Cruising to Mexico? What to Expect and a Bit of Data You Should Know…#47

Sitting in quarantine on Angelique in Florida is no more fun than you sitting at home. We do similar things to keep ourselves busy and healthy. Writing for me is a blessing. It has become something I look forward to rather than dread. When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure what to write about and how to go about it. I just knew I wanted to keep track of what we were doing and share it.

I thought I would share about Mexico. I think it is our most favorite countries we have visited, to date. We have spent the most time there and came to love it.

“What should you expect when you travel on your boat to Mexico?”

img_7148-1First, getting into the country is different than traveling inside of the US.  We have to check in at customs & immigration. This requires us to go to the national office, sometimes close by and sometimes not. We also may be required to visit a bank, to pay the immigration office, occasionally they do not take cash. You would need to pay the bill at the bank and bring back a receipt. Then we would need to head to the Port Captain’s office to check into the local port. Sometimes these were not physically close and required a taxi or the marina’s office folks to cart us around. In some countries like Costa Rica & Panama we hired an agent to get us checked in/out. This was very valuable when we started reading the complications of moving from place to place in these two countries. Mexico is cheaper and simpler.

img_7147-1When we go to these offices we take all our critical documents needed to check in. Dan created a “Boat Book” with plastic sleeves for sliding in and out all the documents. This book holds all the vital paperwork needed to get in and show a customs/immigrations officers & Port Captain’s office. We are also often asked for copies of our documents and have a small printer we can use to make extra copies.

This book holds:

  • US Coast Guard National documentation
  • Liability insurance 
  • Import or cruising permit (TIP – Mexico)
  • Passports
  • Zarpe – Arrival and departure documents (we have saved them all)
  • Dispatcho or Arribo – Port Captain exit and entry documents
  • Homeland security decals
  • Radiotelephone license – FCC
  • EPRIB registration
  • Ownership of boat, bill of sale
  • registration for all vehicles (boat, dinghy, waverunner, motorcycle)
  • titles of all vehicles

Red fonts documents are required frequently, we carry the others in cases we need them.

Most countries also require you to purchase a travel/cruising permit for your boat to be in their waters. Mexico has a “TIP” Temporary Import Permit. Mexico’s TIP is a boat & owner specific permit that lasts 10 years. If you are buying a boat and you plan to take it to Mexico, make sure the previous owner has canceled their TIP, or it will cause you issues. You could possibly be sent back if you are not prepared. We entered in Ensenada and had worked with the local marina staff months and months before we entered. See, we had a TIP that was not canceled and the owner would not help, as he said it had already been canceled and it wasn’t. But the previous owner did give us the contact information in Ensenada of some folks that had helped him and we were able to get everything in-line before we arrived. We don’t recommend this approach, if at all possible, have the last owner cancel the TIP.

You need to remember that every time you move you are required to check “out and in”  of each next major port of arrival/departure. You will need to visit the Port Captain’s office to accomplish this. If you are staying in a marina, you can ask for assistance. You will get different level of assistance in each one. This seems really hard and complicated. But once you figure it out and have a process for it, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Well worth the time for the experience.

We also joined a boat rally and we highly recommend this, as it gives you new people to meet, a place to ask questions and you learn a lot by just being with people that have done it before. From the West coast there are two different rally’s, The Baja ha ha & the Cubar. Either one is fine.

Now you are ready visit Mexico and have some fun! See the sights etc. As you start to interact with the local community, remember you are the guest! Most importantly, be kind and courteous to these folks. They will be excited to see you and take your money, of course. Tourism is their livelihood. For the most part Mexico is very inexpensive, especially if you are living with the locals and not in resort. So, if the marina is in a resort area, take the time to travel to the local farmers market, shopping store and don’t buy from the expensive stores near the resort.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Because you are living in Mexico and not just visiting for 1 or 2 weeks. You will be exposed to more of the ongoing daily culture. You have to go grocery shopping, buy stuff to work on repairs on your boat, etc. We enjoyed being more ingrained in the culture of Mexico. We got comfortable and knew our way around some of the towns really well. You will start to notice all the uniqueness of the country which you should embrace. Those that try and live a US life inside a foreign country will first, not experience the real country and second, be really disappointed.

“YOU have to have an Open Mind and accept that everything is different”

img_3599You “should not” expect to see the same type of cities, roads, houses, restaurants, grocery stores, laws, taxis, sidewalks, attitudes, approach, style of speaking etc, etc, etc. Mexicans are much more about relationship building. They want to have a nice greeting before they get into the topic in question. Americans, right to the point! Understanding this is critical to building relationship and getting what you need & want. They are different and you should try and understand the uniqueness of their culture. At the shipyard in Puerto Vallarta, we had OUTSTANDING quality of work, very affordable pricing due to using a personally recommended project manager,  who was a great communicator, super attentive, involving family members in their business. This was able to work because we accepted how they did business in a slow, relationship, family, and holiday considered way.

