One of the most popular of all foreign fishing destinations, Mexico hosts thousands of American sport-fishing boats annually from California, the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard. You would think that would make coming and going by boat that much easier. Yet Mexico remains stringent about the comings and goings of foreign vessels to its vast shoreline.
Hundreds of U.S. captains manage the process of clearing customs and immigration on their own, but more and more are turning to local agents such as Jim Schwarz of Marina Hacienda del Mar (011-52-9-8801070). "Because of the volume of boats clearing customs here, we've been able to streamline the paperwork process with Cancun's port captain, immigration, customs and public health officers, all of which must sign off on incoming boats," Schwarz says. Most Mexican port captains prefer to get typed crew's lists including passport numbers and photocopies of other identification. It's best to provide these in Spanish, which Mexican consulates can translate for a fee of approximately $50. You will actually need four copies for the varying agents issuing the necessary permits and visas.
Weapons must be declared, and you should have an inventory (complete with serial numbers) of all weapons and ammo on board. Typically, these are turned over to the Mexican navy for safekeeping.
While many boaters sometimes drop in unannounced, most Mexican agents prefer captains contact them in advance with their travel plans. "That way I can explain what is required," says Schwarz. "I also encourage people to contact me upon leaving their final U.S. port to file a float plan. That way, I can inform them about current weather conditions and will have the information I need to talk to the Coast Guard should they not arrive on time."