For those of us who like a challenge, buying a boat in Mexico provides endless possibilities! With the exchange rate favourable, it is certainly an opportunity to purchase a boat at a good price. We generally found yachts (we were only looking at these) in the Americas much cheaper than similar yachts in Australia, SE Asia and Europe. New Zealand provided some opportunities, but not the type of yacht we wanted.
Adopting the view that anything is ‘doable’, purchasing a yacht in Mexico can be very straight forward.
As in many other countries, the actual payment and transfer of ownership has to be done outside Mexico, usually in the US. All the yachts we saw for sale were US registered; some were represented by brokers in the US and others by local brokers. As with many emerging economies, Mexico is blossoming, with many local people getting into the boating industry, the latter of which is extensive with many marinas and services which support it. Having said that, it can be difficult to get necessary boating hardware into Mexico and it is well worth your time to talk to as many people as possible about the various options available in this regard. Once you understand how the system works, it is not as confusing or as difficult as it first appears.
The yacht we purchased, a 1989 Hylas 47, we found for sale on the internet via a Florida broker. On agreement of a price, we placed a fully refundable deposit on the yacht (into an Escrow account) to ensure that no other offers would be presented until we could get to its location to look at it. Although the offer and acceptance was finalised in July, we could not get to see the yacht until early October, with the pending settlement happening at the end of October. Such a long time frame is not uncommon and suited us as it got us through most of the hurricane season. The offer was subject to the usual conditions of satisfactory viewing and sea trials. The Hylas was located in San Carlos, Senora, which presented a lengthy flight from Australia. A reputable surveyor (it is well worth making sure you have the right one) is located in San Carlos, who actually works with small boats and not just ships. We had the option of asking for a ‘walk through’ survey prior to our arrival, but as Peter was a boat builder, he was happy with what the broker had said about the boat and the pictures that were a genuine representation of the boat as she was. It was comforting to get pictures with the date on them! As she was a Hylas, we knew of their reputation which also helped.
Although we kept passing over a Mexican location as ‘too hard’, we kept coming back to the Hylas as the favoured yacht on the market in the Americas at that time. Further research confirmed our choice. Although Florida appeared to be the mecca for yacht sales, the climate is very harsh on boats, and those that have been left for considerable time suffer water and moisture damage. It appears that the same holds true for the Caribbean. Having left our previous yacht in SE Asia during the wet season, we understood the implications of tropical and sub-tropical climates.
On completion of the sale, as the new owner you have 6 months to complete a Temporary Import Permit, (TIP) which gives the yacht 10 years in Mexican waters. The marinas offer to do this for you, but we completed the exercise at the required bank nearby with no fuss or difficulty for a small fee of 60 USD. We found out the hard way what happens with the payment of duty if you try and import electronic equipment before you aquire your TIP! Duty is currently 15% and it is another adventure sorting out this process at the Mexican border.
We would also advise obtaining a multiple entry visa into the USA before departing Australia (as opposed to the Visa Waiver Program). We elected to get one which lasts for 5 years as we intend to spend time cruising around the Americas and the USA for few years before heading back to Australia. One thing for sure is that you will spend time travelling to and fro from the USA picking up necessary items for you and the boat.
For those potential buyers not so keen on sailing or motoring their newly acquired vessel to Australia, there is the option of having it shipped from La Paz or trucked/shipped from San Carlos.
Besides the exchange rate and climate in Senora (being relatively dry and on the northern extremity of the hurricane belt) other advantages include the workmanship available. Anything can be fixed or machined. We found a stainless steel welder who was second to none and certainly the most professional of any we have seen. Although we accept that we will pay higher prices than the locals (as in SE Asia), prices were still cheaper than Australia and the US.
It is always a steep learning curve when undertaking a new venture in an unfamiliar culture, but there are many fellow yachties and local people who offer endless advice and assistance. Everyone we have encountered so far have been so welcoming and willing to assist. San Carlos has an extensive American community living here so English is widely spokenand it is a great place to ease yourself into Mexican culture and learing a new language.
Now that we have explored the possibilities of cruising the Sea of Cortez, we are not in a hurry to sail back to Australia as it is reputedly the best cruising ground in the world! We look forward to seeing for ourselves.