“Puerto Vallarta has an international community like no other"

Considering their less-than-favorable maiden voyage, it must be fate that Doug Danielson and his wife, Karen, took to sailing so passionately. The Southern California newlyweds had accepted an invitation to sail to Catalina Island, but the boat owner and the rest of the crew drank so heavily—not the Danielsons’ cup of tea—that the inexperienced couple had to sail the boat back on their own. Once on dry land, Doug and Karen said to one another, “We really liked this, but we need to do it on our own.” So they began taking lessons on a 27-foot sailboat, thus beginning the story of one of Banderas Bay’s most exemplary boating families, their three sons having inherited their passion for all things nautical.

A former architect, Doug’s love affair with Banderas Bay began in the ’70s when they first visited the region. It was Puerto Vallarta’s proximity to the ocean, along with the locals’ friendliness, that convinced them they would retire here. During the late ’80s, the US economy began a downward shift that forced Doug to close his firm. When Karen insisted he take advantage of his captain’s license and marina-design background, they began running charter sailing trips.

One of their first jobs involved sailing a boat from Costa Rica to Puerto Vallarta. Upon arrival, the sailboat owners flew home, and the Danielsons quickly became involved with the local boating community, living on the boat and staying at downtown Vallarta’s former Molino de Agua hotel from time to time “just for kicks.” Their fondness for the neighborhood remains to this day.

Doug, who had previously written articles for trade magazines, began writing short stories while convalescing from surgery in 2000. He now has two published novels, two manuscripts under consideration and two non-fiction books about cruising. This success has led to an ambassadorial duty, frequently fielding questions through his website,, from folks considering sailing to Puerto Vallarta or retiring here. “Not only is Puerto Vallarta the best place to get boat repair done,” he comments, “Puerto Vallarta has an international community like no other. There are arts, music and plenty of opportunities to participate in community projects. There are other great places in Mexico near the water, but they do not match Puerto Vallarta’s amenities.”

At 71 and having just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary, Doug continues to enjoy “a good life,” sailing around the world and gathering ideas for books he’s yet to write. “Boating is something you never get tired of. And if you start your children in it as an activity while they’re young, it will teach them lessons about life that they could not learn anywhere else. There’s always a safe harbor at the end of the storm.”