The legacy of the Voyager continues to inspire us by connecting us with the sea.
It’s been almost 60 years since the Voyager boat first graced the waters of the Pacific in Redondo Beach. In its long history, the vessel carried passengers out to fishing barges for the local catch and has been a proving ground over the years for many skippers, captains and deckhands to build up their boating skills. Today, the Voyager continues to delight school children, visitors and locals with daily whale watching and nature tours.
It was just a few short years ago that the Voyager was nearly lost when she went up for sale which could have been the end of this story. But thanks to four long-time local Redondo Beach sea captains who stepped up to steward the legacy of this iconic and stalwart passenger boat, the story of the Voyager carries on. Caryn Stanton who manages Voyager Excursions shared more about this inspiring locally-owned business with us.
LOCALISTA: Tell us about Voyager Excursions. What’s it like to go out on one of your tours?
CARYN STANTON: Fortunately, our excursions depart very close to the harbor entrance. A lot of other whale watching boats have to travel a longer distance in order to get out into the ocean, but we’re out on the ocean in five minutes. We follow the coastline in the South Bay starting from the pier in the Redondo Beach Marina, so we can immediately see lots of sea lions, dolphins and sea birds. As we venture just a little further out into the Bay, the whales can be spotted.
LM: What kinds of tours do you offer?
CS: During whale watching season, we take people out seven days a week, twice each day at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The rest of the year, we take guests out for nature cruises on the weekends. The Voyager also hosts other ceremonies, including engagement parties, bachelorette and bachelor parties, weddings, birthday parties, family reunions and burials at sea. The boat has 125 seats and we’re available all year long for events. On the Fourth of July, we take guests out on the ocean and tie-up to the bait barge to watch the fireworks show off the coast in Redondo. We have the best view of the fireworks since we can get so close. We then travel down to Torrance Beach to watch another spectacular fireworks display.
Fortunately, our excursions depart very close to the harbor entrance… we’re out on the ocean in five minutes.
LM: What can people expect to see on the Voyager?
CS: The Voyager has been really lucky with the whales. We’ve seen tons of them in recent years and
this season has been amazing. We often see gray whales, fin, minke, blues, humpbacks, and sperm whales. We work very closely with the Point Vicente Interpretive Center [a nearby volunteer docent organization featuring natural history and whale watching] and they let us know what’s out in the sea that day. We’re very lucky to have that special resource so our passengers will get to see something while they’re out on the Voyager.
LM: The Voyager’s legacy was almost lost several years ago. Can you tell us what happened?
CS: When the Voyager came up for sale back in 2010, my husband Craig and three other local captains, Ken Swanson, Billy Schwaneberg and John Miller went in together to buy it. They all grew up in Redondo and all had a history of working on the boat. It probably would have ended up somewhere else in another city’s marina. All of the guys wanted to keep the Voyager here in Redondo so they bought it. Craig was first on the Voyager when he was 10 years old and he worked on the boat as a kid growing up. There are a lot of memories on that boat.
LM: What are some things you do to go above and beyond other boat excursion companies?
CS: We’re proud to say that we’re in 100% compliance with the Coast Guard requirements. The boat is almost 60 years old but it was really well-built. We’ve worked really hard on maintaining the Voyager to make sure that she has a minimally-polluting engine to reduce emissions. While we’re out on the ocean, we make sure to scoop up any trash or Mylar balloons. All of our captains are passionate about doing our part to keep this ocean as clean as possible. We also have the flexibility to accommodate all of our guests — from schools to private charters. Our prices are very reasonable because we want everyone to be able to enjoy an excursion out on the ocean. We work with the local schools, the girl scouts and the boy scouts to get the children out there on the water. The kids are the future and we really want them to get to experience what’s out there in the ocean. We also donate 10% of our sales to the Cabrillo Museum for all of their support and knowledge.
The kids are the future and we really want the children to get to experience what’s out there in the ocean.
LM: Tell us an interesting story about one of your excursions. Were there any “wow” moments? Anything funny or unusual?
CS: We took out a class of students and we came across an entangled whale that was caught up in some nets. The boat – and all of the kids on it – stayed with the whale for several hours until we were able to get help for the whale. We still have clients that remember that excursion four years later and recall how powerful it was for the passengers and the students to witness that event.
LM: People may be surprised to know what about you or your business?
CS: We have a group of about 100 different volunteers and docents from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium called the ‘red coats.’ There is a class at the Aquarium that is offered for free from October to March to become a trained naturalist. They volunteer on the Voyager and other boats for many years, going out on excursions to inform our guests and point out the sights. We have a volunteer who has been working with the program for 36 years.
They just don’t leave because they have so much fun.
LM: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received regarding your business?
CS: People are always saying how friendly we are. Our team is constantly checking on the weather for safety and goes the extra mile to get information out to our guests about the excursions. If we have a day that doesn’t look optimal for an excursion, we’ll let the customers know. People appreciate that we’re honest and want them to have the best experience possible.
LM: When do you feel most inspired by your work with Voyager Excursions?
CS: When I see all of the smiling people getting off the boat and looking at me and saying, “That was the best time ever.” It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life.
About Voyager Excursions
Voyager Excursions offers whale watching tours departing twice daily from the end of December through April from Redondo Beach Marina. From May through November, nature tours and boat rides are offered every hour. Each adventure is narrated by a trained Naturalist of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium/American Cetacean Society, L.A. Chapter who shares their local knowledge of marine wildlife, coastline scenery and history.
Location: 131 International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach CA 90277