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Old 09-05-2022, 15:57   #1
Caz
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Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

Hello Everyone,

We are having our sailboat shipped to Ensenada from Fort Lauderdale, arriving in early June. We think that we have the paperwork sorted, TIP, AES, insurance, passports, registration, etc.

We are new to Mexico, so are looking for advice on what to expect when we offload our boat at Cruiseport.

I am hoping that someone with recent experience can provide a run down of what to expect.

1. From what we have read, we need to remove all alcohol from the boat.

2. We have the list of prohibited food items, fresh meat, grains, fruit, home prepared foods, etc.

3. We are in the process of upgrading system and some electronics on the boat getting ready for a cross ocean voyage, so have lots of spares and some new gear we are installing, i.e. VHF radio, watermaker parts, solar panels and gear not yet installed, etc.

Do I need to worry about being asked to pay duty for any of the above?

4. Bringing the boat into the U.S. from Europe was a simple process, but know that each country has their own rules and regulations.

Is there anything unusual that I need to be aware of coming into Mexico?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 09-05-2022, 21:03   #2
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

I have been in Ensenada for a couple years and am just finishing a refit. When I entered from San Francisco, I carried a lot of spares to be installed. I had zero issues in declaring them - was just part of the boat and items with serial numbers such as dinghy, outboard, and generator were listed on the TIP. San Diego is 75 miles north and fairly easy to get parts, but bringing them back to Mexico technically requires VAT to be paid, though for smaller stuff, fairly easy to skirt the requirement but if you get busted, you'll owe the VAT plus a fine or bribe.

I do not have personal experience shipping a boat in or out of Ensenada. While the town is a decent sized city, the marine industry is pretty small. If you need a local agent, ping Michelle Aguilar at +52 1 646 121 8494. Info@bcconnection.com. For a nearby yard, you can't beat LaCosta Boatworks. Guillermo Sarabia is knowledgeable and helpful. He can be reached at +52 646 124 6575

Whatever you do DO NOT USE NIZA MARINE. Bad company (pics at www.nizamarine.net)
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Old 09-05-2022, 21:39   #3
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

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Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
While the town is a decent sized city, the marine industry is pretty small. If you need a local agent, ping Michelle Aguilar at +52 1 646 121 8494. Info@bcconnection.com. For a nearby yard, you can't beat LaCosta Boatworks. Guillermo Sarabia is knowledgeable and helpful. He can be reached at +52 646 124 6575

Whatever you do DO NOT USE NIZA MARINE. Bad company (pics at www.nizamarine.net)
Thanks for the information. For example I worry about what to do about the following: I have a new VHF radio that I am not going to have time to install. Not sure if I should remove it from the box, or just keep it on the shelf in the workshop. It's pretty clear where it goes, as there is a gaping hole at the lower nav station. I was also going to order solar panels and controllers to install as a project when in Ensenada. I don't know if new gear that arrives with the boat will be taxed?
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Old 09-05-2022, 23:37   #4
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

I'm wondering if it might not be easier to off load in San Diego. Commission there, then motor or sail to check in to Ensenada.
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Old 10-05-2022, 04:42   #5
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

Customs & Immigration is a bit subjective in any country, more so in Mexico. All I can tell you is I arrived with a LOT of gear - two AC units two refrigerator conversion kits, etc. I tried to hide most of it but did have a couple large boxes in my cockpit. I wasn't "Sanford & Son" when I arrived, but I clearly had stuff. Never had a sideways glance.

For your solar panels, I would think just unboxing. If there was a question, I'd just say you de-mounted for shipping.

There are no guarantees. But you are importing the entire boat for personal use. And all that comes with it. If you look like you're bringing a storefront with you, you might raise an eyebrow. But in my experience, I would not worry about commonly found items on a boat.

That said, if you were trying to drive that stuff over the border to your boat, no question you'd be pulled over due to the large solar panels. I drive an older (good condition) Ford conversion van. I've crossed the border 30-40 times on various parts' runs. I de-box stuff and scatter it in the various cabinets a camper van tends to have. I have been stopped 100% of the time and briefly searched. Now, I'm 60 years old, white, and look pretty tame, especially when my wife is with me, so we get a brief glance and the inspection is over in 20-30 seconds.

