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Thread: Guadalupe Island Race - a few questions to the PSSA team ?

  1. #21
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    More Impounded Boats "Liberated" in Mexico

    February 5, 2014 – Ensenada, Mexico

    Jonathan Cervantes, the very helpful harbormaster at Cruise Port Marina in Ensenada, reports that all but about "nine or 10" of the 42 mostly foreign-owned boats that were impounded at his marina since late November have now been "liberated." He is unclear why the remaining boats — which include one dinghy — have not been released. He suspects it may be because the owners of those boats hired lawyers and/or went to the AGACE offices in Tijuana on their own, and thus weren't part of the main group of boats AGACE apparently decided to process first. Cervantes believes the remaining boats — including the dinghy — are "fine and will be released soon."

    "The AGACE inspectors didn't know anything about boats when they arrived unannounced in November," Cervantes told Latitude in a telephone interview yesterday. "For example, they were looking for one specific type of TIP (Temporary Import Permit) form. When they were confronted with older ones that were still valid, they initially assumed they were fake."

    Auditors were also confused when they inspected a now-New Zealand-owned boat that had been bought in California and still had the US documentation number in the hull. The New Zealand registration number didn't match the documentation number carved in the hull. Totally confused, the auditors decided to impound the boat and clarify things later. When in doubt, impound, was the AGACE rule. Alas, AGACE would take more than two months to clear up their doubts.

    We know that it's hard for most readers to appreciate how poorly conceived and executed this AGACE audit was, but here is just another example from Cervantes of how weird it got. Some boat owners who went to the AGACE offices in Tijuana to try to get their boats freed were instructed to return to the United States by land and get an official document declaring that their boat was not stolen. Right! What US government agency is going to write an official document like that, particularly one supposedly confirming a negative? Eventually, some AGACE auditors were sent to the United States to get a short course in boat documentation.

    "In the future," says Cervantes, "I hope AGACE will be more careful about the nautical tourism industry." Don't we all?

    We also spoke with Fito Espinosa, the equally helpful harbormaster at Marina Coral in Ensenada. He confirmed that 35 of the impounded boats in his marina were released late last week, as reported in 'Lectronic, leaving another 12 still impounded. Like Cervantes, Espinosa believes that the boats still impounded are those whose owners went to Tijuana to try to get their boats freed, and thus got out of the main liberation process. He believes they will be released before too long.

    Curiously, the boats were released from Marina Coral without the marina signing on as a Depositaria for the boats. It's our understanding that all the other marinas where boat have been released had to sign a paper saying they were Depositarias.

    Espinosa confirmed that AGACE officials were confused by the different types of TIPS, as the original ones were for 20 years, newer ones were for 10 years, and even newer ones came with stickers — stickers to be put "on the window closest to the rear view mirror." Because of the confusion, Espinosa recommends that those with old TIPS cough up another $70 or so to get a newer one. Espinosa acknowledges that you can't get an updated TIP online, and either have to do it at a Mexican consulate in the States or at a Banjercito in Mexico. (We at Latitude know boat owners who have successfully done both. We also know boats with the old 20-year TIPs that have been cleared by AGACE, although this is not a given, as AGACE methods and policies have been wildly inconsistent.)

    IMPORTANT! No matter if you apply for a new TIP online or a replacement TIP at a consulate or a Banjercito, Espinosa says you need to understand that when the form asks for the "serial number" of your boat, the form is NOT asking for your boat's documentation number, but for her HIN (Hull identification number). What to do if you boat is pre-1974 and didn't have a HIN number, or is a foreign boat that never had a HIN number? Contact the Coast Guard documentation office to get a document which reflects this. As for owners of non-U.S. documented boats with no HIN number, we don't know what to tell you.

    Like all of the harbormasters in Mexico that Latitude has talked to, Cervantes was very complimentary of Latitude's coverage. "Latitude's explanation of what has been going on has been very precise, and I've used it to support my arguments in discussions with Mexican officials." We think calling our coverage "precise" is a bit of a stretch given the lack of explanations and the differing policies and procedures enacted by AGACE, but we think Latitude's coverage has been more factual, detailed and nuanced than what has been available elsewhere. We've also been tickled to hear harbormasters quote things we've said after they appeared in Reforma, the 'New York Times' of Mexico.

    At this point it's unclear how many boats remain impounded in Mexico, but the number has been dwindling quickly. In addition, we're told that officials in Mexico are trying to come up with a monetary figure of how much damage has been done to nautical tourism. When they do, we suspect there will be strict guidelines established before AGACE attempts any future 'audits', if any. As such, we are beginning to believe there indeed will be a 21st Baja Ha-Ha rally starting in late October, and thus we have provisionally accepted a request for a skipper who has done many Ha-Ha's to be the ceremonial first entry for 2014. She says that her boat will be crewed by an anatomically correct all female crew! Details to come soon. Assuming there will be a 2014 Ha-Ha, entries will be accepted starting May 1.

    But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we want to assure every owner of a boat that's still impounded in Mexico — such as Rahul Singh's Challenger 50 Sea Dream — that we have not forgotten you. Please keep us updated of your situation.

