From the Boathouse: A caution for south of the border


Are you planning to cruise your boat south of the border to Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas for an adventure and warmer weather before the hurricane season begins this year? Then I highly recommend that you do not cross the U.S.-Mexican border without the proper paperwork aboard your vessel or prepare to potentially have your boat impounded by the Mexican Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT).

Many American and Canadian boaters who cruise into Mexican waters are not aware of the SAT, which is similar to the IRS. Additionally, many boaters do not know or understand the specific fees and exact paperwork that must be carried aboard any visiting vessel while in Mexico. However, everyone has heard how a bribe or casual tip might help smooth the waters when dealing with the Mexican authorities to help resolve a misunderstanding or situation.

Recently, more than 300 boats have been impounded when reports of SAT agents discovered missing or improper paperwork aboard the boats that were berthed in various marinas. The finger-pointing has begun as to whether this is just a ploy by the government to raid the coffers of visiting boaters or rules that can change from port captain to port captain, or boaters who simply did not abide by the laws. Additionally, many boaters are simply tired of all the fees required for a simple weekend trip, for example, to Ensenada.

I have never skippered a vessel south of the border without using a professional vessel documentation service for all the required Mexican papers. I would have the papers in one folder or binder, and I would pay the extra service fee to have the Mexican marina management handle the arrival and departure papers. When I visit the Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada, marina manager Fito Espinoza and his staff always handle my paperwork prepared prior to our arrival by a documentation service.

Some boaters call this move by the Mexican government the last straw, and those boat owners vow never to enter Mexican waters again. Others claim that it is the laziness of the boat owners to not have the correct papers and fees paid. Many boat owners are simply confused as to the correct procedure. They say the rules change and the inspectors may not be able to read or comprehend the papers that are aboard the vessels.

I think that this is a public relations disaster created by the Mexicans that will turn away many foreign boaters, and thus, their tourist dollars will continue to dwindle. The cruise ship industry has already abandoned many voyages from Southern California to Mexico due to the turmoil with the drug cartels. Now, the recreational boaters might follow suit.

Tip of the week is that whenever the Santana winds blow through the Southland, I receive inquires about their true name and why they are usually warm. The true origin of the name is debated, and one can probably write a book on the topic. However, in the nautical world and according to some old-timers, it is Santana and not Santa Ana winds.

I believe confusion may have been created by the media, especially the weather people on television and radio news shows. The media uses Santa Ana as in the city of Santa Ana versus the devil winds that are hot and dry. I am very curious to thoughts and input from others as to what you think is the correct name and why. Email me your theory.

So why are the winds normally hot and dry as they blow from the mountains to the sea? When there is a high-pressure system east of the local mountains and a low-pressure system off our coast, then the winds will naturally blow from high pressure to low pressure, hence the northerly or easterly direction.

Now comes the interesting part. Most people think that the winds are heated by blowing over the hot desert, but that is wrong. The winds become dry as they rise in elevation to blow over the cooler mountaintops. When the air cools, it cannot hold as much moisture vapor, commonly known as humidity, which causes the winds to become drier.

Actually, the winds become heated when the air molecules come smashing (for the lack of a better word) down the side of the mountain, creating fiction that produces the heat. Then the winds continue on their path to find the low pressure to the west.

So, the winds are dry due to a loss of water vapor in the cooler mountain elevation, and the winds are warm due to the friction of the molecules, with heat as a byproduct. We can experience cold Santana winds, but that is a story for another day.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast to coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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