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From the Boathouse: A caution for south of the border

January 17, 2014|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

Are you planning to cruise your boat south of the border to Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas for an adventure and warmer weather before the hurricane season begins this year? Then I highly recommend that you do not cross the U.S.-Mexican border without the proper paperwork aboard your vessel or prepare to potentially have your boat impounded by the Mexican Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT).

Many American and Canadian boaters who cruise into Mexican waters are not aware of the SAT, which is similar to the IRS. Additionally, many boaters do not know or understand the specific fees and exact paperwork that must be carried aboard any visiting vessel while in Mexico. However, everyone has heard how a bribe or casual tip might help smooth the waters when dealing with the Mexican authorities to help resolve a misunderstanding or situation.

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Recently, more than 300 boats have been impounded when reports of SAT agents discovered missing or improper paperwork aboard the boats that were berthed in various marinas. The finger-pointing has begun as to whether this is just a ploy by the government to raid the coffers of visiting boaters or rules that can change from port captain to port captain, or boaters who simply did not abide by the laws. Additionally, many boaters are simply tired of all the fees required for a simple weekend trip, for example, to Ensenada.

I have never skippered a vessel south of the border without using a professional vessel documentation service for all the required Mexican papers. I would have the papers in one folder or binder, and I would pay the extra service fee to have the Mexican marina management handle the arrival and departure papers. When I visit the Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada, marina manager Fito Espinoza and his staff always handle my paperwork prepared prior to our arrival by a documentation service.

Some boaters call this move by the Mexican government the last straw, and those boat owners vow never to enter Mexican waters again. Others claim that it is the laziness of the boat owners to not have the correct papers and fees paid. Many boat owners are simply confused as to the correct procedure. They say the rules change and the inspectors may not be able to read or comprehend the papers that are aboard the vessels.

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