    - latitude / richard

  2. #22
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    Richard Spindler
    about an hour ago
    So we guess there are no hard feelings. After Latitude has relentlessly been pounding the Mexican IRS for months for needlessly impounding 338 foreign-owned boats, we get an invite for an all-expenses paid trip to P.V. to cover the MEXORC — which should be great this year. Of course, it was Tourism, not Hacienda, who invited us, but we won't quibble. Tere Grossman of Marina San Carlos says she expects almost all of the boats there to be released in a day or two — including 16 that owners already fled with. Can boats that have already been taken be "liberated"? Grossman also reports that Hacienda is working on a new Temporary Import Permit to prevent another fiasco like the one that appears to be coming to an end.

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    More Impounded Boats to be Released

    February 14, 2014 – South of the Border

    Tere Grossman, owner of San Carlos Marina, reports that AGACE agents were back at San Carlos Marina on Tuesday, and that as a result she expected that most of the impounded boats in her marina would soon be "liberated." This would include 16 boats that had already been taken away by there owners. Can we get a ruling on the question if a government can truly "liberate" a boat that the owner has already fled with?


    Marina San Carlos
    Photo Latitude / Richard
    2014 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC

    So how many of the 338 mostly foreign boats impounded are still impounded? Nobody seems to know, but we're thinking about 100. And how many of the 338 boats were in any kind of violation of Mexican law. We don't know the answer to that question, but apparently not very many at all.

    Grossman, who is president of the Mexican Marina Owner's Association, reports that Hacienda (the Mexican IRS) is working on changing Temporary Import Permits (TIPs) "to make them easier and to avoid future problems." We sure hope this is true because the last thing Mexico needs is another fiasco that flies in the face of two of their big natural interests: filling marinas and anchorages to capacity and luring all kinds of tourists south of the border.

    Following November's seizing of 338 foreign-owned boats, and Latitude's admittedly endless hammering of this blunder, it's almost hilarious that on Wednesday we received a special invitation from the Tourism Board of Puerto Vallarta for an all expenses paid trip to Vallarta to cover the MEXORC in late March. So we assume they aren't holding a grudge against us for our editorials.

    One indicator that the impounds have not done irreparable harm is the relatively strong entry roster for next month's San Diego-to-Puerto Vallarta Race:

    Pyewacket / Roy Disney / Andrews 68 / Waikiki YC
    Condor / Lindy Thomas / Andrews 70 / SDYC
    Invisible Hand / Frank Slootman / R/P 63 / Encinal YC
    Resolute / Tim Fuller / J/125 / SDYC
    Hamachi / Fritz Lanzinger / J/125 / CYC Seattle
    Peligroso / Lorenzo Berho / Kernan 70 / Club Nautico Izar
    Orion / Charlie Ogletree / MOD70 Tri / StFYC
    Mighty Merloe / HL Enloe / Orma 60 / Silvergate (TX)
    Vincitore / Ricardo Brockma/ nn R/P 52 / Club de Yates de Acapulco
    Meanie / Thomas Akin / R/P 52 / San Francisco YC
    Bretwalda 3 / Bob Pethick / Rogers 46 / Cal YC
    J World's Hula Girl / Wayne Zittel / Santa Cruz 50 / SDYC
    Deception / Bill Helvestine / Santa Cruz 50 / StFYC
    Horizon / Jack Taylor / Santa Cruz 50 / DPYC
    Maverick / Chris Slagerman / Santa Cruz 70 / Cal YC
    Grand Illusion / James McDowell / Santa Cruz 70 / Waikiki YC
    Mirage / John DeLaura / Santa Cruz 70 / Shoreline YC
    Holua / Brack Duker / Santa Cruz 70 / California YC
    Velos / Kjeld Hestehave / Sloop / SDYC
    Westward / Sam & Willie Bell / Sloop / LAYC
    Bad Pak / Tom Holthus / STP65 / SDYC
    Swazik / Sebastien de Halleux / Swan 45 / Golden Gate YC
    Second Wind / Dean Fargo & John Chamberlain / Swan 651 CRA
    Destroyer / Eduardo Saenz / TP 52 / Club de Yates de Acapulco
    Distraxion / Jeffery Coyle / XP44 / NHYC
    It's also worth noting that at least six of those boats will stick around to compete in MEXORC, which is Mexico's biggest 'serious' regatta. Look for coverage of both the PV Race and MEXORC here, and in the April edition of Latitude 38 magazine.

    - latitude / richard

  4. #24
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    Finally, Solid Numbers on Impounded Boats

    February 17, 2014 – Ensenada to Acapulco, Mexico

    Tere Grossman, president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, has provided us with a list, complements of the AGACE, of the boats that were 'Reviewed', 'Embargoed', and 'Liberated' in Mexico.

    http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/...4-02-17#Story2 shows the graphic which did not copy and paste into the forum.

    The first actual list of embargoed boats that we've seen. Interestingly, this shows that 11 marinas were involved, rather than the 7 or 8 previously reported.
    Photo Latitude / Richard
    2014 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC

    As you can see from the chart, 1,641 were reviewed, 337 were embargoed, and 146 have been liberated. That means 191 are still embargoed.

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the boats still embargoed by size and type. And how many of them are owned by Mexicans in the names of U.S. corporations.

    Grossman tells us that as yet, no boat owners have been fined.

    It's our understanding that close to 20 of the boats that have been "liberated" had been already taken from their respective marinas by fearful owners. Does that mean they are now free to return to Mexico without fear of reprisal? Who knows?

