How to Get Your Boat Home from Mexico
With seaports around the world closed to unfamiliar vessels, it’s not surprising that sailors are left wondering what to do when they and their beloved sailboat are sheltering in different countries. For some the distance is normal, but for others it has become the new normal — one they might rather not have to endure.
This week we received an email from a reader whose friend, perhaps tired of being landlocked, would like to bring his Hylas 44, Scout, home from Mexico but is unsure of the current regulations. So what does a sailor do when faced with a sailing question? Asks another sailor, of course, or in this case, the publisher of a sailing magazine. Who better to ask about the latest news than the person who prints it?
Dan Brenny was crewing on Scout for the 2019 Baja Ha-Ha when he met Latitude 38 publisher John Arndt at a Hylas party in San Diego last November.
“Yeah, I remember him,” John said. “Great bunch of sailors. Everyone was excited to start the Ha-Ha.”
Six months later, back at his home port in Portland, OR, Dan bumped into Scout’s owner and Ha-Ha skipper Bill Blumlein at West Marine. Bill wants to bring Scout home to the Pacific Northwest — preferably the San Juan Islands — and plied Dan for information.
This is where being a sailor demonstrates its greatest asset: belonging to a network of like-minded souls whose greatest wish, apart from sailing forever, is to help other sailors. Dan immediately whipped out a Latitude 38 business card and fired off an email to find some answers, “asking for a friend.”
Latitude 38 then called upon good friend Fito Espinoza from Marina Coral, Ensenada, to get the latest information about clearing out of Mexico. Fito immediately replied with some valuable information as follows:
“Currently the port of La Paz is open, and you can obtain clearance documents to San Diego or Ensenada. Personally I recommend you obtain exit papers to the US in Ensenada. It’s easier and less time-consuming.”
Fito included the list of documents needed to clear out in Ensenada: USCG documentation, insurance, passports, Tourist Card (FMM) and Temporary Import Permit (TIP).
While sailors can still take the scenic route by sailing from La Paz to Cabo to Turtle Bay to Ensenada, Fito says many of the small towns such as Magdalena Bay and Turtle Bay are open to anchoring but are not allowing people to go ashore. And for sailors who are on the move, he recommends buying fuel in Bahia Asuncion, as their prices are much more reasonable. If anyone is choosing this option, the contact there is [email protected]; USA (619) 906-8438 or Mexico (615) 155-7197.
The fuel price in Turtle Bay has recently been reported to be about $2.60 per liter or around $9.82 per gallon!
He also suggested that a yacht transport company might offer a viable solution for taking the vessel from La Paz to Victoria, BC. “There are many companies like United Yacht Transport and Sevenstar Yacht Transport that currently offer this service.”
We hope this helps Dan and Bill and any other sailors wanting to bring their best friend home from Mexico.
Thank you, Fito, for your help. We look forward to seeing our sailboats return to your sunny shores in the near future.
And thanks, Dan, for reaching out, and for your feedback. “I’m really glad you are still publishing Latitude 38. That is my fix now that sailing is a bit shut down.”
We’ll have another story on the Baja Bash from ‘Captain Midnight’ coming up in the June issue.
What are the rules if any of visiting Mexico, to buy a sailboat?
I bought a boat in Mazatlan a year ago. Flew down in November to inspect/survey. Had no problems getting there or back. TIP transfer can be a challenge, but went smoothly for me. Helps to find someone who speaks Spanish and is familiar with the process. COVID travel not a complication at the time. I went down again last spring to prep the boat. I was fully vaccinated. Had to have a covid test to fly home. This was done at the airport. Again, not a problem. My only suggestion would be to plan your flight (if you fly) so that you fly direct from the US to your destination. If you fly to Mexico City to transfer, you could run into customs snags. We had a real headache there. My first trip was Seattle-LA-Maz and I had no problems.
Search online for more info/tips on buying in MX. Check out the offshore purchase rules, etc. Insurance can be a pain too until you get to the US. I just have liability in MX…
Thing is, the Baja Bash is usually the easy part of returning to the PNW. After you’ve completed the Baja Bash you then have the California Bash, the Oregon Bash, and finally the Washington Bash. I know of a well equipped 47′ IOR race boat that turned back to San Francisco twice during July because they tired of having their guts bashed out. There are two types of sailors— cruisers who sail their boats from one pleasant destination to another, and sailors who enjoy being at sea far from the cares of land. For the cruisers there is a clear choice—- put your boat onboard a ship and pick her up when she arrives in Vancouver. When you factor in the cost of fuel and wear and tear from all those miles to windward the cost suddenly looks less outrageous.
Now if you are a sailor, fill the water tanks, stock up on rice and beans and head for Hawaii. 21-31 days later you will make landfall on some of the most beautiful islands in the world. Enjoy the big city scene or search out the few remaining non-touristy anchorages.
The voyage from Hawaii to the PNW in the summer is usually a pretty quiet passage. If you are a motorsailor, load up on fuel and punch through the Pacific High. A lot more peaceful ocean than motoring through the Baja Current the wrong way. Or sail north until you are over the high, then head through the fog to any destination from Portland to Sitka. A friend single-handed it in his 24′ Searifin in 21 days to Port Townsend. And I once took Doug Freyer’s dock lines after he sailed his traditional 45′ cutter back from the Vic- Maui in under 12 days.
If you factor in all the fuel stops and weather window delays from trying to harbor hop from Mexico to the San Juans I’d be surprised if you don’t spend more time completing the delivery than someone who sails the longer Hawaii route.
I am trying to figure out what time of year to head north from Mexico doing the loop toward Hawaii then around to the Pacific North West