The grocery stores are different and not like the US, but if you are continuing to be open minded and trying new things, you will find new and interesting foods. Also the food expectations should also be open minded. You will not find perfect shaped or clean fruits and veggies. We also think everything needs to be refrigerated, which isn’t the case. Eggs are not washed and not refrigerated, meat out in the open & food carts are often scattered along the road sides.

img_7146Another way to enjoy the experience is to learn the language. Spanish isn’t that hard. Neither Dan or I knew any Spanish, but worked hard to learn what we could as we went along. Now, we certainly can’t hold conversations, but we learned how to ask questions, greeting, small words that helped us along the way. It helps with the locals valuing you and your visit, if at least try and speak some spanish. Of course you can take a class, use an app – Duolingo and practice as often as you can.

It is also really important to understand you can NOT get the boat parts in Mexico that you can expect to get in the US. BRING spare parts and/or have redundancies of items. Also any speciality lubes/oils etc. Carry them into Mexico on your boat. We cannot stress this enough. Bring spare starters, alternators, pumps, impellers, turbos, and lots of nuts bolts screws electrical connectors and plumbing parts, etc… Having something shipped not only takes a long time but crossing over the border, customs gets their cut. Sometimes 30-50% of the shipments retail cost.

img_2019For fun you might want to consider bringing kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles, snorkels gear, scuba gear, games and playing cards, & DVD movies. Also if you plan on anchoring out and visiting islands as we did up in the Sea of Cortez, you should consider a smaller lightweight dinghy that you can pull up on the sand. This is one mistake we made, ours is too heavy to haul up on a beach.

Internet & Phones add another complication.  You get internet at marinas, but it isn’t as fast as US and surely isn’t as reliable (staying up and working). If you go in remote areas you will get no service, internet or cell. It is very spotty as to where you will have service in areas like the Sea of Cortez. Phone service was an unexpected issue we experienced. You are thinking…. You won’t have this issue because your US phone plan says = “USA, Canada and Mexico”. We didn’t expect to have an issue either. BUT, just before 3 months time T-Mobile told us they would cancel our plan and numbers if we didn’t go back to the US before the 3 month time. Depending on which plan you have you are only allowed 3-6 months in Mexico until they cancel your plan. This is for Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile. We personally went in and asked while we were home trying to solve our problem. We ended up buying Mexican phone numbers that we could fill with data and make calls. BUT it was extremely hard to keep filling up and we really weren’t happy with the service. There are lots of folks that buy these type of plans that either live or travel to Mexico often and they do fine. It just wasn’t okay for us.  We asked some of our friends, Dean and Roxane what were they doing. They told us that they are on an AT&T plan with their adult kids, the more people the better. The plan that AT&T uses for large groups allows no more than 50% of the usage from Mexican travelers. So that is what we did, we have these awesome friends that let us join their AT&T plan and it is working out great!

img_3674Getting Cash is an interesting issue and I do recommend getting Mexican Pesos, you will need them. Yes you can use your Credit Card at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. but taking a taxi, tipping, farmers market, street vendors, a quick drink, you need cash. What I recommend is to use your debit card in a machine to get cash. Yes, you will be charged a fee and the conversion rate at the moment in time that you get the cash. But this is the easiest and best exchange rate. PLEASE use a debit machine attached to a local bank and be aware that there are thieves that can scan your card if you are not careful.  You need to pay attention to the fee and the conversion rate, which are both set by the owner of the machine. The fee is a one time transaction fee, so pull out as many Pesos as the machine will allow in one transaction. All machines we went to have an option for “english”. That was nice.

a4f10cbd-6ec7-40c8-a5d7-52d0d4e8b1a5Mexico is one of our most favorite places to visit/stay. We were in Mexico for a 1 year+ in many different areas. I’m sure we will be back. Dan and I feel Mexico is a very safe place to be. As long as you are aware of your surroundings, just like in the US. Pay attention and enjoy. I often went places by myself, either on a shuttle bus, taxi or Uber. (Available in the bigger cities). I only once felt a little uncomfortable. NOW there are cities where there is a bit of unrest, like Acapulco, so I would not act the same in this city and we were extremely careful there.

If you are open-minded to new adventures and new ways of living and don’t expect the same from Mexico as US, Canada or Europe. You will really enjoy yourself.

Adios Amigos

Watch for our NEXT Blog

…. SpaceX Rocket Launch in Florida (Hope it isn’t postponed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Had to Pull Out Our Ditch Bags…. Do You Know What to Do?….#46

While out enjoying our time on the water, something happened. Is it a fire? or are we taking on water?? What’s happening here? Panic strikes and we run around trying to figure out what to do. First, can we save the boat? No… what’s next? Can we live through this? Not sure yet. We are out in the middle of the ocean hundreds of miles between us and the nearest foreign land. Oh My… we are going down. What will we do & how do we survive this? 