    What do you get if AGACE 'reviewed' your boat, 'embargoed' her, and after finding that everything was in order, 'liberated' her? You don't get a certificate from AGACE or anything, but if you were in La Cruz Marina, you got a document that showed yours was a 'liberated' boat. We presume this is true of boats that were liberated in other marinas, too.

    The final section of the four-page document concerning Profligate and other boats at Marina Riviera Nayarit.
    2014

    Oddly enough, if AGACE approved of your boat on their first sweep, your boat isn't on any list of 'approved' boats. Does that mean your boat is subject to another 'review'? Who knows?

    Are foreign boat owners now 'safe' to take their boats to Mexico without fear of another reckless round of 'reviews' by AGACE? We're pretty confident they are safe. But as we've already said twice before in this article, 'Who knows'?

    - latitude / richard
    Last edited by jfoster; 02-17-2014 at 07:21 PM.

  5. #25
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    Posted on Wednesday, 03.05.14
    emailprintcomment
    U.S. boat owners still struggling with fallout from Mexican tax investigation


    Mexican tax authorities impounded more than 300 foreign-owned yachts last November, and some of them at marinas like this one in Ensenada in Baja California, Feb. 15, 2014, remain tied up by under the embargo, infuriating owners. (Tim Johnson/MCT) Tim Johnson / MCT

    Fullsize previous | nextImage 1 of 2
    BY TIM JOHNSON
    MCCLATCHY FOREIGN STAFF
    ENSENADA, Mexico -- At first, Thomas R. Spencer didn’t think much about it when he saw tax agents come into the Coral Marina more than three months ago, checking boat by boat.

    “I had one gentleman come by the boat and ask to see some papers. I said, ‘What do you want to see?’ He said, ‘Where’s the serial number of the boat?’ I said I didn’t know, just look around,” Spencer recalled.

    Little did Spencer know that he would be snared in an operation that has led to the broadest and most complicated seizure of foreign-owned sailboats and yachts in Mexico’s history, punching a hole in the hull of the nautical tourism industry and even frightening property owners. Marina owners now bail furiously to stay alive.

    The impounding of 337 mostly foreign-owned sailboats and yachts at 11 marinas around Mexico on Nov. 26 has affected not only hundreds of American and Canadian boat owners but also marinas, crews, dry docks and, more broadly, Mexico’s reputation as a safe and reliable destination for boat lovers.

    Nearly half the vessels have subsequently been freed. But at least 190 remain impounded, tied up in red tape and confusion in raids that initially seemed aimed at rooting out tax cheats and boat thieves.

    Like many retired American sailors cruising Mexican waters, Spencer had difficulty communicating in Spanish with the federal tax agent the morning he came asking questions. But some things needed no explanation. Mexican marines posted at each wharf “had their big rifles out,” and tax agents seemed to mean business.

    Spencer started to worry. He contacted the person who surveyed his cutter rig when he bought it back in 1999, asking where he could find the Hull Identification Number, equivalent to a VIN on an automobile.

    “He said it’s probably on the starboard side of the hull,” Spencer recalled.

    It was too late. Spencer’s 48-foot boat, Symphony, like 336 other mostly foreign-owned sailboats and yachts, was legally impounded, unable to leave harbor.

    “There were four dinghies that they also impounded,” said Arnulfo Espinoza Rodriguez, the dock master at the Coral Marina. They were the exception. Most of the seized boats were large vessels, a few worth millions of dollars, but “the vast majority are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

    Many boat owners were not at the marina that day. Since the marina is on the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula, only 70 miles south of the U.S. border, owners often leave vessels docked here while living elsewhere.

    “If you weren’t on a boat, there was an excellent chance you’d be impounded,” said Richard Spindler, publisher of Latitude 38, a monthly magazine for sailors published in Mill Valley, Calif.

    The problem, Spindler said, is that agents had little knowledge of sailboats, unaware that those built before 1972 were not required to have hull identification numbers. Even after that date, vessels built in Europe or Asia often don’t have such a number.

    Moreover, boat owners are not required to pay tax or duty if they have a 10-year Temporary Import Permit, which costs around $50.

    Anger over the seizures led owners to fill the pages of Latitude 38 with letters of complaint, warning about travel to Mexico, even suggesting that buying real estate in Mexico could be risky amid arbitrary seizures. Many said they had complied with paperwork, provided serial numbers and offered proof that they’d paid for temporary import permits but still couldn’t get their vessels back.

    “Nobody knew what was going on,” Spindler said. “I know of at least one boat that fled Ensenada. They sailed in the middle of the night.”

    Marina owners grew incensed at the harm the seizures were doing to their industry, and the lengthy delays in releasing impounded boats.

    “All of us in the Marina association agree that what the government did was very stupid and unnecessary, and that it has hurt Mexico very much,” Tere Grossman, owner of the marina in San Carlos on the Sea of Cortez, wrote this month in Latitude 38.

    Grossman, who is also president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, voiced exasperation with tax authorities in a telephone interview.

    “These guys are driving me insane,” she said. “They made a big mistake and they don’t want to accept it.”

    Mexico’s Tax Service Administration, equivalent to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, declined a request for an interview. But in a Feb. 17 statement, it said auditors already had freed 147 vessels and were doing paperwork to free more.

