There has been concern about how a newly enacted Mexican immigration law will affect this year’s Baja Ha-Ha rally fleet. But it looks as though it will be clear sailing for rally participants with regard to visas and Temporary Import Permits.
Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz, who has been working with the heads of Immigration and Tourism in Baja California, tells us that visas and Temporary Import Permits can both be obtained online. See the link below.
The visa you’ll get is a special one that was set up for fishermen who leave San Diego, fish in Mexican waters, then return to the U.S. without stepping foot in Mexico. All you will receive from Immigration is a credit receipt indicating that you paid for your visa, which costs the same as a regular tourist visa. That will serve as a ‘visa’ for rally participants until they reach Cabo, not that anybody is going to check. When the fleet arrives at Cabo, crews will have to take their visa receipts to the local Immigration office, and staff there — supposedly at no charge — will issue normal tourist visas good for six months. Shroyer is meeting with the head of Immigration for Baja Sur next week for final confirmation that crews will be able to simply trade a visa receipt in for a traditional visa. (We’ll announce any updates here that result from that meeting.)
You can also sign up for a Temporary Import Permit for your boat online. If you do, there is no box to check for Cabo being a port of entry. This was an oversight. Simply pick another port, such as Ensenada. You’re supposed to get the TIP back within 10 days by mail. If you’re on the move and don’t have a fixed address, you might want to go with Option B. While you are technically supposed to have a TIP when you sail into Mexico, as a practical matter, there is nobody to check that you have one, and in years past the overwhelmingly majority of visiting boatowners have gotten them after arriving in Mexico. You can’t get one in Cabo, but you can get one in La Paz, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta.
In years past, some U.S.-flagged sportfishing boats operating in Mexican waters had been hassled by the port captain of Ensenada because they had no visas and were taking Mexico’s fish without paying anything for it. We have never heard of a sailboat being stopped, however. In any event, we stopped at the Port Captain’s office in Ensenada on our way north last month, where we were delighted to find our friend Isaac Lopez in charge. After the most cordial greetings, we asked him if he had any problem with Ha-Ha boats sailing past Ensenada on the way to points south. He said no, none at all. So all is looking good.
By the way, some entrants have asked if they may start the Ha-Ha from Ensenada. Absolutely. A number of people have done so in years past. There are two main benefits. First, it cuts more than 60 miles off the length of the first leg, which is the longest one of the Ha-Ha. Instead of starting on Monday morning, you can start on Monday afternoon and still be way ahead of the bulk of the fleet. And no, you don’t have to miss the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party, as you can take a bus up and back. Second, it means you can take care of all your paperwork in Ensenada, so that when you get to Cabo you won’t have to do anything but relax.
There are two fine marinas in Ensenada: Cruiseport Village (phone: 011-52-646-178-8801 x3303 or 1-877-219-5822 in the U.S.) and Marina Coral (phone: 011-52-646-175-0050 or 1-866-302-0066 in the U.S.). The folks who work in the offices and on the docks at both places are first class. Jonathan Cervantes is the general manager at Cruiseport, which is closer to downtown. Fito Espinosa is the general manager at Marina Coral, which is a little fancier, and comes with the amenities of the adjacent resort hotel. Ask Fito for bus arrangements to and from the Ha-Ha party. Both these guys will knock themselves out to help you in any way they can.
Ensenada is a little funky, but we like it. We did the Little Ensenada Race there last year, and we’re doing it again this Friday. If you’re in the area, you should enter the nothing-too-serious race as a tune-up for the Ha-Ha. For complete info on Baja Ha-Ha check out the official website.
ABOUT ONLINE VISA RECEIPTS:
This procedure is as new to us as it is to you. But Bill Lilly, a longtime cruiser and friend of the Ha-Ha who skippers Moontide, checked out the process for us. The following are notes on his experience:
"For visa receipt go to https://www.banjercito.com.mx/registroEmbarques/
- Choose English
- Click on "Visitor with no permission for lucrative activities sea way"
- "Document number" means the passport numbe of the "Responsible Person" from earlier in the form
- Pay by credit card
"I completed the process using Moontide, myself and Judy. Paid for the two visas; the last screen (receipt) is attached below. It says they will email me something, but I don’t remember them ever asking for an email address during the process.
"Both Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz and the manager of Costa Baja said that this receipt was sufficient and valid. You take the print out to Immigration when you get to Cabo and they issue the visa. The print out is the proof of payment. The fact that my name was the only one listed did not matter. The print-out showed that I had paid for two people and I would provide the names when I went to get the actual visas."
"Does your site have a place to look for other cruisers to buddy boat with?" asks Honolulu-based sailor Paul Poehlman. "My girlfriend Jan and I are planning to depart San Diego bound for Honolulu sometime around October 15 and would like to find another boat of similar cruising speed as my modified Newporter 40 Pink Cloud."
We don’t have a forum to find other buddy boats, but we told Paul we’d post his note in ‘Lectronic Latitude so he sent us a little more info about himself. "I started my trip down the coast in Puget Sound, after owning and outfitting a sweet Chris Craft Sail Yacht 35 over the course of a few summers. I would fly back to Honolulu during the winter to work. It took 30 days to make it to San Francisco Bay, where I decided I wanted a bigger boat. I hauled out at Napa with plans to fly home for the winter, but I spotted Pink Cloud for sale. She’d been extensively modified into a stout staysail schooner, but had been neglected and needed some TLC.
"I spent eight months as a two-boat owner — not recommended — but this summer Jan and I left the Bay and turned left. We had a great time going down the coast, and hauled out at Baja Naval in Ensenada to rebuild the cockpit and other work. We’re almost ready to leave but we’d like to sail in company with another boat, communicating by VHF or sat phone texts (we don’t have an SSB). We’re expecting a 15-20 day crossing. Anyone interested can email me."