Okay. SV Judy Ann here...the boat in question. Sorry for not stepping in earlier. Until very recently, we still had no clue what was even happening (well, we still don't understand it.) Thank you SV Destiny for opening the thread and maintaining a supportive attitude (thanks Thumbs Up and many others of the like.) We might need a lot more community like this very soon.
As for the rest...although I can appreciate some creative speculation where there are unanswered questions, it can be hard to read when the speculatin' favors the other guy (in this case, more like a beaurocracy.--one that is known for its inconsistencies and troubles that it gives fellow boaters..over a fellow boater) BUT, I realize that Contrary is part of the nature of forums
, and people, and definitely sailors. So, no worries.
That is not why I am writing anyway. I am writing here because:
1--There is obviously a lot of disagreement on the basic facts concerning requirements and procedures. This is what got us into this mess. I don't want anyone to mistakenly think that this can't happen to them—to you.
2--I don't want anyone with something constructive to say to be turned away from the conversation. (For this reason, there will be a new thread started after this post.) We NEED a support network, ideas, contacts, etc.
and lastly....because whatever happened, whatever regrets we have, however people judge the situation—the fact remains that OUR BOAT WAS TAKEN. Our home, our life, was taken. Our things are being ruined (the boat sits in the same state it was in upon our arrival, after 5 days at sea.) The boat is in danger
because it is hurricane
season. This is real and serious. It has been four months and our situation is NOT improving, in fact..it may soon be critical. If this fight goes into the next round, the legal
battle becomes very long and very expensive.
AND—here's the kicker
: It turns out, this has nothing to do with the Zarpe anymore. It never really did (on paper, at least), although it was obviously what got the snowball rolling. (More on the Zarpe issue later, for those interested.)
If you need to catch up on the story, the original article and April update are here: Noonsite: Heading USA to Mexico? Important Information
. However, this was written way in the beginning when we thought the Zarpe was the problem, and it was sloppily written at that, in a state of panic. I will try to put the relevant facts here again as efficiently as possible, so you know that this is ALL there is to the story.
The evening we arrived, we were told by a marina that the Port Capitan's office was closed for the day.
The next day, we went to the Sanitation office in the morning, where we were accosted for not having the Zarpe. (By the way, we were VERY polite and humble, and remained so throughout this ENTIRE ordeal. AND we did have a receipt from the fuel dock
from the day we left.) The man insisted that he had warned us about this before, but we had never been to Mexico. He also untruthfully wrote, on our paper, that he had seen us in town for the past two days. We could prove our case with our GPS
tracks, but it never came to that. Onto Immigration.
We paid for the Zarpe mistake. We paid with 7 hours sitting in Immigration. We paid in fines, in written apologies, and by getting formally rejected from the country. Passports stamped in and out with a paper that said we had 5 days to leave. We messed up, and we knew it...got reprimanded, kicked out and charged. Lesson learned. But it was 5pm and we needed to sprint to the Port Capitan's office. (BTW, we ran into a couple we recognized from Florida
on our way out. They had no Zarpe either. We told them of our troubles and wished them good luck. They looked terrified. But alas, we saw them on the street 20 minutes later..No Zarpe, No problem. They had an agent. Maybe the biggest lesson here...in Isla Mujeres, HIRE THE AGENT! ...But wait, maybe this is the lesson they are trying to teach us?) The Port Captain's office was closed. We would return in the morning to check in/check out, and then leave for our destination
Customs came that night, with the Navy
, and took our boat at 1AM. We had been there for about 32 hours. (This is all about Customs. The Navy
was only used to take it, and now, to hold it.)
The next day, the Port Captain
cleared the boat in anyway, tried to get Customs to release our boat and document, but they said we had to go to their office at the Cancun airport
. We did so immediately, and were there for 8 hours waiting. We were finally served with some papers.
--Papers, which I now understand are what you get when you fail to get the temporary importada. They took our boat as if we didn't get the importada.. but we still had TIME!. We still had plenty of time.
That was 4 months ago. Customs had 4 months to complete our case and tell us what is next. This whole time, we have been fighting (quietly and patiently) to speed up the process, but here we are. We have taken all of the necessary legal actions to move through the process. Any day now, we will hear something. The papers mention huge import
duties, which were shocking at first, but even though this is wrong, we would gladly pay to have this be over with. The worst part though, is that it doesn't seem like we will even have this option. They are STILL asking us to move the boat to their facilities in Puerto Morelos, onto land...where it will “be safe.” There is no dock
, no lift
...only a ship yard crane and a field where boats sit for two years before they are put up at auction
. The fact that they are asking this does not sound like they plan on releasing the boat. The US consulate finally got through to the person in charge of our case, and that person was not at all honest. They said that we have submitted nothing in the way of paperwork that they have requested...which is absolutely untrue. This has confirmed to me what I have been told, but have not believed. They really just want to keep our boat.
The very first lawyer to look over these initial papers (very experienced in these exact issues...retired though) said, “They are trying to take your boat. They want your boat.” This didn't make sense..our boat is modest, small, and not worth what most of the boats are that come through. This lawyer also said “they think you have no power.” Well, certainly look or act like we don't have much power...young, quiet, artist/musician/sailors? Maybe a combination of these things? I am not accepting or denying the conspiracy theory (however, there WERE a lot of strangely long phone
calls, and blatant discrepancies between what we were being told and what the papers, that we were being handed, actually said. Many times over, we would have lost
the boat if we had trusted what we were being told.)
BUT, if they come back at us saying that we cannot have our boat no matter what we do..saying that they are going to keep it (for no apparent reason....What is the other explanation? And is it going to be acceptable because “the government
can do whatever it wants”? And because “life ain't fair”? What if it was your boat?
(BTW, This HAS happened before. A marina in Isla Mujeres was raided and 13 boats were seized when Customs decided to suddenly “resurrect” the Temporary Importada requirement in 1999. Here is a link to the story of “Quittin Time” ReadOz - Read - Southwinds Magazine - August 2009
which was never recovered by the owner. If anybody knows the story of any of the other 12 boats, please let me know.)
Believe me, I understand these sentiments. Lately, everyday is a struggle to not become too jaded, to not get discouraged or disillusioned (actually, I believe this is always the struggle.) We also are fully aware of the fact that letting go and starting over is an option, so you don't have to mention it. We are not choosing that option. We have nothing else, nowhere else we want to call home. Our whole lives are wrapped up in the boat. We have nothing else to do but try.
Obviously, there would be nothing to do if we lost
the boat at sea, or if it was destroyed by some unstoppable force. But it wasn't. It is sitting right there!
This might also be slightly less surprising if our boat was taken in some very far away, very undeveloped country with less apparent laws and structure. But it is not. Isla Mujeres is now the only place to check into Mexico for anyone traveling south to the Caribbean
through the Yucatan
Straits (...from what I understand, anyway. Cruisers have been getting conflicting stories about this too lately.) Everyone coming through must stop here, unless they don't stop until Belize
This is very important, for us and for all boaters who wish to traverse these waters.
As I said, there will be another thread opened. (I realize that this is not typically THAT KIND of forum, so this is just a start. There will also be a google
group or something, and maybe a blog, as a forum for support.) These will all, however be opened by "friends of Judy Ann," although we will be there...in spirit??
That said, I hope it is not too much to respectfully ask that, if you still feel the need to leave non-constructive, non-supportive comments, please try to do so with tact, because reading them--coming from the only "community" that we feel could truly understand the weight of this situation--inevitably dampens our spirits. ..And we need all of the spirit we can muster right now.
We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. More to come.