Sailing with the spirits of John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts on a new voyage of discovery around Baja California

The Log

Return to Monterey

Friday, June 12

The Gus D has returned to Monterey. After dropping me in San Quintin, our Mexican colleagues in Ensenada, and the rest of the crew across the border in Long Beach, captain Frank Donahue slowly made his way north along the California coast, stopping in sheltered ports along the way to wait out bad weather and rest from the punishing nonstop journey north through the "Baja Bash."

When the Gus D eased up to Fisherman's Wharf this morning, I felt the same sense of excitement as I did at the beginning of our journey together. This time it was shot through with hard-won knowledge and experience of two months at sea, but this only deepened my feelings for this good old boat, which had carried us through.

Friends from Hopkins Marine Station came down to help us unload all of our gear: wet suits, snorkels, masks, sleeping bags and pads, aquarium, fishing rods, tape measures, quadrats for counting species, chemicals for preserving specimens, outboard motors, computers, reference books, all of the inert ingredients of a voyage that had coursed with life.

This is the end of our voyage. And the morning was suffused with the bittersweet feelings of an ending.

As the Gus D pulled away and Frank waved goodbye, I thought about what he had told me after we had lifted the last tote on to the pier. Last night, Frank told me, he was looking through The Gulf of California: A World Apart—a beautiful picture book that was loaned to us for the voyage by Graham Chisholm, a friend from The Nature Conservancy who helped launch us on this expedition, and that was edited by Exequiel Ezcurra, the president of the Instituto Nacional de Ecologia and our principal Mexican collaborator.

The book is filled with stunning images of the Sea of Cortez—pictures that we now know from our own experience.

Frank told me he wants to go back. "I'd like to go down and help those people keep it that way," he said.

"Trying to remember the Gulf is like trying to re-create a dream," Steinbeck and Ricketts wrote in The Log from the Sea of Cortez. "And since we have returned, there is always in the back of our minds the positive drive to go back again. If it were lush and rich, one could understand the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live, and we don't know why."*

Now we do.

Posted by Jon Christensen
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* From THE LOG FROM THE SEA OF CORTEZ by John Steinbeck, copyright 1941 by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts. Copyright renewed (c) 1969 by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts, Jr. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Baja California & The Sea of Cortez
Image provided by SeaWiFS Project
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


The Western Flyer:
the fishing boat that John Steinbeck
and Ed Ricketts took to
the Sea of Cortez.
photo courtesy Bob Enea.


The Gus-D:
the fishing boat we will take
back to the Sea of Cortez.


Sea of Cortez:
A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research


The Log from the Sea of Cortez