Sailing on the Bay of Banderas, Mexican style


The Simpatico

What made it sailing Mexican style, off the coast of Puerto Vallarta? The sailing part was as expected on the Simpatico, lovely 30 foot sailboat, but everything else was pure Mexico, where everything is not quite as it seems.

Our adventures began the night before (see related article, “Tequila y Guacamole-seafood & entertainment in Puerto Vallarta” ) when we ran into the charmingly effusive Gerardo, who, like many Mexicans in Puerto Vallarta, seemed to have enough connections to hook us up with any activity, be it sailing, deep sea fishing, tequila dinner or timeshare presentations. After he reeled us into his restaurant, Tequila y Guacamole at Marina Vallarta, with promises of free food and drink we were persuaded to spend a day sailing on Bay of Banderas, all the more enticing as the whales were making their migratory run early and had been spotted locally in recent days.

After a few margaritas, Pacificos and shots of tequila we were eager to sign up for the implausibly reasonable price of $30/person. Gerardo practically guaranteed that we’d have a great time and see whales. He assured us he would, of course, be spending the day with us, and that he personally would make us a lovely baguette.

Marina Vallarta

Marina Vallarta

We arrived at the appointed time to find a slightly less effusive Gerardo bustling around making phone calls, apologizing every few minutes for what was to become a protracted delay. We were on Mexican time so we were unaffected but another couple from Wisconsin was quite frustrated that we weren’t departing at exactly the promised time, an unrealistic expectation at best. Eventually, about an hour later, a trio of Mexicans joined us and we were off. As we walked down the marina Gerardo ducked into a convenience store purchase beer with instructions to continue to the furthest dock. Our group straggled down the walkway, incorporating the captain who materialized out of the shadows, but when the gate was opened there was no sailboat waiting. Some general confusion ensued, with an appearance by the dock master and a few sharp words. The end result was that the door was slammed shut, phones were pulled out of pockets, calls were made and we were informed that we’d have to proceed to the public dock. We surmised that we didn’t really have permission to board from the private marina. We followed our pied piper down the street to the public dock wondering what had just transpired while the Wisconsin couple fumed and kept repeating, “I just wonder what this boat is going to look like.”

Finally a boat appeared which turned out to be a very nice Rawson 30 foot sailboat. Once we finally boarded the boat there was another long delay while one of the female guests from the Mexican trio traveled back to the private marina to use the restroom facilities, declining to use the head on the boat. This resulted in more gnashing of teeth by Wisonsin. We settled in on the bow, just happy to be on the water on a beautiful sunny day in Mexico and made ourselves at home. With a wave Gerardo bid us goodbye, leaving us in the capable hands of the crew.

Puerto Vallarta

The cityscape of Puerto Vallarta from the sailboat

Making our way out of the marina the skipper hoisted the sail, but it was more for show as there was little wind and the motor chugged along the whole day. Never mind, we were sailing—sort of. We admired the views of the Puerto Vallarta cityscape and gaped at the amazing feats of manta rays, somersaulting out of the water and whirling like dervishes. Manta rays, characterized by their triangular fins resembling wings, are known for their acrobatic antics along the Pacific coast of Mexico. Weighing up to 3,000 lbs, with up to a 24 foot wingspan they are a spectacular sight as they seemingly fly above the water. Hard won smiles appeared on everyone’s face.


We saw two whales frolicking in the warm waters

We kept a sharp eye toward the ocean looking for telltale spouts from a blowhole or a dorsal whale fin, but they tricked us. We finally spotted two whales very close to a rocky bluff along the shore near Los Muertos Beach. First we spotted the fine mist of the spout, then saw dark gray fins and flukes glistening in the midday sun. Between the manta rays and whales I already considered the expedition a major success. The humpback whales migrate each year from December to April (they were early this year due to premature cooling of the ocean water) as they migrate from the frigid waters of Alaska to calve in the warmth of the tropical ocean off the coast of Mexico.

We continued sailing to a collection of small rocky islands that comprise the Los Arcos Marine Park off the coast of Mismaloya when the crew started tossing bread crumbs, looking suspiciously like the promised baguette, into the water, attracting swarms of colorful orange and black clown fish. We donned ancient snorkeling gear that leaked like a sieve, and jumped into the sparkling sea. The water was refreshing and after getting a quick look at the fish I abandoned the leaking mask and just enjoyed swimming around in the water, bobbing up and down in the gentle ocean swells.

By this time our traveling companions had deteriorated from grumpy to wretchedly seasick, one heaving over the side. We ate their potato chips, a poor substitution for a baguette sandwich, and accepted beers handed through a porthole by a crew member, having a much better trip than they.

All in all we enjoyed our excursion and felt that for a day on the water, seeing whales, manta rays and tropical fish that it was good value for $30 per person, even if every detail didn’t quite turn out as expected. We felt safe at all times and the capable crew was jovial and entertaining. We quite enjoyed sailing Mexican style.

See related articles about Puerto Vallarta:


To book a sailing expedition on the Simpatico:

  • We booked a four hour sailing expedition on the Simpatico, a Rawson 30 foot sailboat (374 pesos, US$30/person) through Gerardo of Tequila & Guacamole Restaurant in Marina Vallarta.
  • Call for reservations: 322-126-5341

Information about what to do and where to stay can be obtained from the Visit Puerto Vallarta website. Numerous fishing, sailing and boat trips are offered through many sources.


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