Bahía Concepción & Punta Chivato – Great Sea of Cortez Anchorages

Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Punta Chivato's elegant hotel.

Shipwreck at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico


Wildlife at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Osprey at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico


Osprey flying over Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Shell Beach at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Shells on Punta Chivato's "Shell Beach."

Castaway's Wilson is at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

We're not alone -- Mark

found Wilson!

The pretty hotel at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Stairs leading up to Punta

Chivato's hotel

The hotel's patio bar at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Charming outdoor bar.  Too bad it's closed!

Lovely landscaping at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Interestingly landscaped grounds at the hotel.

Playa Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa Coyote in Bahía Concepción is like glass.

Playa Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Heron on watch.

Playa Coyote in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A perfect day for a lazy kayak ride.

Coyote Beach in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Playa El Burro in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa El Burro beachfront ex-pat homes.

Homes on Playa El Burro in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Each home is a little different.

Homes in El Burro Cove in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Homes on El Burro Beach in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Homes in El Burro Cove in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Some have a removable front wall to bring the

view all the way in.

Relaxing on El Burro Beach, Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Snoozing on the water is the only way to beat

the heat.

Geary Ritchie's home is totally wired.

Geary Ritchie's home is totally wired to help with

his weather forecasting.

Geary, the Sea of Cortez weatherman himself.

Geary, the Sonrisa Net's Sea of Cortez

weatherman himself.

Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa Coyote.

National Outdoor Leadership School lunch room.

The lunch room for the staff at NOLS.

National Outdoor Leadership School kitchen

NOLS houses a complete commercial kitchen...

National Outdoor Leadership School provisioning.

…extensive provisioning for the students...

National Outdoor Leadership School camp store.

…and a mini-REI right here on the beach.

National Outdoor Leadership School solar setup.

The entire campus, like every building in this bay, is

run on solar power.

NOLS kayaks ready for use.

Kayaks ready to go to sea.

NOLS yawl for saiing instruction.

The centerboard yawls used by the sailing

portions of the classes.

National Outdoor Leadership School yawl for saiing instruction. NOLS yawl for saiing instruction.

We catch a NOLS class on the water and see

the yawl in action.

Punta Chivato & Bahía Concepción

Mid-October, 2011 - Once the effects of hurricanes Jova and Irwin

way down south had stopped churning up the waves and wind in our

neighborhood near the middle of the Sea of Cortez, we ventured

across from San Carlos on the mainland to Punta Chivato on the

Baja side.  There wasn't enough wind to sail, and we had an easy

70+ mile crossing under power.

Punta Chivato is a small community of vacation villas fronting a long

shell-strewn beach.  The point is dominated by a sprawling hotel.  But

what really caught our attention as we approached was an apparent

shipwreck of an older sailboat resting on its side along the rocks.

Although this anchorage was very peaceful when we arrived, it could

obviously be quite nasty at times.

The temperatures were still hovering near 100 degrees

everyday, so the whole community was closed up tight.

The only sounds were the raucous cries of gulls and the

shrill whistles of a pair of osprey.

We wandered along the beach,

admiring the endless array of


Adding to our sense of remoteness,

Mark suddenly found Tom Hanks'

best friend, the basketball "Wilson" of

Castaway fame, sitting among the

rocks and shells.

We had heard that the hotel at Punta

Chivato was a perfect place to spend

some relaxing afternoon hours sipping

cool drinks while perched high above

the sea with a sweeping view

around the point.

Unfortunately the hotel and it's

charming outdoor bar were

closed until December.  So we

wandered around the lovely

grounds and imagined how

much fun it would be if

the pretty, shaded

outdoor bar were filled

with happy vacationers

enjoying sundowners

along with us.

From Punta Chivato it is an easy 25

mile or so daysail south to the broad

bays and anchorages of Bahía

Concepción.  A long channel

separates this bay from the rough-

and-tumble Sea of Cortez, and the

water where we anchored at Playa

Coyote was like glass.

We could see schools of yellow and

black striped sergeant major reef

fish below the surface, while an

occasional giant angel fish would

glide by and look up at us in the kayak.  The

herons, gulls and pelicans

watched the motion of the fish

with as much interest as we did.

A happy couple floated by us in

a tandem kayak, looking very

kicked back…

Then a large fish began leaping

out of the water, almost dancing

on its tail as it darted across the

surface.  A gull flew in to try to

catch the fish in mid-air, but a

heron beat him to the punch and caught the stunned fish mid-leap.  The heron quickly

dropped into the water, fish in beak.  He wasn't nearly as graceful a swimmer as his web-

footed companions, but he managed to stay afloat.  Just as he was angling the fish in his

beak to swallow it in one gulp, a pelican swooped by and snatched the fish right out of his

mouth.  In a flash the pelican threw his head back and ate the fish.  Yikes.  The heron

was stunned, we were stunned, and the whole thing was over in an instant.  The gull flew

off, scolding everyone as he rose above the water.

We took the kayak around the corner to next-door Playa El Burro.  This intriguing ex-pat

community had perked my interest when we were here last June, because the beach is

densely packed with small thatch-roofed houses built right in the sand.  Many are closed

up tight for the hot summer months, but a few were open and we could see the inhabitants

milling about inside.

