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Great News on Temporary Import Permits

If you are taking your boat to Mexico, it’s illegal for you to sail into Mexican waters until you’ve gone online and gotten a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for your boat. They are inexpensive, good for 10 years, and you can come into and leave Mexico as many times as you want using the same TIP. Such a bargain.

Similarly, if you bought a boat that had a TIP, which the previous owner had not canceled, you were potentially in deep trouble because a new TIP cannot be issued for a boat that already has one. Supposedly, you can’t get the old TIP canceled without presenting the old TIP itself, or pieces of it, and the previous owner’s exit zarpe from Mexico.

But based on the experience of Rich and Margaret Ciolino of the Santa Barbara-based Island Packet 35 Ecco Bella, Mexican authorities aren’t being as rigid about TIP regulations as we’ve often been warned that they would be. The Ciolinos bought their boat in Mexico in 2011, not realizing that she had a TIP. They brought her up to California, and just before the start of last year’s Baja Ha-Ha, they applied for a TIP, as required by law. The computer system refused their request because, as they learned for the first time, the boat had an uncanceled TIP.

According to what Latitude has been told by numerous officials, and as outlined in Mexico’s semi-official guide to mariners heading south, no foreign boat can enter Mexican waters without a TIP. But someone, we’re not sure who, advised the Ciolinos to simply try to get it cleared up at their first port of entry in Mexico. So when after the couple arrived at Cabo, they got in touch with ship’s agent Victor Barreda, an old friend of Latitude’s and the Ha-Ha, who checks in a large number of Ha-Ha boats each year.

Barreda explained to them that he could get the boat’s old TIP canceled. As mentioned above, normally this requires turning in bits and pieces of the old TIP sticker, plus the last exit zarpe. It’s unclear to us if they had either of these. It took about a week, but Victor got the old TIP canceled. He even delivered it to Ecco Bella, which by that time had moved along to Puerto Los Cabos.

The Ciolinos didn’t have any problem with officials in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo because they didn’t have a current TIP. They simply told officials they were going to get one when they got to La Paz. This was fine with the officials. (It’s not possible to get a TIP in Cabo, because you get TIPs from a Banjercito bank, and there is no Banjercito in Cabo.)

The Ciolinos decided to change their plans, and went to Mazatlan instead of La Paz. Officials in Mazatlan had no problem with their status either, and they got a shiny new TIP in Mazatlan.

What’s more, the Ciolinos met another couple with a boat that had an uncanceled TIP. This couple, doing all the work by themselves, managed get the old TIP canceled, and receive a new one, in Ensenada. Again, it’s not clear to us if they had both the old TIP and the exit zarpe.

This is the kind of inconsistency that drives us crazy when we try to give advice to cruisers headed to Mexico for the first time. So the best we can describe the situation is that it’s like this: Technically, you can’t sail into Mexican waters without a TIP, and you can’t get a new TIP without getting the old one canceled. But several cruisers report they have had no trouble doing it.

So it’s sort of like checking with Customs and Border Protection when coming back into the States. You’re supposed to stop at the Police Dock in San Diego, call the C&BP, and wait for them to show up. But some boatowners blow off that requirement, and nobody seems to care.

But remember, officials in Mexico change, as does their interpretation and enforcement of laws. So we strongly encourage you to get a TIP before taking your boat to Mexico if possible. It’s easy and cheap. And before you buy a boat that might have been in Mexico, make sure that her TIP has been canceled. If you decide to ignore this, and deal with it later, you may not have a problem. But you never know. 

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At some point during the fire, Laetitia’s rig collapsed. © 2016 Petty Officer 2nd Class Philip Gilbert / USCG The USCG, along with several local agencies, rescued three sailors after their 44-ft sailboat caught fire Friday, near Rancho Palos Verdes, a city in Los Angeles County west of Long Beach.