I think you'll be fine as long as you don't have a pallet with a new engine sitting in your cockpit. I would take some care to de-box and reduce obviousness, but I seriously doubt you'll get closely inspected.

As to unloading in San Diego, even if there routes available, Jones Act would prevent loading in a US port and unloading in another one unless ship were US built.

If you're planning on having stuff installed by someone other than yourself in Ensenada, you might want open a relationship with Guillermo at LaCosta. Very knowledgeable, his English is decent, and probably knows more about loading/offloading than anyone in Ensenada. His rates are reasonable and fair - going rate in Ensenada is in the $25-$30 range. Info@lacostaboatworks.com. He's super busy so keep trying. Tell him Peter on Weebles sent you.

Peter
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Old 10-05-2022, 07:08   #6
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

Peter,
This helps immensely. Your advice makes sense! Thanks for the detailed write up. I've unboxed the water makers and will be scattering the parts as you suggested. My challenge is that I've run out of time to install the new gear, hence the questions.

You mention crossing the border 30-40 times. Any suggestions on the best/easiest way to get from the U.S. to Ensenada. My wife wants to try the bus, of which I am dubious. We will be flying into San Diego. If we want to drive our car into Mexico, have you had any issues driving and parking a car in Ensenada? I assume that you have U.S. plates. Does having an SUV in Mexico with U.S. plates make you stand out more and make you a target. I have not driven in Mexico since the mid-80's so am not current on the issues.

On another note, as we will be spending 3-4 months in Ensenada, and staying at Cruiseport Marina, any tips on how to enjoy the sites is also appreciated! Thanks!


Bill
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Old 10-05-2022, 08:55   #7
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

Sure, it was far back in 2013, but our experience would suggest you should stop worrying.

Most boats entering are not even looked at. We were one of the odd ones. Got the "red light" in customs, and they insisted on coming down to see the boat (at Cruiseport... folks there said thus was unusual). OK, off we go. Agent came down to boat but didn't even step aboard. A she wanted was a photo of our HIN (funny, she even handed her camera to us so that WE took the photo).

We too had new stuff in boxes in boat. All part of the boat. (If I recall, they did want a list with Outboard and dinghy #s.)

No problem.


PS We loved Ensenada and Cruiseport. Note the dock water is too salty to drink. Most purchased water; one long-term boat purchased a home (NOT boat water maker!) reverse-osmosis unit (cheap at San Diego Home Depot), set it up on deck and used it to remove salt from dock water.
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Old 10-05-2022, 09:10   #8
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

A couple years ago I drove around Baja in a 10 yr old Dodge Caravan with Colorado plates. I'm 60ish and I was with my college age daughter. *Every* time we came to a checkpoint, they pulled us out of line and waved us through without even asking our names. My experience in Mexico is that if you are not causing trouble and are not involved in the drug trade, they don't bother you.
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Old 10-05-2022, 09:22   #9
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

I'm sixty-ish as well (on the outside). On the inside, my wife says that I forever 12-ish. I've been visiting Cabo every year for the past 28 years, w/o any issues, but we stay at one of the private resorts and only venture into town occasionally. This time I want to sample a bit more of the local color. I've even been brushing up on my Spanish.
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Old 10-05-2022, 11:22   #10
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

Getting to Ensenada. If you have a car, driving is pretty easy. Getting back north is time consuming as US CBP are much pickier than their Mexican counterparts. Border wait time can easily be a couple hours. I have "SENTRI" which is the CBP equivilent of Fast Pass so as long as I avoid the rush-hour commute time, wait time is typically 20-30 minutes. SENTRI requires the car and all occupants be registered/accepted into the SENTRI portion of the Trusted Traveler program. Not worth the hassle for a couple times. God send for us since we cross fairly frequently.

The Bus. ABC Autobus is definitely a good way to go, but a little tricky the first time. The bus station is about a half mile walk from the border crossing, and it's not a particularly large bus station so it's not really obvious. Tijuana is a big city and you are immediately thrust into a 3rd World Country. While I would not hesitate to take the bus, I would not do so after late afternoon, well before dark. The bus itself runs every half-hour and is a modern comfortable bus with reclining seats. Around $10/person each way. Once you get to Ensenada, its probably 1-1/2 miles to Cruiseport. It is however mostly downhill.