Each house is unique.  Many have a porch

out front or a removable front wall that opens

the interior of the house to the view of the

bay.  They are cute, although very rustic, as

there is no electricity, town water or sewer

service.  Everything runs on solar power and

water is brought in to each house by truck.

All of the homes are owned by ex-

pats, and it struck me as very odd

that such wonderful vacation living

would be the exclusive property of

foreigners rather than Mexicans.

The heat at this time of year is

pretty much unbearable, and

lots of people spend their

days submerged in the 80+

degree water.  One fellow was

on his floating bed for several


At the end of the beach is the

distinctive home of Geary

Ritchie, an avid amateur

meteorologist who provides

sailors with Sea of Cortez

weather forecasts every

morning via SSB and VHF

radio.  His home is covered

with antennas.

Geary was at home when

we stopped by, and he

graciously invited us to sit

on his front porch with him

for a while.  What a spot!

He explained a little about

how all these tiny homes came to be sitting on the water's edge here.  His

was the first home on the beach 15 years ago, and at the time the Mexican

government charged him $30/month for his bit of sand.  He built a little

beach palapa home, and he has lived here ever since.  Nowadays the rent

has gone up nearly eight-fold, but is still a phenomenal bargain for a

bungalow in paradise.  And the beach has filled in with similar homes.

Folks like Geary provide an invaluable service to sailors worldwide, and

they achieve legendary status among cruisers for their dedicated volunteer

efforts.  Geary has been told his radio voice is similar to his fellow

forecaster in South Africa.  I was intrigued that he got his start by providing weather reports for a friend in the States who had

left his boat in the bay one summer.

Back at Playa Coyote around the corner we visited another

intriguing shoreside property.  The National Outdoor Leadership

School ("NOLS").  They have a "ranch" on this beach, one of many

worldwide campuses that provide bases for student wilderness

excursions into our planet's wonderful outdoor classrooms.

We had met the assistant director David and his young family out on the

water.  They were camping on the deck of one of the boats in the bay to

escape the excruciating overnight heat in their home on shore, and they

rowed past us on the mirrored morning water on their way "to work."

They invited us to visit the school, and what an eye-opener that was.

We arrived on the beach to find several staff members having

lunch under the huge mesquite tree that shades their strip of

sand.  Becca, the director of trek provisioning, gave us a

delightful tour and explained the essence and nature of the


Something of a cross between Outward Bound, the Boy Scouts and an

elite college, the school offers classes ranging from a few weeks to a full

year, many of which accrue college credit at universities around the world.

Classes are conducted in the wild and include kayaking, hiking, rock

climbing, horseback riding and sailing between remote destinations.

Students learn skills ranging from biology to environmental studies to

backcountry survival to group leadership.  Most classes are about 15

students with 3 or 4 instructors, and all camping is open air: no tents and just a few shade tarps.

Becca's job is to make sure everyone is well fed on the

expeditions.  The kitchen and store-room she oversees are

enormous.  The recipes use gallons instead of cups.

This particular campus in Baja California was established around

1990, and its ultra-smooth operation is thanks to the two Mexican

families who have become an integral part of the school.  Initially

they provided the land and buildings for the "ranch," but now the

operation of the school and campus is a family enterprise.

This was the first place I had ever been in Mexico where every

Gringo was fluent in Spanish, and Spanish was the default

language for everyone.  As Becca said, "The ladies here do all the

shopping and food preparation, and if I can't converse in Spanish I

can't do my job."

The tuition for classes here is similar to a private college, and the education is on the same level.  Students are told what to

bring, but just in case they can't find a particular item, the school has a small store that looks like a mini-REI or Cabella's

camping store.  What a surprise to see all this high-end Patagonia clothing for sale in the middle of a community made up of ex-

pat beach bungalows.

Just like everyone else on the beach, the school runs without city

water, city sewer or city electricity.  The grid of Outback solar charge

controllers was very impressive.  We have an Outback charge

controller in our fifth wheel, but just one, not six!

Along with a library filled with books on outdoor adventuring, the

school has a repair yard where the sailboats and kayaks can be

patched up between expeditions.  The sailing component of the

classes uses small open centerboard yawls.  Of course the students

sleep outdoors on the beach during the sailing portion of the class

rather than on the boats.

We picked up a beautiful 100-page glossy brochure for the school

while we were there and lusted over the stunning photographs of the

courses offered everywhere in the world from the Amazon to

Australia to Scandinavia to the Pacific Northwest.  Each site has a

"ranch" campus like the one we had seen.  What a fantastic

educational experience it must be, perfect for a "gap" year between

high school and college or before grad school.

Later, when we were daysailing at the mouth of Bahía Concepción, we

saw one of the classes on the water.  Four yawls were tacking back and

forth near the entrance of Bahía Concepción, and we tacked back and

forth along with them.  The next day when we left Concepción for La

Ramada Cove and the Loreto area, we saw the four yawls pulled up on

a remote beach.  Two shade tarps and the four boats were all we could

see of their wilderness experience.  Besides ourselves a sailing few

miles out on the water, there wasn't a sign of humanity anywhere to be

seen on the coast for another 25 miles.

Read more about Bahía Concepción during our previous

visit in June, 2011 here.

Find Punta Chivato, Bahía Concepción, Playa Coyote and

Playa El Burro on Mexico Maps.