    “With these actions, the government of the republic reiterates its commitment to promote legality and support tourism . . . for the benefit of Mexicans,” the statement said, adding that boats were being freed “as their legal status in the country is demonstrated.”

    None of the boats impounded has proven to be stolen, Grossman said.

    A little more than a decade ago, then-President Vicente Fox started what he called a “nautical stairway” program to encourage more marinas to open in Mexico and draw more foreign yachtsmen to the nation. The program gave a strong boost to nautical tourism.

    While some of the seized vessels belong to wealthy “one percenters,” others are live-aboard sailboats that serve as retirement homes for adventurous wayfarers without deep pockets.

    “They don’t know if they are going to lose their boats. Some of them sold everything, and all they have is their boat,” Grossman said.

    Many declined to speak to a reporter, fearing it would not help matters.

    “Given the sordid ordeal I have been through since the end of November last year, until the boat is safe and in my hands I will not breathe a sigh of relief nor will I speak to anybody about my experience,” one boat owner from Canada’s Alberta province said in an email.

    Spencer, the owner of Symphony, had better news. The impounding of his vessel was ended in early February. He’s still not sure what to make of the experience.

    “I’ve been in Mexico now since 2009. This is the first time I’ve had any problem,” he said.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/0...#storylink=cpy

  6. #26
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    A $7,000 Fine for a Typo Made By a Mexican Bureaucrat?

    March 7, 2014 – Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

    A representative of Hacienda, the Mexican IRS, has told 75-year-old American John Hards of the Nuevo Vallarta-based Pelican that he is to be fined 84,000 pesos — a little under $7,000 — for a typo in his Temporary Import Permit. Hacienda told Hards, who lives off Social Security, that he could get a 20% "discount" if he pays within 20 days. Hards was given a 55-page document, in Spanish, explaining the fine. That AGACE would spend so much time and effort on an easily explained typo that wasn't of Hard's doing defies understanding.

    Hards had previously told Latitude that he ran afoul of AGACE, a subagency of Hacienda, in late November over a typo on his TIP. "I got my 10-year permit at Salina Cruz in 2009 when returning from a granddaughter's surfing trip south. As I was getting a 10-year permit in 2009, it obviously should have had a "valid until" date of 2019. Unfortunately, somebody at Banjercito, the military bank that collects fees for TIPs, mistakenly wrote in '2010' instead of '2019' in the "valid until" space. 2010 was the date my then-tourist visa expired, which has nothing to do with a TIP. After my boat was impounded in late November, a very nice lady at the new Banjercito office in Puerto Vallarta patiently explained that the "valid until" date has no meaning for a 10-Year TIP, and that since my current TIP was indeed good until 2019, I couldn't get a replacement."

    Despite the hassle when his boat was first impounded, Hards wrote the following: "I have many friends who worry about me, and may get too fussy with perceived threats, but I am thankful every day for my retirement in Mexico." Given the fine, we're not sure how Hards feels now. He's spent the last couple of days looking for lawyers.

    When Hards returned to his boat on Thursday, he was informed that he could no longer deal with AGACE/Hacienda, as the matter had been turned over to the courts. Except for attorney fees, it seems this is a good thing, because any halfway fair-minded judge is going to dismiss the fine.

    That any part of the Mexican government could not accept its responsibility for the typo on Hards' TIP makes us want to bang our head against the wall. We've spent 30+ years being the biggest promoters of nautical tourism to Mexico, and then they pull something like this that is so unfair and so stupid. It's not uncommon for Mexico to reduce fines from an initial $100,000 U.S. to $25, but even if that happens, or if the court throws the judgment out, it's still outrageous. For what it's worth, the few boats at San Carlos Marina that didn't have any TIP were fined just $113.

    The other day we received the following email from a member of the King Harbor YC: "I am scheduled to be in this year's Newport to Ensenada Race, but will probably withdraw. Even though my crew might call me a wimp, I absolutely cannot risk my boat being part of an AGACE hassle. It's not my crew's boat that would be embargoed."

    So the situation in Mexico continues to be this: For the vast majority of owners of foreign-owned boats in Mexico, everything is hunky dory, and they are having a grand time. But for those unlucky few who still haven't had their boats released after three months — despite being perfectly legal — or for those who are getting screwed by Mexico's myopic sense of right and wrong, it's an ongoing nightmare.



    - latitude / richard

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    Finally, Release of Boats from Ensenada

    March 24, 2014 – Marina Coral, Ensenada

    On Friday, March 21, the paperwork was completed to "liberate" the last of the 'embargoed' foreign boats at Marina Coral in Ensenada — nearly four months after they had been impounded. This included a total of 15 boats. Well, eleven boats and — we're not making this up — four dinghies.


    Ensenada's Marina Coral is so close to the U.S. border that Southern California boats often come down for the weekend or to get a quick bottom job. The impounding fiasco has greatly reduced that traffic.
    Photo Latitude / Richard
    2014 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC

    Harbormaster Fito Espinosa told Latitude that all of the boats had been legal in the first place. "Three of the boats had the original 20-year Import Permits, which AGACE agents initially didn’t know anything about, which is why they put the boats in 'precautionary embargo'. Another boat, an aluminum 80-footer, was impounded because the AGACE agents couldn’t find the HIN number, even though the HIN number was right on the transom where it is supposed to be. It was problems like that."

