Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh Lord, Stuck in La Cruz Again . . . -- December, 2013

Show Us Your Papers

It had to happen sooner or later.  We are, after all, foreigners here.  We've been caught up in officialdom and Abracadabra is now on a list of boats that will not be given permission to leave La Cruz.  Staff at the marina tell us that, because of the upcoming holidays, the likelihood is that if she doesn't get cleared this week, she'll be stuck here into 2014.  Ah, of course - said the former civil servants - The Holidays. 

The Prisoner

How did this happen?  We're not entirely sure, but here's what we know:  

Mexico has a new federal administration.  Our experience as State of California civil servants taught us that a change in administration always means that Stuff Will Happen. Sometimes even important, relevant stuff.  

          Instituto National de Migracion  (INM)

First came a surprise visit from the Mexican federal government's immigration branch (INM) to see if any among the motley crew of mariners in La Cruz were without proper immigration documentation.  [As Homeland Security will tell you, it's best not to give notice of immigration searches.]  Fortunately, Molly was on board when they arrived and produced our passports and tourist cards. Score one successful encounter with officialdom.    

          Servicio de Administracion Tributaria (SAT)

Unlike most tourist card holders (the tourist card is what each tourist coming to Mexico gets when he or she gets off the plane) we have a boat in Mexico.  And as humble as she may be in the world of yachts, she is our home.  When we brought Abracadabra to Mexico we obtained a "temporary import permit" (TIP) which allows us to keep her here for up to ten years without paying import duty.  That's a big break for us - try bringing a boat into California and staying for ten years without paying "use tax" - ha! 

Apparently someone at the Mexican government's tax branch (SAT) recently thought about the many foreign yachts in Mexican marinas (some of which are very fancy) and wondered if all of them had proper TIPs.  And as any tax inspector will tell you, if you're inspecting movable property you don't announce that visit in advance either.

So, as we were busily giving thanks in The Greater Los Angeles Area, SAT came calling.  SAT saw photocopies of Abracadabra's TIP and related documents at the marina office - but they didn't see us. Abracadabra was put on a list of boats that either didn't have proper documentation or whose owner or manager wasn't on board at the time of SAT's visit.  

The List.  

SAT then told the Port Captain that boats on The List are not to be given permission to depart for another port until cleared by SAT.  As to which government entity trumps in this situation, for SAT, think: IRS.

Our first reaction was that this was not a problem - Bryce was still busy installing stuff, and a return visit by SAT had been scheduled.  Last week we spent three days tag-team boat sitting so that whenever SAT arrived on our dock one of us would be aboard.  As it happened when they arrived we were both on board.  We waved the original TIP and other documents at them but they were not interested in any of our documents.  By the time they arrived at Abracadabra the issue had become whether our hull number matched the hull number on our TIP (apparently another boat had this problem).  So we showed them that it did.  Smiles all around.  Assurances that all was well.  Ah, score two successful encounters. 

But no.  

We have now learned that, as congenial as the encounter was -- it wasn't successful. What has happened is the worst of all possible governmental things: The List has been kicked upstairs for clearance.  It's in Guadalajara.  

Today a very polite, intimidatingly militaristic looking young man at the Port Captain's office confirmed that Abracadabra is on The List and won't receive an exit permit from the Port Captain until cleared from The List.  He suggested Aduana (Customs) in Puerto Vallarta could clear her from The List - but he can't tell us what Aduana will want to see from us, or whether Aduana in Puerto Vallarta (though part of SAT) has the authority to clear a boat from The List that is now in Guadalajara.  The staff of the marina (a private business that is most closely associated with the government's tourism office) assure us they are working on our behalf, but suggest that we prepare to enjoy Christmas and New Years in La Cruz.  

The disconcerting thing for a former government lawyer like Molly is that we haven't received anything in writing - nothing that prohibits us from leaving or explains how we might get Abracadabra off The List.  Regulations and process; they're really a good thing.  

What would happen if we just sailed away, as some of our more aggressive sailing compadres have suggested?  Or, as others have suggested - is this the time to ask whether there is "a way to bring resolution to this" and offer someone some money?  Aside from the fact that we're just plain too timid to bet our house - literally - on a positive outcome of either of those approaches -- have we mentioned we're former civil servants that think that governmental process in general is a good thing?  Sigh - we only hope that there is a process and that it will play out soon!      

Bottom Line:  We are free to move about the cabin, but Abracadabra is in La Cruz until "Guadalajara" decides that we've done what we need to do (whatever that is) to clear her from The List. 

And, for perspective:  As Molly's brother said:  Oh gee, stuck in Puerto Vallarta - boohoo." 

Nifty New Stuff

So since we're stuck here, we thought we'd take some time to show off our boat projects and purchases.  They range from pretty things that cost from $12 to $1,200 and safety related things that you can't really see that cost, well, a lot.  

Here they are, listed from least to most expensive because that's how we search all internet sales sights . . . 

               Cushions - $12:  Two cushions rescued from S/V Lanikai's "getting old stuff off the boat" pile + canvas left over from a prior project on Abracadabra + $12 paid to a tapiceria (upholstery shop) in Mazatlan = two comfy tushes:  

One of Two Comfy - and Cheerful - Cushions  
               Fans - Can't Have Too Many -- $100 each:  When we left San Diego equipped with two fans in Abracadabra's little salon, our friend Terry Heil, a veteran of several seasons in Central America, told us we didn't have enough fans.  And after two seasons in the heat - we knew he was right.  This year we have four in the salon -- including Molly's favorite: one pointed right at the cook.  

Aaaaah . . . 

               Galley Faucet - $150:  One new faucet with easy-operating lever and spray that - added bonus - doesn't leak = one happy cook and one happy dish washer.

It's The Little Things

               Shade, Glorious Shade - $1200:  This is our best shade system yet - Shade 2.0 (season one was Shade 1.0 and season two was more like Shade 1.5).  Designed by Captain Bryce, and created by Tapiceria Upholstery Works in Mazatlan with additional side shades by Sea Mar Canvas in La Cruz.  With this shade system the cockpit is a breezy "back porch". There are see-through side curtains that can be taken down to increase airflow and put on to block the sun, as required.  We had the top shade off yesterday for a minor adjustment and can attest that without it Abracadabra is at least 10 degrees warmer below!  Central America would be unthinkable without this addition.

Bedouins Afloat

               AIS - $1700:  There isn't much to look at here - it's electronic equipment and software.  But an important safety feature.  We can now see not only that a ship is near us (which we could see before with the radar) but know it's "call sign", which direction it's headed, and how fast it's going.  And we can hail that ship directly rather than send out a general call on the radio.  It turns that middle-o-the-night call to a big scary bunch of lights from a radio message that says something like "large ship near Latitude X and Longitude X we are a sailing vessel approximately X miles on your port/starboard - please don't run over us" into a direct call to that ship's bridge with an identification number that will record on the ship's navigation system (like an airplane's "black box").  They're more likely to pay attention to our call and tell us how to avoid them -- and if they don't our heirs will have a better chance of knowing who hit us.  

Automatic Identification System

So - that's our cool (ha - pun intended) new stuff which we hope to take South with us as soon as Abracadabra is no longer On The List!

1 comment:

  1. Hope everything works out for your motley crew soon! ¡Buena suerte!