Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Tip About the T.I.P.

Proof that we are temporarily imported.

A few weeks ago while we were patiently baby waiting in Guadalajara, we got a mysterious phone call at 10:30 at night. A anxious sounding man on the other end of the line told Vlad that Customs officials were going to impound our boat unless we produced our Temporary Import Permit, not the kind of phone call you like to get when 5 hours away by bus, and, no, we don't travel with copies of our T.I.P. To make matters more sporting, evidently there was an  armed guard standing outside Bettie just to make sure we couldn't make a break for it from Guadalajara.

Vlad told the man that we had our T.I.P. and the sticker was on display in the portlight. If that didn't mollify the authorities, there was little we could do to solve the problem from Guadalajara, but the person we were speaking with thought the sticker might suffice.

Needless to say, this phone call prompted more questions than answers. For instance, who called us? How did he get our number? And why were Customs dudes checking for paperwork in the middle of the night?

The answers will come shortly, but first a little information on the T.I.P. We got ours way back when in Cancun when we were just neophyte cruisers learning all about Latin American documentation (copies, always bring lots of copies!). All boats entering Mexican waters need a Temporary Import Permit, which for $50 allows you to keep your boat in Mexico for 10 years. The T.I.P. is a way for Mexico to make sure you aren't bringing in a boat and then selling it here, which is mainly a problem with cheap used cars from the U.S.

As it turned out, the man Vlad spoke with was the harbor master at the marina, and Vlad's dad gave him the number to our place in Guadalajara. Mexican Customs officials were doing a sweep of the entire marina fleet to see who had their T.I.P. and who didn't. As to why that happened late in the evening, we will never know, but marina staff ended up working until almost dawn. Thankfully, having our sticker properly displayed in the window saved us from having our boat impounded to the marina, which might have cost us something even if we had all the relevant documentation and certainly would have been a hassle.

According to the Scuttlebutt Sailing News, the potential fines for not having your T.I.P. is 25% of the value of your boat or possible seizure. Yikes. They also describe similar situations in marinas throughout Mexico, so here's a tip - get your T.I.P.!


  1. Glad to hear you guys are safe from that. The forums are filled with all kinds of stories, good and bad.
    Be safe and Happy New Year to you all.

  2. Scary stuff. It's not gone as well for some others, I hear. I really hope the Mexican officals-that-be realize this is not the way to promote a bunch of gringos hanging out and spending money in your country, and back off the crazy stuff soon. Is it ONLY boats in marinas getting checked? Or do they come out in the anchorages, too?

  3. So glad you had the forethought to affix your TIP to a portlight. Thank goodness they were able to get a hold of you. I am waiting to hear more from the boats that are currently having issues to see how this gets resolved. Crazy stuff indeed!

  4. One thing you should always do in a foreign country is pay attention to local regulations. Sounds to me like this is nothing more than a way for the government to make some money. But then again, isn't that what most regulations are? Either way, glad to hear you were legit!

  5. So glad this worked out for you. Yes, there are horror stories abounding right now. So nice of the harbormaster to try that hard to call you. That's encouraging.

  6. After further investigation, it looks like we are really lucky not to be on that list, About 40 boats in our marina are stuck here until the Mexican government decides they are in compliance, even though all of them have the relevant documentation. Compared to everyone else, we should have been on the list, but for that sticker in the window.

    Behan, it sounds like it was only boats in marinas that were checked, though we have heard from one cruiser that they also looked at boats in the anchorage. And Melissa, the harbormaster was really concerned for us because he knew we were in Guadalajara having a baby and just couldn't get back in time to find our paperwork.

  7. Holy Guacomole! Thanks goodness you didn't get impounded. Geesh, what a mess down there right now. That's the last thing a new mother recovering would need to deal with. I feel bad for all of the others.