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Bruce Is Back in the Bay Area

April 20 - Tiburon

Bruce Schwab aboard Ocean Planet
Photo Courtesy www.bruceschwab.com

Bruce Schwab, a Bay Area sailor who has just gone into the history books as the first American to complete the Vendée Globe, will be returning to the Corinthian Yacht Club tomorrow, Thursday, April 21. Schwab will give a talk on the challenges and rewards he faced. Just over a month ago, Bruce finished the pinnacle of a lifetime of adventures: he raced around the world, alone, non-stop, with no assistance, on the innovative Tom Wylie-designed Open 60 Ocean Planet. Despite being the sailor with the least funding, he finished a respectable ninth out of 20 starters. Bruce, a rigger by training, has won just about every West Coast race during his career, but this challenge was an order of magnitude larger. Dramatic photos and video taken from all around the globe will serve to illustrate the joys and terrors of this endeavor.

The doors will open at the club at 6:00 pm, and a buffet ($12.50/person) and a no-host bar will be available. Bruce will start his talk around 7:00, wrapping up around 9:00. Admission is $20 per person, with all proceeds going to the Made in America Foundation, Bruce's non-profit organization.

The Corinthian YC strongly encourages you to make reservations, as there will be limited seating. To make reservations, you can call the club at (415) 435-4771 or fill out the online form at www.cyc.org/speakers.

More Details - and Confusion - on the Apparent Elimination of Domestic Clearing in Mexico

April 20 - Mexico City

Legislation to get rid of domestic clearing in Mexico has been before Congress in different forms for several years. Sources tell us that it never passed because the "mafia-like" group that controls the pilot boats that guide ships in and out of ports has been able to thwart it. If the legislation had passed, it apparently would have drastically reduced the profits in their very lucrative business.

Then last fall President Fox asked various members of the tourist industry what he could do to make Mexico more friendly to tourism. Tere Grossman, President of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, told Fox to get rid of domestic clearing. With the legislation still blocked in Congress, Fox finally got around it by issuing yesterday's Reglamento, which is a Presidential directive that doesn't require the approval of Congress.

We'd like to tell you that the Reglamento is absolutely clear and everyone is interpreting it the same way. But it's not as clear as it could be, and people are interpreting it differently - or just aren't sure how to interpret it. It pretty clearly seems to state that the only despacho or clearance that a foreign-flagged pleasure vessel needs is an altura, which is the international one used only when arriving from or leaving to a foreign port. By saying that an altura is needed "exclusively," and not mentioning the other two types of despachos, it suggests that the other two aren't needed. The other two are the interior - needed when going out for just a day, and inexplicably only ever enforced in Cabo San Lucas - and the cabotjaje - which is the despacho for going between port captain districts.

However, after the initial check-in with a port captain, it also says that such boats have to "inform" a marina when they are coming or going, and that the marina has to keep a "log book" of such comings and goings. If there is no marina, such boats are supposed to inform the local port captain. According to Grossman's way of thinking, "informing" could consist of calling the port captain by phone or radio. But it's not spelled out as clearly as it could and should be. But starting today at Grossman's Marina San Carlos, they will no longer will be requiring domestic clearance papers, but will rather just maintain a log book. Grossman says the marina won't charge for boats reporting their coming and goings in the log book.

In Grossman's view, this "informing" business is a last little bit of red tape that itself will likely be gone. "Little by little, we are winning," she said.

Diego Fernandez of Baja Naval in Ensenada is not quite ready to read the Reglamento as favorably as Grossman. He's waiting for port captain officials to arrive in Ensenada on Friday for clarifications.

But here's something that both Grossman and Fernandez agree on. They both say that when a U.S. boat gets a 10-Year Import Permit, checks in to Immigration for the first time, and visits Aduana (customs) for the first time, they no longer have to check in with Immigration or Aduana anywhere else in Mexico! This is news to us, but they assure us it's true and has been for some time.