A tip about hiding stuff on your boat: I know it sounds silly, but try to make a list where you put everything. I've hidden a couple things a bit too well and had trouble finding them.

Being just 90 miles south of San Diego and having a pretty active cruise-ship terminal that Ensenada would be over-run with gringos. It's not. My Spanish is poor and gets a lot of practice. I'd say 15% of the people I interact with have English skills that are better than my Spanish skills. Baja is an arid climate and Ensenada is dusty. It's a fairly industrial city with population approaching something close to 500,000. The tourist area is main walking street that is closed to car traffic on Friday and Saturday nights and attracts many families and young couples. It's sort of old-school in a nice way.

Since my boat is in the yard, I stay in an AriBnB about a mile away from both the yard and Cruiseport (the yard and Cruiseport are about a mile apart - a big triangle). Good location and a decent apartment. For long term, runs around $1200/mo for a 2-bdrm with garage parking, WiFi, and weekly housekeeping. It's a modest place with some quirks as they all seem to have.

For potable water at a dock you have two choices: first would be to fill with 5-gallon jugs at about 35-pesos each ($1.75 USD). Second, as someone else mentioned, a 4-stage or 5-stage water filter for several hundred dollars (the typical under-counter filter in the US is a single stage or somthing).

At any rate, I could go on and on. While Ensenada is not a dream destination, we've enjoyed our stay here a lot - it's really grown on us, but we like Mexico a lot even though it's made us appreciate the clean streets and sidewalks in the US more. It seems to be a hotbed of craft beer which we love, and the street tacos ($1.25/ea) are second to none. We've also developed an affinity for local ceviche which is great too.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Peter
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Old 10-05-2022, 15:08   #11
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

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Originally Posted by Caz View Post
Peter,
This helps immensely. Your advice makes sense! Thanks for the detailed write up. I've unboxed the water makers and will be scattering the parts as you suggested. My challenge is that I've run out of time to install the new gear, hence the questions.

You mention crossing the border 30-40 times. Any suggestions on the best/easiest way to get from the U.S. to Ensenada. My wife wants to try the bus, of which I am dubious. We will be flying into San Diego. If we want to drive our car into Mexico, have you had any issues driving and parking a car in Ensenada? I assume that you have U.S. plates. Does having an SUV in Mexico with U.S. plates make you stand out more and make you a target. I have not driven in Mexico since the mid-80's so am not current on the issues.

On another note, as we will be spending 3-4 months in Ensenada, and staying at Cruiseport Marina, any tips on how to enjoy the sites is also appreciated! Thanks!


Bill
Hi Bill: We live in Mexico 6 months of the year, but on the Sea of Cortez. Drive back and forth 6-8 times.
We don't see any real issues driving at all, other than long lines perhaps at Tijuana. I'd consider driving over to Tecate myself for the border crossing, and enjoying the trip down through 'wine country'. But I'll drive 4 hours to avoid sitting in line for 1 hour.
As for security, don't drive at night, and stay on the main highways. Just now in Sonora, we stay on the toll highway. All that is subject to change, but generally we drive comfortably all over the Baja and most of Sonora.
Make sure there are no firearms, including and especially ammunition, rolling around under the SUV seat or of course on the boat.
I don't think SUV's are especially targeted. Everybody knows that the bad guys like Ford F-150's!
We've been questioned regarding bladed 'weapons'; knives (pocket and otherwise) machetes, and the ax which we carry for 'fighting fires'. Explaining that these items are 'tools' rather than weapons has kept everyone happy so far.
Baja is a 'Free Zone', (as is much of Sonora) and for vehicles a TIP is not required. Of course it's different for the boat. Usually Mexican customs at the border could care less about your passport, but they almost always want registration stuff, and they mean it. Make sure your plates/tabs are current! Sounds simple enough but every week some gringo rolls in here all cranked up because they were turned around at the border. Expired plates! Go figure.
I mentioned passports. They don't ask for ours at the border, but lately have been demanding them at interior checkpoints. We carry copies when driving around, and have the image on our phones. Just like we carry (excellent, colored) copies of our vehicle title.
As has been mentioned previously, we never had an issue bringing equipment down to the boat, whether at San Carlos or La Paz. But it's kind of a crap shoot, and just be ready to 1)haggle, and 2) pay.
'Drugs' aside, if you've discovered the wonders of CBD for medical purposes, be wary crossing the border with the stuff.
Sorry that most of this info involves the drive down! Dealing with our sailboat in Mexico was one of the easiest experiences we've known in country, although we bought ours in Mexico with the help of a broker/agent/titling company.
Vehicles and driving are somewhat different, but no big deal if you follow the rules, and jump thru the (mostly) easy hoops. All the best.
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Old 10-05-2022, 15:21   #12
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

