Saturday, July 16, 2011

We Made It To Mexico!!
By Michael

We visited our friends Jim and Marry at their home in Tucson.
In 1998, I proposed to Windy at their home in Punta Chivato,
After spending last night in Tucson, we crossed the border at Nogales today, just before noon. After about four hours in the car with the sun beating down on us and the air temperature holding steady at 103 degrees Fahrenheit, a U.S. Border Patrol agent welcomed us back into the U.S. Tonight we are at a Holiday Inn Express in Arizona, just across the border.

We left Tucson with all our ducks in a row: passports, temporary import permit (TIP) for the boat, a list of everything we are declaring, and money. The border crossing was uneventful and we took the truck bypass route (contrary to what we initially intended, but based on the advise of others--thank you!) and zipped by the first aduana office and up a long grade, about 7 kilometers from the border. Here we paid a 66 peso toll and continued on. After another 7 kilometers or so, we stopped at a second aduana office and pulled into the parking lot for folks with stuff to declare.

A guy with a uniform and a gun greeted us. He asked to see our list, printed en Espanol.

Bingo, no problema. I handed it to him. He looked it over and began shaking his head. In broken English he ran his hand down the list and asked if we were bringing all of this in.


"Esta mas de tres mil dolares."

"Si, hay--por el barco de vela." I offered up the TIP.

"Where's your letter from the marina?" he asked.

I read that to avoid duty, we need to have three things: our list, a Mexican TIP for the boat, and a letter from a Mexican marina agent. This letter is called a Solicitude de Mercancias and it says, in short, "yes, the boat is here in our marina and to the best of our knowledge, the Robertsons are indeed bringing all of this stuff into Mexico solely to install on their boat." The problem for us is that our boat is not at a marina, but in a private slip we rent from an American.

We don't have a Solicitude de Mercancias and we crossed the border hoping that we could get by without one. After all, the worse case scenario is that we end up paying duty on the stuff that we are bringing in, right?

No, the worse case scenario is that the folks who collect the duty go home early on Saturday and don't return until Monday.

He sent us back on the road to the U.S. After paying another 66 peso toll in the other direction, we spent the next three hours baking in a long line of cars waiting to cross the border into Arizona, repeating over and over again to a parade of Mexican vendors that we did not want to buy what they were selling.

I can't describe how defeated I feel now. Are we so incompetent we can't get ourselves across the border? And we call ourselves cruisers?

We never made it to the checkpoint at kilometer 21 that everyone told us about. Should we not have stopped when we did? Would things have been different? Should have requested we be allowed to proceed to kilometer 21 to see if we got a different reception?

We welcome any helpful feedback, however critical. While waiting to get back into the U.S., I sent a Hail Mary email to Dick Markie at Paradise Village marina in Mexico. Our boat was there for a couple of years under the previous owner and I'm hoping that's justification enough for him to fax or email us a Solicitude de Mercancias, no response yet.

And it gets better.

To save money, we wisely used to book tonight and tomorrow night in Mexican hotels en route. We saved a bundle paying for the non-refundable reservations in advance.


The one bright spot? We finally figured out why our car smells like cat piss every time we
get in. See the car seats on the ground in the bottom right corner? That's where I left them
overnight at my folks' house in Templeton, while cleaning out and repacking everything.
My mom feeds a pair of feral cats that hang around their home.


  1. Good grief, you guys, that SUCKS!

  2. Wow. I'm not going to lie, but your posting did give me a little bit of a laugh - even though I know it's frustrating. Wasn't there anyway you could have asked "in your best dumb American voice", if "anyone else" could accept your "duty" payment?

  3. Oh, Michael... We had a similar experience when we sailed into Ensenada. The officials didn't like our Canadian paperwork--not official looking enough...
    They refused our entry and told us we need to take the boat home and get better paperwork.
    A tip about Mexico that we were given by someone else in the entry office, "official looking trumps actual offical documents." So if you don't hear from Dick toute sweet perhaps someone else has a document to help:)

  4. that really does stink. we drove from Arizona to Guaymas in 09 with a rented suburban CRAMMED with stuff... no questions were asked, no papers requested or offered. :( gotta believe the folks in PV will help you, if not, check w/ (harbormaster) Rafa in La Cruz- just across the bay? lemme know if you want contact details for him.


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