October 18, 2013

Mexican Immigration Looks Good for Ha-Ha

In 10 days the 164-boat Baja Ha-Ha rally fleet will be scudding south toward Cabo – where fleet members will exchange online immigration receipts for actual visas.

latitude/Andy
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Officials at the highest level of Mexican Immigration and Tourism in Mexico City assured the Baja Ha-Ha rally’s Grand Poobah, via a Skype video conference, that all will be well with immigration for the Ha-Ha fleet. This took place during a big meeting yesterday in San Diego, which included officials from the Mexican government, the Mexican Navy, and the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, regarding immigration issues for sportsfishermen and nautical tourists to Mexico.

While not all interested parties got what they wanted — sportsfishing boats still can’t get multiple entries and boatowners still can only import one vessel into Mexico at any given time — we on the Ha-Ha Rally Committee got the assurances we wanted.

The officials recognized that Ensenada is not equipped to handle a huge influx of boats and mariners at one time, so as a solution, they have set it up so Ha-Ha participants — and others — can buy a Forma Migratoria de Turista (FMT) online prior to leaving San Diego. The receipt generated from the online sign-up process confirms that you have paid for the FMTs, and the receipt will serve as temporary visas for your crew until you get to Cabo San Lucas. There, officials assured us, the FMT can be exchanged for regular 180-day tourist visas at no additional charge. This is a confirmation of what Baja Immigration officials told Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz during a meeting last week.

So if you haven’t gotten FMTs for yourself and your Ha-Ha crewmembers yet, go to www.inm.gob.mx, then hit the ‘Sportfishing and Nautical Tourism’ icon. (Depending on whether or not they’ve had time to change the site, you may have to click on the ‘Sportfishing Association of California’ link.) Fill out the form for your boat and crew to get the FMT receipt. You’ll need detailed information for each crewmember including passport numbers. Then go to the payments page and, via credit card, pay $295 pesos — about $23 dollars — for each member of the crew. (You pay the same thing when you fly to Mexico, except that it’s included in the price of your plane ticket.)

Next, you email a copy of the page with the information about your boat and crew, and the receipt of your payment HERE. But hang onto your FMT receipt, as, again, that is the temporary visa for everyone on your boat. (Yeah, we know, not everybody’s name is on it, so when you get to Cabo, we presume that your crew will want to visit Immigration as a group. Hopefully officials will have a desk set up on the dock just for the Ha-Ha as they did last year.)

What could possibly go wrong? We’ve had reports that some browsers won’t load the website. Try another. We’ve been told that Cabo is not listed as a possible port of entry. Just pick one of the other ones. We’re told calendar function on the FMT site does not allow you to choose an exit date beyond 12/31/2013. Don’t worry, you’ll be exchanging this temporary visa for a normal tourist visa good for 180 days as soon as you get to Cabo. If there are four of you on the boat, and two have temporary or permanent resident visas for Mexico and therefore don’t want an FMT, we’re told that the website is sophisticated enough to recognize that you only need to pay for FMTs for two people. If that doesn’t work, people with temporary or permanent resident status in Mexico may have to pay $23 they shouldn’t have to. It’s not the end of the world.

Mexican officials recognize that the system is new and there are glitches, so they’ll be flexible, and you should be flexible, too. Simply can’t get the website to work? You didn’t hear it from us, but our suggested default is to do what Ha-Ha entries have done for the last 19 years — although it was always technically illegal — which is simply clear your boat and entire crew in at Cabo San Lucas. Simply explain to Immigration that the website wouldn’t work for you, and we’re confident Immigration won’t hold it against you. After all, you won’t be able to leave the country without buying a visa at some point. (Unless you take a bus back to the border.) 

The important thing to remember is that the Mexican officials know there are problems with the system. They value nautical tourists and are devoting a lot of effort to trying to make the process as easy as possible. In fact, Alejandra Cano of the Programa Paisano at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles tells us she’ll be at the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party to answer any question. So cut Mexican officials some slack while they refine the process for the different interested parties. And get ready to Ha-Ha!

Sacto Boat Thieves Caught

While suburbanites fear homeless folks might steal their property, homeless-on-homeless crime is far more prevalent. Case in point, on Sunday, two apparently homeless men stole the Columbia 28 that Robert Mayse called home. 

Kirk Sharrah and Max Wilson were arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property, namely Robert Mayse’s Columbia 28 Destiny.

© 2013 Sacramento Police Dept.

Mayse told Sacramento’s CBS 13 that he discovered the pair — Kirk Sharrah, 49, and Max Wilson, 41 — on Destiny, which was anchored on the Sacramento River. "I asked him, ‘What are you doing on my boat, fool?’ He said, ‘That’s not your boat, it’s my boat.’ I said, ‘Like hell it is, you better get your ass off.’” 

The duo attempted to set sail but, according to the news report, they couldn’t get the boat moving, so they fled in Mayse’s rubber raft. Police were waiting on shore to arrest the pair on suspicion of receiving stolen property. 

Mayse claims Destiny was ruined by the accused thieves, but it appears that long-term neglect hasn’t helped matters.

© CBS13

Details are sketchy at best and questions abound, but Mayse claims the pair ruined his boat, including the interior, sails and motor. He says home will now be a tent on the beach.

In Search of C:Drive

The Coast Guard is asking for your help locating Honolulu sailor Greg Stephanoff, 60, who was last seen leaving the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor the evening of October 3 aboard his Catalina 42 C:Drive. Although he spoke to friends about sailing to Hanalei Bay on Kauai’s north shore, no float plan was filed with the Coast Guard and he hasn’t been seen in the bay or at other locations throughout the state.

Greg Stephanoff left the Ala Wai two weeks ago aboard his Catalina 42 C:Drive. While the Coasties are not actively searching for him, they are seeking confirmation he is alive and well.

C:Drive
©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you see him or his boat, or have any further information, the Coast Guard would appreciate hearing from you at (808) 842-2600. 

It looks like someone had maybe just a little too much fun at Buccaneer Days earlier this month and didn’t want the party to end.
Close scrutiny of recent satellite imagery has sparked new hope that the long-missing American schooner Niña may yet be found, and that her seven crew may still be alive.  According to family and experts, this ship-shaped image is the same size as Niña but Kiwi authorities won’t go searching until they have higher resolution images that the American government won’t release.
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