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Originally Posted by Caz View Post
Peter,
This helps immensely. Your advice makes sense! Thanks for the detailed write up. I've unboxed the water makers and will be scattering the parts as you suggested. My challenge is that I've run out of time to install the new gear, hence the questions.

You mention crossing the border 30-40 times. Any suggestions on the best/easiest way to get from the U.S. to Ensenada. My wife wants to try the bus, of which I am dubious. We will be flying into San Diego. If we want to drive our car into Mexico, have you had any issues driving and parking a car in Ensenada? I assume that you have U.S. plates. Does having an SUV in Mexico with U.S. plates make you stand out more and make you a target. I have not driven in Mexico since the mid-80's so am not current on the issues.

On another note, as we will be spending 3-4 months in Ensenada, and staying at Cruiseport Marina, any tips on how to enjoy the sites is also appreciated! Thanks!


Bill
With regards to the drive down: The bus is lovely! Very comfortable. But ride 1st Class, where passengers are checked by security.
And with regards to crossing the border in your vehicle, try to do so 'off hours'.
No entering at Tijuana on a Friday afternoon, or returning to Cali on Sunday! Or Monday for that matter. Remember that since the pandemic Thursdays are the new Fridays for tourists and partiers, just as Mondays are the new Sundays. Try mid-week, mid-day maybe, or at 04:30, then stop for a nice breakfast in town till the sun comes up.
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Old 10-05-2022, 15:25   #13
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

Caz,

Iím curious to know which shipper youíre using, how big your boat is and how much itís costing.

Thanks,

Scott
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Old 10-05-2022, 16:37   #14
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

We have a beach house south of K38. We cross the border 2+ times each week traveling back/forth from our OC home

N Baja has become the most recent suburb of SoCal. Half of the plates are from CA. Even in sentri, around 1/4 of the plates are Baja CA. I wouldn't bother with public trans - definitely drive. Just make sure to get MX car insurance.

Everyone is remodeling. (Construction is going gangbuster) MX is very strict on imported construction materials (lots of shortages), less so on household goods

I've paid 19% on some aluminum gutters, but waived through with a new (unboxed) dishwasher. Just roll into Chaparral to declare what you have. Not sure if boat equip would raise any issues (always unbox - you can tell them it's spares, used, etc [type up fake invoice])

As for language, my experience is you have to pay to get anyone to speak spanish ie a teacher. English is money to them, so they try to practice on a native speaker

What you will find out is that the gringos are heading south with their home equity. You can see the economic integration happening in real time
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Old 10-05-2022, 17:17   #15
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Re: Shipping sailboat to Ensenada - what to expect?

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We have a beach house south of K38. We cross the border 2+ times each week traveling back/forth from our OC home

N Baja has become the most recent suburb of SoCal. Half of the plates are from CA. Even in sentri, around 1/4 of the plates are Baja CA. I wouldn't bother with public trans - definitely drive. Just make sure to get MX car insurance.

Everyone is remodeling. (Construction is going gangbuster) MX is very strict on imported construction materials (lots of shortages), less so on household goods

I've paid 19% on some aluminum gutters, but waived through with a new (unboxed) dishwasher. Just roll into Chaparral to declare what you have. Not sure if boat equip would raise any issues (always unbox - you can tell them it's spares, used, etc [type up fake invoice])

As for language, my experience is you have to pay to get anyone to speak spanish ie a teacher. English is money to them, so they try to practice on a native speaker

What you will find out is that the gringos are heading south with their home equity. You can see the economic integration happening in real time
Assume K38 is Rosarito. Rosarito has been a SoCal enclave for 30 years or more. It bears little resemblance to Ensenada, and is known for shaking down Americans.
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