When you enter a foreign port via sea, the proper thing is to raise a yellow flag which symbols your vessel as new to the country. It is a quarantine flag which means you haven’t cleared in yet with immigration. When we arrived at our Marina, the manager met us at our boat to give us the necessary paperwork we needed to fill out and to collect our passports and boat documentation. In Mexico many of the marina’s can act, for a fee, as an agent. They speed up the process of clearing in, by calling the authorities and arranging for them to come out to the boat for you, and by visiting the necessary offices for you. Since they often do this and they speak Spanish, they are able to get the process done more quickly than on your own. We had read that Puerto Juarez had streamlined the process and had all the authorities located in one building. But Miguel, the manager said it does not work very well. We had read that on the west coast of Mexico this streamlined process works very well. This is why we choose to clear in in Puerto Juarez over Isla Mujeres was they have the all in one office here. But I get the impression that not many boats come here compared to Isla Mujeres. Why they don’t have the all in one building there I don’t know. The process is all crew/passengers can not leave the boat until cleared in. Only the captain may leave to do all the clearing in. But Miguel did make it a piece of cake for us for a small fee. Within 2 hours we were completely cleared in and ready to hit the beach.
The first step in clearing in was the paperwork. Once I had the travel visas filled out Miguel took them and called in Customs and Sanitation. He also made a call to the Health Dept. They declined to coming out to the boat and signed the paperwork when Miguel stopped by their office. Because we are coming from the US and everyone appeared healthy Miguel told them they did not need to come to the boat. Customs came to verify the boat documentation and look around. The officer was done within 10 mins. Sanitation was different. The 2 books we read that described the clearing in procedure did not mention that some food could not be brought into Mexico. She took all my fresh fruits and vegetables with her. I had about 2 large trash bags full. We did not know how long we would take till we could cross so I had stocked for a few weeks. She also said that she was suppose to take any beef and eggs. But she came during lunch and saw all the kids sitting at the table eating and decided to leave the beef and eggs. She said she knew I would use them to just feed my family and not remove the food from the boat. At that point she stopped looking for food. She could see we had a lot. I had prepped many meals and had them frozen so I would not have to spend much time prepping for dinner while we were out exploring. She only looked at the top of my 2 freezers and didn’t dig around, I think she was afraid she would find more stuff she was suppose to take. Miguel later told me that she was under the impression we were only staying in Mexico for 2 days, because that was the length of time we were spending at that Marina, and so she did not want to leave us with out food with all the kids. He said he kept his mouth shut and did not correct her. She was very kind and I could tell she felt very bad about having to take the food she did. I feel very grateful we were able to keep all that we did.
Once sanitation was done, Miguel took our passports and visas to immigration and had them stamped and visas signed. He came back about 30 mins later with the bill of close to $400 USD for our entrance and his fees clearing us in to Mexico. We could lower our yellow flag and leave the boat. Miguel still needed to visit the Port Captains office to show that all the paperwork had been taken care of and to pay the fees; he would bring us a receipt later in the day. As part of lowering the yellow flag, it is customary to then raise a courtesy country flag. So we got out our Mexico flag and raised it in place of the quarantine flag. We currently fly our large US flag and a smaller Mexico flag.
The only other thing left to do was to get a temporary import for the boat. But it was a Saturday and that office was closed, so Miguel planned to come get David on Monday morning to take him to the Semnrat office in Cancun to finalize an importation. This would allow us to bring and use the boat in Mexico for the next 10 years. They would charge us a one time fee based on the weight of the boat. On Monday Morning David took about 30 mins to go to this office, pay the fee and come back. It was very easy. We did have to give them a list of all engines and serial numbers for them and a list of electronics used on board. Now all paperwork was complete and we could enjoy our time in Mexico.