19.11.15 – Thursday – Mexico is a notoriously difficult country when it comes to yachts entry formalities. Today we experienced it to the fullest. During the early hours of the morning I tried calling the port control on V.H.F and although from time to time I heard radio traffic in Spanish nobody answered my calls. I took the dinghy ashore and visited the Capitania – harbor master. I was told I could put my boat in a marina and then go ahead with the entry procedure. So off we went to Abrigo marina, just one mile from our anchorage but they had no space available. “What about Caleta Bay?” I asked and was told that there was a new marina over there. With both engines we motored against the 2 knot current, passing the Cruise Ship fleet to reach the Caleta entrance. Taking care not to run over the multitude of snorkelers over the reef near it, we turned into the the newly constructed marina, known as Cozumel or Fonatur marina.
Cozumel marina looking out
The marina is home mostly to dive and sport fishing boats and is quite shallow, 2.2 meters at our dock. The marina people led us to believe that the authorities would come to the marina to do the check in. After an hours wait, two young ladies came over, one representing Customs and the other the Sanitation department. The Sanitation lady took away all our fruit and veg, except what was already in the salad we were going to eat. The customs lady instructed me to go to immigrations in the airport and then back to the harbor master. Before we left we had two more visits- one by the Army and the other by the Navy. We took a taxi to the airport where the immigrations people told us to go to immigrations in town. We went there by a collectivo van to find the place closed with a sign on the door stating that the visiting hours were only until 1300.
Agents were inside the office and one of them, an energetic lady who spoke excellent English, took pity on us and let us in, mobilizing other agents to finish that part of the odyssey. By then the time was 1545 and we took a taxi to the harbor master’s office although being sure that they would be closed too. That office resides in two buildings, one of which was still open. A smiling man said that theirs belongs to the operations and they do not deal with paperwork. “Come tomorrow at 0900 and by the way, you know you have to go to the hospital and have their stamp confirming you all are healthy”. To be continued!
20.11.15 – Friday – Before embarking again on the bureaucracy rollercoaster we gave the boat a good clean-up and then went out to anchor near town. This time it was close to a cruise ship dock where the dinghy landing was much better, sandy beach, no rocks. Two oceans, as seen from the beach, looked tiny.
We took a taxi to the hospital, wandering between different offices, looking for the special doctor who deals with people coming by air, land and sea. A doctor lead us, explaining that the specific doctor was not at the hospital at the moment and that it was needed to check our temperature. He brought us to a room where a lady was in attendance; she looked at the form and with aplomb stamped it and handed it to me. Are the ladies in Mexico more decisive than the men?
Back at the harbor master’s office, our papers were passed from one clerk to the other; the one who was smiling yesterday appeared now with a stern face. Where is the Zarpe from the last port? Where indeed? It was taken either by the harbor master official or the custom officer. A solution was found by which I had to write a declaration explaining why I did not have the document. I was given a paper which I had to take to a certain bank to pay the equivalent of 15$ U.S. Rushing back to the HM office, thinking the ordeal was over, I had a new surprise coming.“You have to come tomorrow and the port captain will sign your form. He is not here at the moment”. Without meaning to, I heard myself shouting:”NO! this must be today!” Somehow my outburst made an impression and one of the officers mumbled something like:”It’s only a stamp”, did the right thing and set me free.
Mexican officialdom is a well placed contender in the race for the most exasperating bureaucracy in the world, neck and neck with India.
In the evening we went ashore for dinner; Cozumel has a lot of tourist trap restaurants. We were lucky to find one, Casa Denis, which was really good.
20.11.15 – Saturday – Cozumel is famous for its beautiful dive sites and clear water. We arranged with a dive operator to take us diving (Danny and Miki) and snorkeling Gili). After the first session, which was exquisite, Gili, who is a certified diver but did not dive for quite a few years, said she wanted to dive too. Equipment was available and all of us enjoyed it so much, we decided to go again tomorrow.
refresher dive for Gili
22.11.15 – Sunday – Today we went diving with a company called “Deep Blue”; they took us to the famous Palancar dive site and we had two marvelous dives. I took some GoPro videos and you can see them on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xfHjdAC46XE.
The following is an example of what we saw.
A nurse shark
Our plans to go to town inn the evening were shelved when the wind changed direction and made waves that would have made landing on shore precarious; it rained too, so we decided to do it in the morning.
23.11.15 – Monday – Morning brought more wind and I had a feeling that we should leave for Puerto Morelos, about 20 miles away; we could do our shopping there. The place has a marina called El Cid and we decided to go in there for a night. It turned out too be a good decision. In the evening rain started and big clouds came with winds up to 30 knots. El Cid is a big marina connected to a hotel and maybe other businesses. It’s not cheap – 1.16$ a foot per day; there was only one other cruising yacht with nobody on board, probably went home for a while. Armando Gutierez, the marina’s harbor master, greeted us, adding a new complication to the Mexican bureaucracy maze. He said we needed to go to Cancun and get a “Temporary Import Permit”, TIP, for our yacht. Other sources say you only need it for stays over tow weeks.
24.11.15 – Tuesday – The weather did not contribute to my mood, nor did the fact that I caught a cold and did not sleep well. During the morning we went over a few weather internet sites and understood that we’ll be stuck here for a day or two. The forecast also indicated that it was unlikely to leave for Florida before December 1st. Danny’s flight home from Miami is scheduled for the 4th – too tight! We agreed that he would postpone it by four days. To use the non sailing days in a good way we arranged a trip to the Mayan city of Chichen Itza for Gili and Danny; I was there eight years ago and decided to stay home and recuperate.
25.11.15 – Wednesday – Still very windy, we’re stuck. This is cruising under sail.
seen on the way to the office