    So why did it take four months to "liberate" these perfectly legal boats? "Procedures," replied Espinosa, with obvious discouragement in his voice. The release of the boats is being accompanied by a 100+ page document by AGACE. Tere Grossman, president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association reports that all but one of the boats impounded in Acapulco have been released, too.

    There is no question that the impoundings have adversely affected Marina Coral’s business. "Americans were too scared to bring their boats to Mexico," said Espinosa. Which is why he and representatives from eight other marinas in Mexico, plus representatives of Mexico’s Tourism Department, will be at the Newport Boat Show (April 3-6) and a slightly smaller contingent will be at the Strictly Sail Show (April 10-13) in Oakland. That’s all well and good, but the people who really need to make an appearance at the boat shows are members of Mexico’s IRS, to explain what this was all about, and if mariners have any reason to fear a repeat in the future.

    At the time of this posting, we were unable to get a count of how many of the 338 foreign boats that were originally impounded are still being held and why. We believe the number is quite small.

    - latitude / richard

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    Would Latitude Take Its Boat To Mexico Now?

    March 26, 2014 – North & South of the Border

    We recently received the following letter from David Cleveland of San Diego:

    "Latitude 38’s coverage of the Mexican boat impoundings has been extensive, and obviously personal to publisher Richard Spindler, as (his boat) Profligate was an impounded boat. However, having talked to some who have been down to Mexico since this event, I find myself wondering if somehow this has been blown way out of proportion, as it appears there are still cruisers going to and coming from Mexican ports without a hint of what appears to have been a one-time event with Mexico ending up with egg on its face.

    "During several sailing events here in San Diego since the first of the year, I have inquired of several sailors about their intention to sail the Newport to Ensenada Race that starts on April 25. What I have found is that there is a very real fear of heading into Mexican waters at this time, and skippers whose boats have made Newport to Ensenada an annual event are now begging off, primarily due to the events as they have been reported in the pages of your fine publication.


    The long-established Newport to Ensenada Race is an annual tradition for many Southern California sailors. But this year, some may be afraid to enter Mexican waters.
    2014 D Ramey Logan / Wikipedia

    "The specific fears are having one's boat impounded or being boarded at sea during a race. What I, and I imagine most skippers, really want to know is whether it is safe to take our boats on this race. Though the publisher of Latitude sails in the Caribbean this time of year, would he be willing to enter his catamaran Profligate in this race? It would be a strong statement that indicates to all sailors that he believes that it is okay to sail into Mexican waters again.

    "It would also be great to have something from Hacienda, the Mexican IRS, stating that they will not have an inspection for boats entered in the race, and for the Mexican Navy to state that they will not board any vessels during the race. Though the last two items might be politically unpalatable to the Mexican authorities, the entry of Profligate would indicate your belief that there is no anticipation of the issues of last year continuing. Please advise, as your readership values your opinion and your actions go a long way to support that opinion.

    "P.S. I looked at the NOSA website on the morning of March 18, and there were only 147 entries signed up this year versus a total of 203 that participated last year. That's a decrease of 28%. In the Cruising classes there are currently 48 entries vs 69 total last year, a decrease of 30%. Granted, there are still five weeks until the race, and I do not have any stats on where NOSA entries were at the same time last year, but given the discount that NOSA was providing for early entries, I suspect there will definitely be a significant decline year to year. Given that the economic climate is slightly better in California this year than last, I find the numbers troubling — and almost certainly caused by the TIP issue in Mexico. Please consider promoting this in your April issue, and consider entering Profligate in the Newport to Ensenada Race. Don't wait for the San Diego to Ensenada 'Little Ensenada Race' in October to raise the 'All Clear'."

    The following is the short response to that letter that will appear in the April 1 Latitude 38:

    "The very abbreviated answer is yes, we would take our boat to Mexico now, primarily based on the fact that we're told it's safe by the president of the Mexican Marina Owners Association and all of the marina managers."

    For those interested in a much longer, more nuanced, and too-long-to-publish-in-print answer, hopefully the following will give boat owners the information they need to make the decision for themselves:

    In addition to publishing Latitude, the publisher also owns the Baja Ha-Ha Cruising Rally to Mexico, so we find ourselves in the same boat as you in the sense there is nothing we'd like more than to be able to guarantee boat owners that they have no need to worry about taking their boats to Mexico. Alas, the only ones who can give boat owners that confidence is the Mexican government, and unfortunately, they've done almost nothing in that respect.

    We'll be the first to admit that it's been, and remains, a very confusing situation, because — according to Tere Grossman, President of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, although AGACE's original plan was to 'inspect' all boats in all the marinas in Mexico, they stopped after all the bad publicity following the poorly executed inspections at the first eight marinas. As a result, there are now sort of four 'classes' of foreign owned boats in Mexico:

    1) Those boats that AGACE didn't inspect. 2) The boats that AGACE did approve from the get-go — even though they may not have even inspected them. 3) Boats that AGACE initially impounded, but has now approved. (These boats, including Profligate, are sort of special in the sense that there is now a document that states these boats have been approved. This makes them different from Class #2 boats, which were approved, but have no document to prove it. And, 4) Boats that are still impounded.

