Family vacation that checked all boxes

Published on March 5th, 2020

We’ve heard the raves about the International Sailing Academy for Laser training. Their recipe of elite coaches in ideal locations, plus exceptional accommodations, meals, and equipment, have made legions of fans. Among the chorus is now Doug Frazer from Bellevue, WA:

I have to hand it to the folks at International Sailing Academy which operates at three locations: The Gorge, Oregon; La Cruz, Mexico; and Vilamoura, Portugal. They are running a first class operation, not just for sailors, but for the parents of sailors as well.

As we rarely take family trips because all of us have different ideas of what makes a good vacation, our family trip to La Cruz for the February Performance Clinic was one of the best trips we have ever made together.

Many of ISA’s clients and students arrive alone for a week long sailing extravaganza, but I must say that the week was a fantastic experience my wife and I, even though we are not dinghy sailors. In La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, there is something for everyone, and we were surprised to see our friends from Shilshole, the catamaran GenM, moored near the Malecón at the La Cruz yacht harbor.

There was no shortage of Seattle and Vancouver boats in the harbor at La Cruz, but with daily temperatures in the 80s, it’s definitely not Seattle. I suppose many of the Seattle boats are leftovers from the Baja race who are contemplating a jump into the Pacific. Wings, a Serendipity 44 from Seattle, is still there after over 5 years and they are still cruising and racing in Banderas Bay.

Our 13 year old sailor, Bob, was on the bay from Monday to Saturday in consistent 12 to 20 knot breezes, receiving valuable coaching and tips on how to make his Laser approach light speed. Nearly all the sailors in Bob’s group indicated that they were interested in perfecting starts and sailing downwind, so that’s what they practiced for a good part of the week.

Banderas Bay gets its wind from heating on land, resulting in consistent ocean breezes that fill in around noon and fade out about 4 pm every day. The bay also produced consistent excitement with its abundant marine life.

We saw turtles in and near the harbor, and just offshore from the breakwater we saw a school of manta rays jumping out of the water flapping their wings in what looked like a clumsy attempt to become completely airborne.

The fishing offshore must be amazing as the local market is full of dorado, snapper, tuna, lobster, and shrimp. On his Laser Bob saw humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins every day, and a whale even breached very close to his boat and all the others in the Laser fleet.


While the dinghy sailors were all out practicing among whales and dolphins, my wife and I were either relaxing by the pool; exploring the local restaurants and fish market; or taking a side trip to Yelapa where there is only access by boat. We found interesting things to do on our own every day.

Lisa particularly liked being able to do the morning yoga with our son and the other sailors before we wandered off to find desayuno. My favorite activity was exploring the town by foot and practicing my Spanish, I also managed to find a spot on a 50 foot ketch for beer can racing on Wednesday afternoon. We intend to return as soon as we can, and next time I will look into taking some Spanish language instruction and perhaps a cooking class.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot that I made an almost successful attempt to find Sayula II, the Carlin family’s famous Swan 65 that won the first Whitbread Round the World race in 1973-74 and starred in the documentary, “Weekend Sailor”. My wife thought I was losing it because every time I talked to a Mexican sailor, tour guide, or port official, I would ask about the whereabouts of this famous boat.

No one I talked to in Puerto Vallarta knew about Sayula’s historic achievement of winning the first Whitbread, but I just kept asking and eventually struck pay dirt when we made a day trip to Marina Vallarta Yacht Harbor.

Using the promise of a blended margarita, I dragged my wife to the harbor master’s office to meet Pablo Fernandez Gonzalez, the Harbor Master who had sailed with Ramon Carlin and his son on Sayula II.

Señor Fernandez advised us that Sayula II was up the coast in Northern Mexico so we would not be able to see her. Nevertheless, he was delighted to meet us and took us into his office where he regaled us with stories of Sayula II for nearly an hour.

Upon leaving I presented him with my Swan 391 OxoMoxo hat and he has promised to send me a Sayula hat in a friendly exchange. What a great trip!

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