Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's In A Name?
By Michael

Here I am, removing the last of the Dream Catcher name.
After 15 years, she shall hereforth be known as, Del Viento.
Before Dream Catcher, she was Texas Swan and Second Wind.
There are all kinds of rituals folks are advised to follow
when changing a name. Imprudently, we did nothing.
I haven’t written much about our drama here because I wasn’t sure how things were going to unfold, but we have had a devil of a time determining how to square our boat purchase with the Mexican authorities. Up until last week, our boat still had Dream Catcher written on the side of the hull and in the eyes of the boat yard and Puerto Vallarta port captain, we were simply crew, with the owner’s permission to use and work on the boat.
When we bought the boat, it never crossed my mind that we would have any issues with regard to Mexican paperwork. I figured when we arrived in Mexico, we would present our paperwork to the Puerto Vallarta port captain showing that we now own the boat, simple and straightforward.
Our broker had another idea: “What you’ll have to do is sail to Mazatlan. En route, change the name of your boat. When you arrive in Mazatlan, check in as though you just arrived from the United States.”
He was emphatic. I questioned this approach several times via email. He finally said I should talk to a woman who specializes in Mexican paperwork. I went to visit her at her office. I showed her all of the paperwork we had. This included our new documentation, the previous owner’s expired documentation, and a copy of the not-yet-expired Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for the boat under the previous name and owner. She reviewed everything, nodded, and told me exactly what we had to do: “What you’ll have to do is sail to Mazatlan. En route, change the name of your boat. When you arrive in Mazatlan, check in as though you just arrived from the United States.”
What in the world? We didn’t break any laws buying a boat in Mexico. We used an escrow company based in the United States, we bought Mexican liability insurance for the boat, and we had copies of the most recent salida and entrada filed with the Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta port captains, respectively. Why is everyone telling us now that we have to break the law just to let Mexico know we now own the boat?
I sent an email to the broker telling him that we planned to bring our paperwork to the Puerto Vallarta port captain and explain that we just arrived and are happy to be here and we are the new owners of Dream Catcher, now called Del Viento.
His response came quickly from his phone, in all caps: “DO NOT GO TO PORT CAPTAIN! HUGE MISTAKE!”
The second to last thing I wanted to do was to make a big blunder with the Mexican authorities. The last thing I wanted to do was to sail into Mazatlan, lying to the Capitania del Puerto and Mexican immigration about my last port of call. I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place and Google was no help.
I began emailing other cruisers whom I knew from their blogs had purchased boats in Mexico.
I learned a couple of things that didn’t really help our situation. First, the Mexican bank, Banjercito, handles all of the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) processing and payment for boats—and there is no Banjercito office in Puerto Vallarta. The second thing I learned is that there doesn’t seem to be a right way or a common way to deal with this. A cruiser in Mazatlan I talked to bought a boat that had a Mexican paper trail that died with the owner prior to the person they bought from. They also received varied advice but finally simply walked into the local Banjercito office and had the name on temporary import permit updated for a small fee. And yet another cruiser I talked to in a local grocery store today said, “Yeah, you gotta sail offshore and re-enter the country as the new owners of your boat.”
I emailed the broker with some experiences and approaches other cruisers shared with me, wondering aloud whether any might be useful to my situation. He responded, "Don't listen to what other cruisers tell you because I have ended up getting them out of trouble more times than I can count. They think they know but they don't."
It was beginning to look like we had to go to Mazatlan and either arrive telling a big lie, or arrive telling the truth and hopefully resolving everything with a helpful agent in the Banjercito office.
Then the email arrived: “Talk to Juan Arias.”
We did.
Juan* is a straight shooter who, along with his sister, handles paperwork issues from the Puerto Vallarta office of their family-owned business. In Juan’s mind, we did not have an issue. “I will just write a letter to the port captain on your behalf, indicating I’ve seen proof that you bought the boat, and I’ll get your exit papers for you in your name and the boat’s new name.” Just like that? Really? Juan even offered reasons why the sail-to-Mazatlan approach was a bad one: “The authorities are pretty familiar with what cruisers have aboard when they arrive in Mexico. If they see a jar of Soriana mayonnaise aboard, you will have problems.”
In essence, Juan charged us $70 USD to do what I was originally planning to do on my own, but by this time I was so anxious and uncertain about the whole thing that I was happy to pay him. In fact, based on all of the bad advice we received, I half-doubted he would be successful. But two days later, as promised, he accomplished just what he said he would.
Presto, we are Del Viento!
As a result, I have little doubt I would have been equally successful had I gone to see the Puerto Vallarta port captain on my own. Also, according to Juan, the TIP is not important to port captains. He said we may need the TIP only for boat yards or some marinas (and when we checked into Marina Riviera Nayarit, they asked only for our documentation and Mexican liability insurance). He said we should go online, order and pay for a new TIP, and print and keep our online receipt as proof we have one (Mexico mails this by hard copy and we have no means of getting it down here for a while).
Windy and I talked at length about how difficult it is to separate the wheat and chaff when it comes to receiving advice. We decided that we can probably take with a grain of salt any future advice delivered emphatically, that uses fear in the message, and that offers no underlying substantive reasoning to back up the advice, especially when questions are asked.
My advice** to future buyers of boats on Mexico? Order an Importacion Temporal de Vehiculos online from the Benjercito website before you return from the U.S. or Canada to the boat you bought in Mexico. Order in advance so it is sure to reach you by mail before you depart. Also pack your U.S. or Canadian documentation or registration showing ownership in your name. When you get to Mexico, bring these documents (along with the most recent Entrada, if you have it) to the port captain who has jurisdiction over the harbor in which your boat is lying and let him know you are the proud new owners. With his concurrence, change the name of the boat and get either a new Entrada in that name (and with your crew list) to replace the existing one, or a Salida if you are sailing away soon to another port.
Once you are squared away with the port captain, you are all set. Mexican immigration (migracion) cares only that you as a person have a valid passport and visa. Mexican customs (aduanas) cares only that the stuff you bring in and out of Mexico is acceptable and taxes are paid. It is only the port captain you need to satisfy that you are entering and leaving his harbor on your boat. May things go more smoothly for those in our wake.
* Juan Arias’s office is located in Plaza Marsol, next to the Puerto Vallarta cruise ship terminal. He goes by the nickname, Paper Man.
Juan Pablo Arias MendivilPlaza Marsol Local, “D” P.O. Box 4-9Blvd FCO Medina Ascencio KM 4.5Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico C.P 48321
Tel: (322) 224-3555Fax: (322) 224-3585
** Disclaimer: my advice is based only on my own experiences and information I have received and interpreted.

This is Cow. Cow is an art piece owned by the mayor of Puerto Vallarta. The mayor lived in
the villa next to ours when we were Puerto Vallarta landlubbers. I didn't see him much while
we were there, but did see his wife, Jenny, often and his Secret-Service-like detail every
morning. When we were at the height of our Mexican bureaucratic angst, I considered
petitioning the help of our neighbor. I can't imagine that would have been smart.

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