From one paradise to another in Sea of Cortez


Bert and Alice Novak, longtime residents of Canyon Lake, say they “rewound their retirement clock” last fall, as they set out once again to experienced the warm weather and blue waters of Mexico. In early October, they left San Diego Harbor with their adult sons aboard their newly purchased 47-foot motor yacht, which they named Eleganté.

Their destination was La Paz Mexico, the peaceful but vibrant capital of Bahia California Sur, Mexico, about two hours north of Cabo San Lucas on the Sea of Cortez.

Alice says, “It was an exhilarating feeling to be heading back to one of our favorite cruising grounds, the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, which we explored in the early ’90s aboard our 44-foot cutter rigged sailboat, Cahoots. With the love of sailing and a yearning for new adventures 20 some years ago, they “cruised” Mexico, all of the central American countries, transited the Panama Canal, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and as far south as Trinidad and Venezuela.

Alice says it was with a sad heart that they returned to the United States in 2002, to Annapolis, Maryland, where, after 10 years of amazing adventures, they sold their beloved Cahoots. The birth of two of their grandchildren, living in Canyon Lake, and an elderly mother called them home.

After that adventure, they still had the need to see what was around the next bend, so they bought a large motorhome, which kept them exploring across the USA, Canada, Nova Scotia and Alaska. At least being on the continent of North America allowed them to return home more often.

They also bought a Gold Wing motorcycle, which they keep at their RV Resort in Aguanga, 18 miles east of Temecula, where they ride with a group called The Rancho Riders.

Two years ago, the Novak’s older son, Rob and his wife, Nancy, from the San Francisco Bay area, set out on their own adventure as experienced sailors, to explore Mexico’s coast for three seasons on their Oyster 48-foot sailboat, named Shindig.

Alice says, “After reading their sailing blog for two years, with them sharing their experiences and exhilaration of experiencing the Sea of Cortez, we decided we wanted to return to the magic of the Sea and create more exciting memories. This time; however, we would do it on a power boat.

They cast off their bow lines and headed south out of San Diego on October 7. 2014.

During their passage to La Paz, “fish on!” could be heard from the helm often as their son Dave, with the help of the other crew members, managed to catch two Yellow Fin Tuna, 10 Dorado, various smaller fish and, on the last day, the prize: a Blue Marlin. Most of the fish were released except the Yellow Fin Tuna and one Dorado, which allowed Alice to create some very spectacular meals.

By October 15, the Novaks reached Cabo San Lucas, where they stayed for two days before heading around the peninsula to their home base at Marina Palmira in La Paz, which they reached on October 20.

They stayed in La Paz until January 15, where they enjoyed visiting the seaside town, meeting new friends and taking three- to five-day trips to explore pristine island anchorages in the Sea of Cortez.

According to the Nature Conservancy, the Sea of Cortez is the second most diverse marine body in the world. It is home to 31 species of whales and dolphins – one-third of the world’s total. The region also serves as a breeding ground for sea lions and marine turtles, and is a migratory corridor for 210 bird species.

Some 500 fish species, 4,848 known species of marine macro-invertebrates and 626 forms of macro algae live in the region. In order to fund the protection of these islands, a permit is required to visit or to anchor on all the islands in the Sea of Cortez.

Dave, his wife, Sheila and their children, Ali and Nick, also of Canyon Lake, visited for the holidays.

By January 15, they were ready to return home by car to Canyon Lake, since January and February in the Sea are very windy and uncomfortable at anchor. They also were having work done on the interior of the boat, which remained in La Paz.

They returned to La Paz by March 6 to get the boat ready for a two and a half month cruise further north into the Sea of Cortez. Leaving on March 15, they visited the first in a series of islands that follow the shoreline.

The last time they reported in to friends (and The Friday Flyer) was on March 30, when they were able to get wifi on their boat, moored in Puerto Escondido, and send pictures from the first two weeks of their spring cruise.

During those two weeks, they took several small outings, one of them being a dinghy trip up a maze of mangrove-lined channels to an open lagoon on San Jose. Another was a visit to the site of a former mining operation that now resembles a ghost town on the north end of Punta Salinas. In a “delightful cove” called San Evaristo, they experienced a lightning storm that reminded them of the time their sailboat was struck by lightning in Costa Rica 19 years earlier, wiping out all their electronics.

They also met an American couple who makes San Evaristo their home. The couple has opened a small restaurant and also provides school supplies, with the help of cruisers like the Novaks, to five schools in the area.

Their next anchorage was Puerto Los Gatos with its red sandstone formations, great for hiking. While there, they enjoyed a lobster feast provided by local fishermen.

Their final stop before arriving in Puerto Escondido was Bahia Agua Verde, where they watched 22 goats climb along the steep, rocky ledges lining the beach.

When Alice isn’t completely enthralled by shore views, outings and the abundant marine life, she works on her next favorite hobby: quilting. An award-winning quilter, she is a member of the Quilters Dozen in Canyon Lake. Many of her quilts incorporate textiles and themes she sees in her travels.



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Donna Ritchie