    While there are a number of boats still impounded that have issues of one type or another that may well justify their being impounded, there are at least some boats that have been perfectly legal from day one that are still being held after four months. It's outrageous. Further, there is at least one boat that has been confiscated because of an obvious date typo made by a Mexican bureaucrat. The owner is told he needs to pay a $7,000 fine — but even that won't get him his boat back.

    So, as we have repeatedly written, the majority of people with foreign-owned boats in Mexico are continuing to have a grand old time, many of them having never had any contact with AGACE. In addition to all anchored-out boats, this would also include all the boats from all the marinas in La Paz, all the boats in all the marinas in Mazatlan, all the boats in Nuevo Vallarta's Paradise Village Marina, and all the other marinas that AGACE didn't inspect. Also included in this group are all the boats that AGACE approved, whether they inspected them or not.

    So has the situation been "blown way out of proportion?" We suppose it all depends on whether your perfectly legal boat is still impounded after four months, or whether you're facing a big fine because a Mexican official made an obvious typo on your Temporary Import Permit. People who have had their boats approved, even if they were no more legal than most of the 338 impounded boats, probably don't think it's been a big deal at all.

    The thing we believe has been overblown is how personal this situation has been to us as the owners of Profligate, which was impounded for two months despite being perfectly legal. Yeah, it pissed us off not to be able to use our boat for two months, but unlike a lot of people who had their boats impounded, we've been sailing in Mexico for 30 years and have seen and done almost everything. It's not as though we were missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus, we were about to head to the Caribbean for three months of sailing anyway. Furthermore, after little more than a month, we were repeatedly assured that everything was fine with our boat, and it was just a matter of time — why the wait? — before AGACE would "liberate" her along with 95% of the other boats in the marina. So more than most people, we could sit and wait. But there are limits to our patience. If our boat was still impounded when we returned from the Caribbean in mid-May, we might just take off with her and kiss Mexico goodbye forever.

    The thing that really does make the situation personal for us is that we've been the biggest promoters of nautical tourism in Mexico for more than 30 years, and this one brain-dead move by a sub-agency of Hacienda has undone and continues to undo so much of that effort. We love Mexico, we love the people of Mexico, we love the boat workers of Mexico, and we think that events like the Ensenada Race, the Baja Ha-Ha, and individual boats going to Mexico are important for both that country's economy and reputation. That one recently created sub-agency — through ignorance, poor planning, poor execution, and stubbornness — has undone so much of what we have worked so hard to develop is something we do take personally. That and the fact that somebody up high in the Mexican government power structure didn't put an end to this nonsense months ago.

    You say this "appears to have been a one-time event." We hope so, yet it's not something we can guarantee. After all, about two months ago, the head of SCT, which controls the ports and port captains, was quoted on the front page of Reforma, the influential Mexico City newspaper, as saying there wouldn't be similar audits in the future. Yet on the front page of the next day's Reforma, one of the officials from AGACE was quoted as saying, "Oh yes, it will happen again, because we're creating a database of all boats in Mexico." Thanks for the clarity, folks.

    So is it safe to sail one's boat to Mexico? First of all, it is in the sense that there is nothing to fear from the Mexican Navy. Those folks are your friends. You need help, call them. All of the problems have been the work of AGACE.

    Profligate will not do the Newport to Ensenada Race because we're sailing in the Caribbean until the middle of May, and we're hoping to take the big cat up into the Sea for the early summer. But if Profligate were in the States, we would enter her in the Ensenada Race. Unfortunately, that's a little bit of an unfair answer, because as we mentioned, she's now officially been cleared by AGACE, and there is a document stating such.

    Would we take some other boat we owned to Mexico? Yes, we probably would, providing we had all our ducks in a row — boat document, visas, passports, TIP (showing engine serial number[s] and HIN), insurance, and a letter from the owner if the boat was being operated by someone other than the owner. The 'probably' is that we might not if the boat were also our home and/or represented a very large part of our net worth. In that case, the risk/reward ratio might be too high.

    What would our rationale be for thinking it was safe to sail to Mexico? First, belief that this indeed was a one-time deal — at least in the sense of how poorly it was planned and executed — and that the reason that some perfectly legal boats are still impounded is a combination of AGACE's not wanting to back down and lose face, and the fact that all bureaucracies take forever to get anything done. We would not be surprised if Mexico tried another means of creating a database of all boats in their country, but given the terrible publicity, we think they'll do a much better job — i.e. not assume everyone was guilty unless there was at least an inkling of proof. By the way, if they want a database, we've got no problem with it. Lord knows they sure need a database of the automobiles in Mexico, so many of which are stolen or have fraudulent documents.

    That said, just because we'd do something doesn't mean anyone else should. As we've written, this is the single most stupid thing any country has done in the last 35 years of dealing with cruising boats — Australia comes in second — which makes one unsure of what AGACE and the Mexican government might do in the future. On the one hand you can argue, "They can't possibly do something as idiotic and counterproductive again." The compelling counterargument is, "What they did was so stupid and so self-destructive that there is no telling what other self-destructive things they might do in the future."

