ENSENADA一As the COVID-19 landscape changes, so too do Mexico’s port-clearance rules for boaters arriving from the United States.
As the world enters 2022 still in pandemic mode, Mexico’s rules and procedures have been updated and streamlined.
“New Covid inspection protocols called Sanidad Internacional will be in effect throughout Mexico for the foreseeable future,” said Fito Espinosa, dockmaster of Marina Coral in the port of Ensenada, where boaters must officially clear into Mexico.
Unlike pre-Covid days, boaters arriving from the U.S. should fly the yellow Q-flag (Quarantine) on their port side, opposite the Mexican courtesy flag.
Also, everyone must stay aboard their vessels in the marinas until each person has passed a brief physical inspection that is administered by a team of Health Department medical doctors. These special doctors are presently stationed at Marina Coral, but they inspect private boaters and commercial ships arriving in all marinas.
The order of the mandatory COVID-19 inspection is first come, first served, so Espinosa strongly recommends boaters arrive in their reserved slips by 8 a.m. when the marina offices open and they call for the inspectors to come to your boat.
Morning arrival often means U.S. boaters will be underway throughout the night before reaching Ensenada. However, the inspection and port clearance must both be completed before the port offices close at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Unlike 2021, health officials now ask if you’ve been vaccinated, and they’ll need to see your vaccination card to prove which vaccines and boosters you’ve received and when.
Besides taking your temperature and evaluating you for symptoms, the doctors will inspect passports to see what other countries you may have visited, and they’ll ask a dozen or more health-related questions.
Fortunately, boaters entering Mexico don’t have to arrange their own PCR Covid COVID-19 test or receive a negative result 24 hours prior to arriving in Ensenada, which is often required when flying into and out of many foreign countries.
Instead, Mexico quickly administers the test, if anyone has symptoms. Because the inspecting doctors bring a mobile laboratory with them to your boat slip, these doctors can get your test results in 45 minutes. If you test positive, you can either return to the U.S. aboard the boat or quarantine aboard for 14 days. Hospitalization is available nearby if it were needed.
Once you’re deemed not a health threat, the doctors issue each person a new document called the Libre Platica. The Port Captain requires that document to begin your international arrival into Mexico. You can now take down your Q-flat but keep your Libre Platica safely with your passport.
“This new Libre Platica will be a very important document for boaters to carry with them in Mexico for the foreseeable future,” said Espinoza.
Paperwork Cha Cha
The rest of the international port-clearance procedure is basically the same as in pre-COVID-19 times. Marinas sometimes have a staffer you can hire in advance to help with your port clearance process. However, if you wish to do it yourself, each step is detailed in an eight-page booklet called “Visiting Mexico by Private Boat,” which you can obtain free by visiting https://AMMT.org
To get started, gather each person’s passport and Libre Platica, all the rest of your paperwork, ship’s documents, black ink pens, and a credit card, then step off the boat.
Go straight to the port’s CIS office (Central Integral de Servicios) located on Azueta Avenue near the northeast corner of the harbor. It’s a one-story building right next to the pedestrian crosswalk, directly across from Arjona chandlery.
Start at the Migracion window and you’ll be directed to each of the next steps. Have your credit card ready near the end to pay the final fees. Keep this receipt safe with the ship’s documents. With no glitches, it takes about 90 minutes to get all cleared in. Longer if you have glitches.
“Welcome to Mexico,” they say. Ensenada’s waterfront has ample restaurants to help you celebrate your international arrival with cold cervezas and hot tamales.
What’s new ashore?
Throughout Mexico, masks in public (even outdoors) and social distancing are mandatory. Mexico’s social-distance separation is 150 cm, slightly closer than the U.S.’s 183 cm (six feet).
Provisioning? Ensenada has excellent grocery stores, from big box stores like Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, and Soriana down to specialty shops for gourmet cheese and bakery goods, so it’s a convenient place to provision for further voyaging.
Take along a bunch of stateside plastic grocery bags and plan to reuse them down here. Hand sanitizer stations are common. Note the separation marks on the floors as you approach the check-out register. Pack your groceries into your own bags or boxes, because those handy bagger kids might not be available.
Restaurants are limited to 50 percent occupancy, so reservations are a good idea if seating is all indoors. Outdoor dining is available at many restaurants. Masks must be worn over the nose and mouth except while actually eating or drinking.
Throughout Mexico, all banks, laundromats, marina offices and chandlers, boatyards, department stores, and government offices will require masks and physical distancing.
Lots of newbies are heading to Mexico this year. Thousands of recreational boats were purchased on the West Coast during 2021, many by first-time boat owners, according to NMMA (National Marine Marketing Association). Their primary reasons given were to be able to go somewhere to relieve pandemic stress in comfortable self-isolation.
Returning to the U.S. by boat?
At present, U.S. citizens returning to the U.S. by private boat are not required to take a COVID-19 test. However, keep your vaccination record handy, just in case COVID-19 changes the rules again.