Sailing on Bandaras Bay

I’ve always loved the notion of sailing (especially sailing away), but severe seasickness has prevented this idea from ever becoming reality.

For the past five years, I had outright refused to go aboard a boat, but this year I felt compelled to try again. Equipped with an anti-nausea bracelet, and some ginger candies, I joined some friends on a couple of very short surf trips by boat and I fared rather well. Based on these jaunts, I thought I might be ready to finally pursue my lifelong dream of sailing.

Captain Corey Nielsen
Photo credit: Desiree Bilon

Recently a surfing friend put me in touch with Corey Nielsen, a former Olympic kayaking coach, who has a sailboat right here in Punta de Mita. Corey invited my boyfriend and me aboard his 39ft sloop called the Satori (Japanese for enlightenment), which he sailed 5000 miles from South Carolina down through the Panama Canal and up again along the Pacific Coast of Mexico – a journey that lasted 5 months.

Satori from Above
Photo credit: Corey Neilsen

On the day of my sailing adventure, I was excited and nervous, but the boat was much more stable than I had expected. Although the wind was strong, we really only travelled at the pace of someone walking. Corey assured me that if I could drive a car, then I could also drive a boat. As he sailed us out of the harbor, he reviewed some safety points. Then he prompted me to take the wheel. I was reluctant, as I had no idea what I was doing.

Corey pointed out the numbers on the instruments – direction, speed and depth of water. Overhead was a tiny window and through it he pointed out a weather vane that I also needed to check from time to time for wind direction. I wrapped my hands around the oversized metal steering wheel – it was cold. At first, the sailing was pretty smooth, as we glided along heading for the Point. Fleetwood Mac played lazily through the speakers.

Corey was amicable and I learned that he bought his first boat, a 31-footer, without even knowing how to sail. Lucky for him the boat inspector gave him a crash course before signing off on the documents.

Paddling up to the Satori
Photo credit: Corey Neilsen

As we neared the Point, the water became more choppy. All of a sudden a gust of wind blasted the sail and the boat started to lean heavily to one side. I white-knuckled the steering wheel, and Corey told my boyfriend to “Sheet in” or trim the sails. “Oh sheet,” I said. My heart continued to pound, even after we had regained control.

We tacked at that point, turning and heading back towards the harbor. Sometimes the wind would falter and the sails would luff, or flap. Then I’d have to turn slightly to compensate, find a better angle, and fill the hungry sails with the wind.

In 2012, and then again in 2013, Corey was the only crewman to Cam McCannel, who placed first (both times) in the multi-hull class of the Bahia de Banderas Regatta – one of the most prestigious in all of Latin America.

The Satori is a solar-powered, luxury single hull that sleeps three plus crew. Complete with a kitchenette and a sitting area, decorated with paintings of waves – and a couple of plants, both bromeliads, one named Barry and the other one Esmeralda – the Satori feels more like a home than a boat.

We anchored offshore and spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun and the success of my first time on a sailboat.

To book a sailing adventure with Captain Corey, contact our Experience Manager at


Desiree Bilon

Desiree Bilon is a writer, translator, and a surf tour guide. After traveling and living abroad on four continents she now calls Mexico home.

Desiree occasionally manages to use both of her Master's degrees: International Relations and Translating/Interpreting. Her writing has appeared in surf and action sport magazines in English, Italian, and Spanish.

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