Baja California and the Sea of Cortez by Schooner

  • Note: This alumni adventure is sold out; waitlist now open.

  • February 12th through 17th, 2011
  • Registration deadline: December 1st, 2010
  • Capacity: 9
  • Cost: $1350.00 (plus airfare)

The Sea of Cortez (or, less romantically, the Gulf of California) separates the peninsula of Baja California from the Mexican mainland.  Wikipedia tells us that this is one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and that Baja California itself is actually one of the longest, most isolated peninsulas in the world.

This is the land that John Steinbeck described as possessing “profound and unworldly beauty.”  Desert scenery, sport fishing and fine beaches, together with convenient access from California, have made Baja California a popular destination for both tourists and retirees from the north.  Our plan is to avoid the tourist hot spots and sail to uninhabited islands and fishing villages not reached by highways.

Most of our exploration will be aboard the sailing schooner Seaward.  We’ll spend part of each day underway, and anchor at some island or cove.  For those who would like, there will be plenty of opportunity to steer the ship, help set and trim the sails.  The nav station is open to everyone, with its charts and instruments.

John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez will be our touchstone.  Perry Mason, Carleton’s John E. Sawyer Professor of Philosophy and Liberal Learning, Emeritus, will lead discussions of this fascinating book.

We will be a small group, just 12 in all, so we can tailor our other activities to peoples’ wishes.  Hiking, geology, bird watching, snorkeling, and even celestial navigation are possibilities, as well as time on the beach.

We have scheduled this trip to maximize our chances of pleasant weather, but this is semi-protected water, so rough seas are a possibility.  Participants do not need to be especially fit, but should be able to climb between the ship’s deck and the small inflatable boat for going ashore.  This is roughly equivalent to climbing a 6-foot vertical ladder.


Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011  Arrive La Paz.  You will be met at the airport by a member of the trip and driven to our hotel overlooking La Paz Bay.  Group dinner that evening.

Sunday, Feb. 13  After a group breakfast, board the Schooner Seaward.  Meet the captain and crew, receive an orientation and stow your bag.  Then we set sail.

Sunday - Wednesday  Explore the Sea of Cortez.  The islands offer fine beaches, excellent snorkeling and colonies of sea lions.  Whales are a common sight.  Between anchorages you are welcome to help sail the schooner, or just relax.

Wednesday, Feb. 16  Return to La Paz.  Bid farewell to the schooner and transfer to the hotel for a shower and a rest, or explore the historic city of La Paz before a final group dinner.

Thursday, Feb. 17  Transfer to the airport for the flight home, or stay longer to explore Baja California, as you wish.  (Rental cars are reasonably priced, and destinations such as Todos Santos and Magdalena Bay are feasible day trips.)


$1350 per person (no single or double occupancy--see note below about berths)


  • Transfer from La Paz airport to the hotel
  • Hotel stay, first and last nights
  • Transfers between the hotel and the schooner
  • The sailing trip
  • Transfer from the hotel to La Paz airport on the last morning
  • All meals beginning with dinner on the first night through dinner on the last night


  • Transportation from your home to La Paz and back
  • Any additional traveling you may wish to do before or after the voyage


If cancellation is received:

Before November 1      $200
November 1-30           Deposit is forfeited
December 1-31           75% of tour cost
January 1 or later        Full tour cost


Perry Mason, the John E. Sawyer Professor of Philosophy and Liberal Learning at Carleton, has a particular interest in environmental ethics.  He will be leading discussions of Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez.  Gary and Beth Schwarzman (both '66), trip organizers, will be offering their expertise in geology and natural history, as well as navigation, seamanship and yarns from decades of sailing.


Our ship, the schooner Seaward, is owned and operated by Call of the Sea, an educational non-profit based in California.  She is a graceful steel sailing vessel, inspected and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard for voyages up to 200 miles offshore from Alaska to Panama.  She sails under a U.S. Coast Guard licensed professional captain, with an American crew of experienced sailors.

  • Length Overall: 82’
  • Length On Deck: 65’
  • Beam: 17’-6”
  • Draft: 8’-4”
  • Displacement: 65 tons
  • Safety Equipment: Liferaft, 406 EPIRB, Radar, VHF, radio, SSB radio, Navtex, and all required Coast Guard safety gear.

Seaward’s interior has the classic elegance of a traditional yacht with a pilot house, well-equipped galley and comfortable saloon.  Accommodations are comfortable but basic, as is customary for such a vessel.  There are no private cabins, but each person has a large single berth with a privacy curtain, reading light and shelf for clothing and personal items.    


You’ll receive a packet of more detailed info when you sign up, but if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact Gary Schwarzman at or by phone at 508-540-5432.

Alumni Relations Office contact:  Amy Goerwitz at or 507-222-5645 (direct line) or 1-800-729-2586 (general office line).