I hope I never have to tell you a story like this! It is the most feared thing that could happen. It didn’t happen….But are we ready if it did? Do we know what steps to take if it did? See how we prepared for this type of situation.

HOW PREPARED are YOU??? 

Today is the day that we pulled out our ditch bags and checked to make sure nothing is spoiled, wet, broken and all is good. We reviewed everything including our ditch bag check off lists & emergency procedures documents too. Keep reading, I will share all of our checklists and procedures document with you to make life easier!

img_7045What is a ditch bag? It is what would be carefully hand over the edge of the boat into the life raft when our BIG boat is going down. It holds some very important items to last until we are rescued and actually helps us get rescued.

What is a Procedure list? It is a document you use when you are in the heat of the moment, so you don’t forget anything. It has all the things we should do, grab, and the process and order in which we perform them. Don’t want to forget anything.

While we are here stuck in quarantine, it is a good time to check on stuff, even practice or discuss our safety stuff. I set up our ditch bags approximately 2 years ago before we left Portland Oregon. Too much time had passed to not check and make sure everything is good. If you are a boater, this would be a good time for you to pull them out and check them over too. Everyone needs a slightly different safety checklist. If you are a small “day cruiser” or a “fishing boat’ you still need one, but maybe one slightly different. Don’t assume you don’t. If something were to happen and you are stuck out in the water for long periods of time, you would need some items.

I created this checklist myself.  I have done tons of reading and looking online for a check-off list and found NONE. There is lots of articles about what to have and why, but I wanted an actual checkoff list and a step by step list procedures for when we are in the emergency moment.  I’m sure they could be better, they always can, right? But those that don’t have them or think they don’t need them, think again.

You need some combination of these types of safety items as a base. We have all of these and some multiples. Basic Safety Items: USCG Safety Outline  

  • Auto inflatable Life Raft √
  • EPIRB – (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) √
  • Communications devices, VHF, Satellite radio/communicator √
  • Personal locator beacon (GPS) √
  • PFD – (personal flotation device)  & tossable flotation devices √
  • Fire Extinguishers √
  • Visual & sound devices (flares/horns) √
  • Immersion suit √

InReach GPS/Communicator – Find me Spot – EPIRB & activation button to push on EPIRB

What does a ditch bag give you if you have all this stuff, won’t someone come and get you? That is what we all hope for, at least! But being in the ocean and/or off a foreign country the response time may not be what you expect.

So, if you want to stay safe and alive in a life raft for 5+ days you need water, food, hat, sunblock, etc, etc, etc. The ditch bag will give you stuff to live on for a while, and be a bit more comfortable & safer than floating in an empty life raft.

As mentioned above each “Ditch Bag” is unique, here are some ideas to get you to build your own. You can buy an already set-up bag on Amazon, West Marine or many other locations, we just choose to be more thrifty and make our own. I also think ours are better equipped.

First you need Bag(s) that have handles/straps and float or have some water resistance to them. Then load them with the items you have collected. When completed you should have a printed off copy stored inside your ditch bag in a plastic baggie. Put X marks by the items in your bag, you may add items later as you gather more.

ditch bag check list pic

You can download and use our list with the below link, adjust as needed.

Ditch bag check-off list PDF

You will notice in the picture I have a hard bottom bag that is water resistant, and all my stuff in these large Ziplock bags that are made for holding very large items. I wanted my stuff to stay dry and thought they would be good water catcher if it rained or just help keep all our stuff dry, while in the life raft.

So you’re all set now, right? You have your life raft, your ditch bags and all your electronics for notification. What’s missing? The steps and procedures to getting off the boat and not forgetting anything. Our procedure list tells us what to do, in what order when we are in the heat of the moment. When things are panic driven, it is easy to not know what to do and miss stuff. Here is our procedure list.

procedures steps pic

You can download and use our procedure list with the below link, adjust as needed.

Emergency Procedures PDF

Reminder your Priorities are:

  1. Protection Life raft with canopy, hats, neck gaiters, sunglasses, first aid kit, sea sick pills, keep warm or cool items, keep dry items etc.
  2. Location – keep lookout, radio beacon, sea lights, etc
  3. Water – minimise body fluid loss by avoiding seasickness, sweating and injuries, Ration water, make water and catch rainwater & store.
  4. food – food is lowest priority, eat only carbohydrates if water is in shortage. (emergency rations)

IN THIS ORDER!

I hope we never have to use these items and only see them when we are setting them up and then checking them. This is your LIFE INSURANCE… use it wisely and stay safe. Discuss and practice your process and in an emergency you will be safe and be able to tell a story!

As always I’m open to feedback on this article and our lists! I hope they make your safety planning a bit easier!

Special Thanks to Pete Grillo & our own Columbia River Yacht Club Members. We did not do all of this ourselves. We took a going North class held by our own members in 2018, which got us started.

Stay safe and well,

Dan and Angela on MV Angelique