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October 4, 2017

Which Charts Are Best?

Isla Isabella is a beautiful offshore nature reserve on the way from Cabo or Mazatlan to Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta. It’s easiest to find if you have good charts. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

With less than a month to go to the start of the southbound migration to Mexico, a number of folks are asking the Wanderer which charts are best for Mexico.

To tell you the truth, we don’t know, because all we’ve used is Navionics on our iPad. It’s not perfect, but it’s worked for us.

If you’ve actively been cruising Mexico for the last year, we’d like your opinion on which is the best navigation software. And where, if anywhere, those charts may be off.

In addition, if you have a favorite cruising guide for navigation, we’d like to hear about that, too. Email Richard.

Heads Up: It’s Fleet Week

To find out about each Fleet Week activity, go to and click on each icon in the graphic.

© San Francisco Fleet Week

When Bay Area sailors think of Fleet Week, taking the boat out to view the Blue Angels air show from the water is the first thing that comes to mind. But over the years, Fleet Week has turned into a multi-faceted weeklong event, spread out all over the San Francisco waterfront and beyond. Activities began yesterday, with ship tours, an art exhibit at the Cannery, and a Veterans Resource Fair. The week will wrap up on Monday with more ship tours and a high school band challenge.

Coast Guard Sector San Francisco has established a safety zone to regulate vessel traffic during the San Francisco Fleet Week Navy Parade of Ships, scheduled for Friday, October 6, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A 500-yard protective zone will also be enforced around each naval vessel the entire time they are in port.

© PO3 Sarah Wilson / USCG

The Parade of Ships and the air shows will be of most interest to sailors. You’ll need to call in sick in order to view the Parade of Ships — that’s on Friday. All eyes will be on the skies on Friday-Sunday afternoons for the air shows. Find out all you need to know at

Sector San Francisco has established a safety zone to regulate vessel traffic during the San Francisco Fleet Week air shows, scheduled to take place from noon to 4 p.m., October 6-8. Federal Aviation Administration regulations require that these areas be clear of all vessel traffic during air show times. 

© 2017 PO3 Sarah Wilson / USCG

In searching for a photo this morning to illustrate this preview, we came up short. So we’d like to propose a reader-submission photo contest. Send us your best shot of Fleet Week activities — the only rule is that there must be a sailboat in the frame, either part of your own boat, or others on the water. (Sorry, the USCG barque Eagle will not be among the visiting vessels this year.) Medium to high resolution photos are preferred; our server will accept emails up to 15 MB. Our favorite(s), to be saved for future use, will earn Latitude 38 swag.

Complying with Mex Laws Is So Hard!

For example, let’s talk about  trying to get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for your boat. At $55 for 10 years, the price is ridiculously right.

But the process can be so very wrong. In theory, you should be able to get one online, which some people actually manage to do. Others are stymied by questions posed by the program they can’t answer. For example, one Baja Ha-Ha entrant reports the program asked what brand of boat he had. But Hans Christian was not listed, nor was there a place for ‘other’. He was stopped dead in his tracks, as he couldn’t proceed with picking a brand, and didn’t want to enter Hatteras or something. This has happened to many applicants, and the one thing you don’t want is the wrong information on your TIP.

Why go through all the bureaucracy of obtaining permits that allow you to cruise Mexico? Because, this.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Several sources report that you can get a TIP for your boat at some Mexican consulates. Which ones? Nobody seems to know. (See below for excellent news on this front.)

If you call the Mexican consulate in San Diego, you’ll never find out if you can get one there because as soon as you press the button for ‘import permits’, the phone hangs up. Don’t feel bad, it immediately hangs up when you press any other button, too. The San Diego consulate is notorious for never answering the phone. And for hanging up in the middle of calls, too.

So we called the consulate in Los Angeles. We got a five-minute rapid-fire recording in Spanish, followed by a hang up.

Lastly, we called the consulate in San Francisco. Nobody answered the extension after about 100 rings. And we thought AT&T, Comcast, and the DMV were bad.

Baja Insider is often a good source of information. Here’s what they had to say:

"First you will you will need to obtain your Temporary Import Permit. These are not expensive and can be obtained via the Mexican consulate office closest to you, at the border from the CIITEV units in the Customs office of entry, or through this page on this Mexican Government page:

"Documents required in order to obtain a TIP are:

"1. Original current vessel documentation or registration that proves ownership.
2. Applicant’s ID (Passport).
3. For vessels registered under a Corporation or LLC, notarized letter to authorize the vessel operation to master operating it."