    As we said before, it's the job of the Mexican government to make much-needed nautical tourists feel safe by very clearly stating the following: "We welcome all foreign boats to Mexico. To cruise our country you will need documents X, Y and Z, and to follow procedures #1 and #2." Just as they do if you temporarily or permanently import a motor vehicle to Mexico. It's not that hard, but we're still waiting for the Mexico government.

    Get Hacienda write a letter saying they won't inspect/audit foreign boats? That's going to happen right after the United States IRS writes a letter promising a certain segment of the business world that they won't be audited.

    For the record, the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race had a tremendous fleet of boats and MEXORC (this week) looks as if it's going to be a huge success, again raising the profile of sailing in Mexico. Also for the record, both the Puerto Vallarta and Cabo Tourism Boards have invited Latitude on all-expense paid trips to inspect their nautical facilities. So yeah, the Mexican government is totally schizo on this.

    We know you were looking for a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer, but the best we can do is present the facts as best we understand them and let everyone decide for themselves. If we only get four entries in the 2014 Baja Ha-Ha because we refuse to guarantee that all boats going to Mexico won't have any problems, we'll be bummed. On the other hand, we'll sleep soundly at night, knowing we didn't make any false guarantees just to make a little money. We're pretty confident, however, that the Mexican government will clarify things before the start of the next cruising season, perhaps with the introduction of a much-rumored new TIP. For the sake of the Newport to Ensenada Race, we hope they clarify things before the start of that great event also, although time is running short.

    - latitude / richard

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Alameda CA
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    174

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    Nearing the End of the Impounding Fiasco?

    April 2, 2014 – Mexico

    The fiasco of 338 foreign-owned boats being impounded — for up to four months — mostly for no good reason — appears to be nearing an end. Tere Grossman, President of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, reports that only 31 boats still have "problems," and 17 of those belong to Mexicans.

    But there are two cases that illustrate that the insanity is not over for a few American boatowners.

    In the first case, John Hards, a long time liveaboard resident of Puerto Vallarta and formerly a huge fan of Mexico, is making a run for the California border aboard his boat Pelican, type of boat unknown. The 75-year-old's problem is that a Mexican bureaucrat in Salina Cruz made a typo on his 10-Year Temporary Import Permit, which the folks at SAT (the Mexican IRS, formerly known as Hacienda) inexplicably interpreted as making the 10-year TIP not good for 10 years, but merely for the length of his visa. According to Hards, the Mexican government wants him to pay a $7,500 fine, and he still won't get his boat back.

    Surviving, as he does, on Social Security, he can't afford the fine, so he and his cat are currently making a desperate run for the border aboard Pelican. It hasn't been easy, as his running lights aren't working, his engine has an oil leak, his boat is taking on water, and he needs fuel. It's Hards' understanding that the authorities have alerted all port officials to be on the lookout for him, so he's on the run from the Mexican government. That's being in a desperate situation. While we won't reveal his current location, he's made it most of the way, and we wish him the best of luck making the last few hundred miles. If anyone is willing to meet him offshore in order to give him the fuel he needs to make it the rest of the way against the northwesterlies, we'll put you in touch with someone who can put you in touch with him.

    We alerted Grossman to the situation, and this was her response:

    "Ms. Elena Carrillo, the Marina Association's lawyer, checked with the SAT, and their records show that Pelican's TIP is good until 2019, so his boat should have been released without a fine. I hope he makes it back to the States. One good thing is that Ms. Carrillo talked to the harbormaster at the marina, and the SAT had changed the depositaria status of the boat from the marina to the owner of the boat. If not, the marina would have had to pay SAT for the boat. But SAT has a problem, as they still have to close the file. As Pelican did have a valid SAT all along, they probably will close the file. But what a mess!

    "There was a boat in Ensenada that was in a somewhat similar situation," Grossman continues. "The owner was very scared, so she took off with her boat. As the boat had a valid TIP all along, SAT just closed the file. The owners of 15 boats in our marina at San Carlos similarly took off, but since they all had valid TIPs, the SAT just closed the files on them, too."

    A second case that's hanging in the air is that of the 42-ft fishing boat Lady D in La Cruz. We were alerted to it by the following letter:

    "My name is Jason Cherun, and I (am) emailing Latitude on behalf of my father-in-law, Serge. He has had a home in Puerto Vallarta for over 10 years, as well as Lady D, a 42-foot fishing boat. In late November the boat was impounded along with the 337 other mostly foreign boats. Serge, had a temporary import permit for 10 years, from when he brought the boat to Mexico on a ship to Lazaro Cardenas in November of 2003. A customs broker there took care of all the formalities to get the boat into Mexican waters. When AGACE, a sub-agency of SAT, descended on the marina in late November of last year, Serge was in Toronto, so he wasn't there to show them his papers. So AGACE impounded his boat. When he got to Vallarta on December 9, he paid for a new TIP, but the SAT claimed that his boat had been in the country illegally. [Ed. note: Presumably his 10-year permit had run out by a few days.] SAT is now claiming that his boat was illegally in Mexico, and is fining him $110,000. His boat is currently stuck at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz. Serge is a retired successful businessman who trusts everyone. He had a captain on the payroll, as well as people at the marina who were supposed to be looking after his boat while he was there and while he was home in Toronto. He's even hired a lawyer to try to get the boat released, but he's spent $10,000 already with no results. Can Latitude help?"

