef, wildlife, and the sea environment as we glide around the crystal clear turquoise water of varying hues.  As the boat approaches a rocky area known as San Rafaelito, we can hear the nearly constant barking of the sea lions.   This is where we get to snorkel and swim with the sea lions and their pups. 

Bio degradable sun block, snorkel gear and wet suits are provided, and Leo the guide briefs everyone about the rules.  No stepping on the reef because it damages the coral.  If a large sea lion is blowing bubbles and coming at you, swim backwards. Yes, you can swim backwards if a big papa sea lion is swimming towards you, you will be surprised at your water skills. If you are tired, we are told, wave your hand and Mariana, who is womaning the boat, will putt over to pick you up.   Once in the water, Leo makes sure everyone is comfortable with their equipment, and then leads the way over the coral reef teaming with different types of tropical fish.  Before I  knew it, a pup playfully dashes by.. 

Back on board the Island Cat, Captain Chris takes the boat north to Balandra Bay.  Here you can see the iconic mushroom rock of La Paz and go for another swim.  It’s also an opportunity to kayak, paddle board, or snorkel with Leo offering lessons.  Some of us chose to float around in the water, and sure enough here comes Leo on the paddle board with an icy bucket of cold beers at this feet.  Now that’s service! 

Meanwhile, Scott is cooking up a scrumptious lunch for everyone.  He has prepared shredded beef tacos and  habanero-mango chicken tacos served with pinto beans.  The remains of the fresh fruit from the morning have been transformed into a tasty fruit salad.  It’s a good time for a margarita, and Scott is known for his mango margarita which does not disappoint.  Very tasty and just the right kick. 

After lunch, there’s time for one last swim or relaxing on deck.  With two large fresh water showers on board and a fresh-water hose on deck, it’s easy to get cleaned up for the return trip.  On the way back, Chris and Leo put up the sails and the Island Cat sails on home.  It’s hard to believe the journey is already over.  Everything was first class from the time we were picked up until we were dropped off.

Terry Neal is the owner of the Island Cat, and Christine Ramos does all the work for Baja Charters.  To book a public excursion or private charter call  (214) 974-0501 or in Mexico (52) 624-128-5666 or go to: www.bajaremotebeaches.com. They also private charter for fun or weddings. One or the other, did you notice that?