Alas, the Insider’s link to CIITEV units takes you to their home page, leaving you back at square one. And they left out something else you need. See below.

According to the Discover Baja Travel Club’s very pleasant Maythe Cataldo, it’s not true that you can get a TIP at every consulate. (She’s right about this as, for example, you can’t get one at the consulate in San Diego.) But she didn’t know the consulates where you could get one and the ones where you couldn’t.

Other than that, Maythe sure knows her stuff, and reports she’s already obtained a bunch of TIPs and visas for members of this year’s Ha-Ha fleet. It takes about two weeks. Her organization charges the normal $55 for the TIP, $45 for their fee, but also requires you pay $39 to join their club. And if you want her to get the visas for you so you don’t even have to go to the bank in Cabo, it’s another $35.

If frustration drives you crazy, it might be money well spent — a couple of Ha-Ha entrants said they thought it was. Maythe, who knows all about the Ha-Ha, can be reached at 800 727-2252.

Other sources say it’s no problem to get a TIP at the border from Customs at Otay Mesa or Tecate, but not at San Ysidro. But in some cases, that might only be for trailerable boats you can bring there. Or maybe only when certain clerks wait on you. With Mexico, you never can be sure. You’ll have to get accustomed to such inconsistency and uncertainty.

Keep your eyes on the prize, Ha-Ha entrants. After waiting in lines at various consulates, your target will be clear. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The default, of course, is simply sail to Mexico with nothing but your boat documentation, passports, and authorization letter if the boat is owned by a trust or corporation. To date, nobody in the Ha-Ha has ever had a problem doing this. Nor has there ever been a problem walking into the immigration office at Cabo and paying the $25 or so for a 180-day tourist visa.

It wasn’t/isn’t possible, however, to get a TIP in Cabo, because they don’t have a military bank (Banjercito) where you have to pay the $55. So these folks couldn’t get TIPs until they went to Pichilingue (La Paz), Mazatlan, or Puerto Vallarta. But when they went to Customs in any of those places, there wasn’t a problem.

Nonetheless, the sooner you get a TIP, the better, because many marinas won’t let you in unless you have one. This is a result of a giant government fiasco a few years ago that scared the daylights out of everyone, including marina owners. Now that’s ancient history.

Every boat owner we know going to Mexico wants to comply with Mexican law, but lordy, they make something that should be so easy, so difficult. A slight improvement in the software would solve it all. So would listing which consulates can give your boat a TIP. The biggest help of all would be clear instructions that worked.

But the bottom line is: Don’t sweat it.

P.S. Unless somebody can report they got a TIP for an oceangoing boat at a Mexican consulate in the United States, or from Customs at Otay Mesa or Tecate, we’re pretty much done with this subject. We’ve given you proven options, you just have to choose the one that suits you.

Update #1: Ha-Ha entrant Dwight Strenbakken reports that he visited the Mexican consulate in Sacramento and was able to get a TIP for his boat in "maybe 15 minutes." He described the staff as being "very efficient and accommodating."

Update #2: Ha-Ha entry Greg Kircher reports that he was able to get a TIP for his boat at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles. According to him, "The process was pretty straightforward, and the requirements were:
1) The boat documentation original and a copy of same.
2) The registration for the dinghy and a copy of same. This was a requirement and the dinghy is the only piece of equipment shown on the additional TIP page. (Other sources don’t mention the need for dinghy registration, but you absolutely want to have it with you.)
3) Passport.
4) Authorization letter if you are not the listed owner.
Fees need to be paid by credit card. The official(s) who assisted me were helpful and efficient, and once I had all the paperwork, it only took about an hour."

Update #3: Lastly, Ha-Ha entry Ernst Schneider of Patience reports that he — and how we have no idea  — found a list of all the Mexican consulates and ports of entry on the California border where you can get a TIP. Find that list at Note that you cannot get a TIP at the consulate in San Diego, but you can at others, such as Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Bernadino. The list suggests that you can get a TIP at Customs at San Ysidro, but other sources say you cannot. We suggest Otay Mesa, which in any event is probably less crowded.

Why the Mexican government hasn’t made this information widely available is a mystery to us. But then there are many mysteries in Mexico.

We consider the information above to be all you need to select the option you want for getting your TIP.

Don Jesberg’s Viva takes a wave. Andrea Cabito, Bill Hardesty and Robbie Dean joined Jesberg on the SFYC-based boat, which placed seventh in the Worlds.
After Jim Stitt picked up his monthly issue of Latitude 38 at Grand Marina in Alameda, he realized it was his lucky day.
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