Of course, it wouldn't be Mexico if some port captains didn't interpret the Reglamento differently. Dick Markie, for example, tells us that the port captain at Nuevo Vallarta - who has always been a good friend of cruisers - interprets the Reglamento to mean that boatowners still have to come to his office - but now there won't be any charge for its services. And it's unclear if he's just going to be keeping a log or trying to continue to require despachos. In his view, Paradise Marina keeping a log of the comings and goings of boats does not eliminate boatowners from having to come to his office. This strikes us as a little odd, because one of the clearest parts of the Reglamento seems to be where it says that boatowners only have to go to the port captain if there is no marina to "inform" to. And one can't help but wonder how long the port captain at Nuevo Vallarta is going to want to shuffle papers for which his office is not getting any money. They used to get $20 for in, and $20 for out. That's a lot of money in Mexico.

Markie also says that 10-Year Import Permit or no 10-Year Import Permit, cruisers still have to check in with Immigration and Aduana at each port that has them - such as Puerto Vallarta. But will this still be true in places where "informing" a marina is all that's required?

What everybody we've talked to agrees on is that the red-tape in Mexico is being torn away, and that future cruisers to Mexico can look forward to lower bureaucratic - and ship's agent - fees and increasing freedom. As another example, it's now perfectly legal for foreign-flagged vessels to become legal charterboats in Mexico. Well, at least in Banderas Bay. That's another huge change.

To summarize, if you accept Tere Grossman 's interpretation of the laws in effect today, here's what you'd have to do at your first port of entry in Mexico:

1. Get tourist cards for the entire crew, which should be good for as much as six months. The alternative is an FM3, which is good for a year at a time.

2. Clear in with the port captain. Once this has been done, Tere believes you don't have to clear with a port captain again until you are leaving Mexico - but you do have to "inform" marinas or port captains of your comings and goings.

3. Check in with Immigration. Tere believes that once you've cleared Immigration, you don't have to do it again until you leave Mexico. And why not, for once you're in Mexico, why would you have to go through the same immigration process over and over?

4) Check in with Aduana (Customs). Once you've done that, Tere believes you don't have to do it again until you leave Mexico. Again, it makes no sense to have to continually go through customs. After all, once you're in Mexico, you can't bring anything new in.

5) Get a 10-Year Import Permit, assuming that you'll keep your boat in Mexico for more than a few months.

If you like what appears to be a much less expensive and less time-wasting clearing process in Mexico, Tere says it's important you let Mexican officials know. So please, take a minute to write a very short email of thanks and send it to Tere. She already sent a copy of yesterday's effusive 'Lectronic announcement to scores of important officials in Mexico, and wants to take more supporting letters when she does her rounds of Mexican officials next week.

And this just in, the interpretation from Mary Shroyer of Marina de La Paz:

"I wish you had not been so ecstatic over the change to the Reglamento de la Ley de Navegación without a copy of the change in front of you. Here is a non-legalese translation:

"Foreign flagged pleasure (no commercial use) vessels must only clear in at the first port of entry and while navigating between Mexican ports (cabotage) must inform the port captain or an authorized marina in each port of their arrival and departure, as well as of any change in crew. All vessels must obtain formal clear out papers with the port captain in the last port if leaving for a foreign port. Authorized marinas must maintain a record of arrivals and departures (a log) of the vessels that inform them of their arrivals and departures from and to other Mexican ports.

"The La Paz port captain advises us that we must maintain the same procedures we are using - I assume until he finds out from his superiors what this log is to consist of, etc. - until further notice.

"There has been no change in Immigration law, which currently requires boaters to check in and out. Neil will be talking to our State jefe of Migración today, to see what they will require. The law actually states that Migración can do whatever it wants.

"So there is only half-joy in Mudville tonight, and I am recommending patience. It will be interesting to know what port captains are doing in other areas, and we will be in contact with Tere over this."

The bottom, bottom line seems to be that things have moved significantly in our direction, but may not be all the way there. Given the momentum, it's important that as many people as possible send emails to Tere supporting the changes and encouraging future changes.

Obviously, we'll have more on this in the future.

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