    We passed the letter on to Grossman, who responded to us as follows:

    "I will send the information on Lady D to Ms. Carrillo, the Marina Association’s lawyer, to see if there is anything she can do. I'm sure she can work something out. About 10 of the boats in our San Carlos Marina had expired TIPs, so our marina personnel applied for new ones on their behalf immediately after the 'inspection'. They were all released after paying a small — about $130 U.S. — fine.

    "Since this is the first time there have been audits like this since the TIPs were introduced in 1996," Grossman continues, "the SAT people didn't exactly know what they were doing. As you could see, the different SAT offices were applying the law differently. So if the SAT didn't know what they were doing, imagine how confused the lawyers have been. Ms. Carrillo used to work for SAT (when it was known as Hacienda), making it easier for foreign boats to come to Mexico. Indeed, she was the one who came up with the concept of TIPs, so foreign boat owners could leave their boats in Mexico for longer periods of time and/or when the owners left the country. When she left the government, she came to work for the marina association. She knows all the ins and outs of the law, and is very honest. She has been going to SAT almost every day to help untangle this mess."

    In the April issue of Latitude, there is a letter from a reader who asked if we hadn't blown the whole issue of impounding of boats in Mexico out of proportion. Our response was that it all depended on whether your boat had been impounded and to a certain extent for how long. We're certain that John Hards and the owner of Lady D would say we haven't blown things out of proportion at all.

    While we can't guarantee it, we like to think that we're seeing just about the end of the incredibly self-destructive action on the part of the Mexican government, and things will be much better by the start of the next cruising season.
    - latitude / richard

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Alameda CA
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    174

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    Escape from Mexico by Sailboat

    April 11, 2014 – Nuevo Vallarta to San Diego

    Making a 'run for it' on a sailboat is rarely the best of ideas, but it has worked for John Hards, a former long-time resident of the Bay Area who has spent the last 11 years loving retirement aboard in Mexico. Up until a couple of months ago, that is.

    Hards, who for years has extolled the pleasures of living aboard in Mexico, is one of those who got trapped in the insanity of the unthinking and seemingly uncaring Mexican bureaucracy. When his Beneteau Idylle 1150 Pelican was 'audited' by AGACE at Nuevo Vallarta, they noted that his 10-year Temporary Import Permit seemed to be out of date. Thus, they said, his boat was in Mexico illegally. They wanted a $7,500 U.S. fine, in addition to keeping his boat. Nice for a 75-year-old guy living on social security who has been one of Mexico's most vocal supporters.

    The situation is that Hands' 10-year TIP actually doesn't expire until 2019. What happened is that some incompetent Mexican bureaucrat in Salina Cruz wrote in the expiration date of Hards' tourist visa for the expiration date of his 10-year TIP. Everyone makes mistakes, so you'd think SAT, the Mexican IRS, would see the obvious error and say, "Of course a 10-year permit is good for ten years, we're sorry about the mistake and will get it corrected for you." But no, they said "Too bad, your 10-year permit isn't good for ten years, it ran out when your tourist visa did. We want a bunch of money and your boat." Thus Mexico put another bullet in its already badly wounded foot.

    By the way, Mexican Marina Association President Tere Grossman checked with Mexican authorities, who confirmed that Pelican's Temporary Import Permit was/is good through 2019!

    In any event, Hards decided that he had no choice but to make a 1,000-mile run for the border on his sailboat. We can imagine the anxiety of a 75-year-old being on the lam from Mexican authorities on the open ocean. We're delighted to announce 'Pelican John' and his cat made it safely to San Diego on Tuesday night. He asked that the following message be passed along:

    "A big thanks to MMZ, DDU, LSO and others. CWZ will be back on the 14300 airway in a month or so. The MMSN was indispensable for weather, and also for moral support when dodging the three official Mexican boats encountered coming north from Mag Bay. Thanks to Moondance and Windrose I, I had exactly $27.50 for U.S. Customs as they ran the checks on me at the Police Dock in San Diego. I have promptly picked up support in San Diego with transportation, food, email, parts, and marinas for this leg of the trip. We will at least fix the oil leak, replace the bilge pump, and restore the number one navigation computer."

    A little more on John. He was born in Berkeley and had a long career working for the likes of IBM, Control Data and Amdahl on the West Coast. He retired to Mexico for the first time in 1981, then came back to California for six years of work, during which time he bought Pelican as it came out of The Moorings charter program in Loreto. He later brought the boat up to the Delta to outfit her to cruising, then returned to Mexico in 2003. He spent five years — and four hurricanes — in the Sea of Cortez, two years in the Huatulco area, and most recently three years in the Puerto Vallarta area.

    By the way, Hards says that we've been wrong when we've said that there was a 'typo' on his TIP. "The tourist visa expiration date is the norm for the TIP expiration date on the new sticker-type TIPs as issued in most places!"

    Excuse us for a minute while we bang our heads against the wall. Mexico, for your own sake will you please get your %@^! together!

    There, we feel a little better. The takeaway is that if you have a boat in Mexico, or are taking your boat to Mexico, please double-check all your documents to make sure every single date and serial number is correct. If it's not, get a new copy of whatever document has the problem, because you will be held responsible for the mistakes and ignorance of Mexican officials. And make sure that everything is absolutely correct on the new document(s).

    - latitude / richard

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