Posted by: adventuressetravels | April 29, 2011



I sat on the deserted boardwalk watching azure waves crash on the jagged

Isla Mujeres Boardwalk

rocky shore.  Isla Mujeres was a beautiful place but this side of the island certainly had seen better days.  Unfinished hotels and half-demolished shells looked out on the clear blue water.  Even the palm trees looked sickly.  Still, there was a certain kind of beauty to the depilation.  Soaking up the peace and quiet of the vast ocean was really much nicer than the bustling touristic streets of downtown and the other side of the island.

Watching a little fishing boat motor past I shook my head.  I wasn’t even supposed to be here.   Not really.

The yellow quarantine flag

The laws of the ocean, the rules of the road boats are allowed to anchor in foreign waters if you are having boat problems, to seek refuge from the weather, need to rest or are having other problems.  The catch is, you can’t set foot on shore and you absolutely have to fly the yellow quarantine flag.  Boats were required to keep the flag up and remained under quarantine until their captain had finished checking the boat into the country.  Today is the fourth day we have been flying that yellow banner.

Unfortunately, and fortunately the process for checking into Mexico was not as simple as that of some countries.  It was in fact a bit of a runaround.  All the crew had to go onshore for a medical exam and pay their entry fees in person.  That was the good part – it meant the crew could go ashore before technically being checked into the country.   There was a stop at the medical office, at immigrations, and finally at the port captain’s office.  That was the complicated one.

There are agriculture and drugs and firearms checks and boat immigration to get through first.

First was agriculture.  The captain and I dinghied the agriculture officer, a petite sweet-faced Mexican girl in her early 20s, out to the boat.  The captain could probably have gone by himself, but her English was probably on par with his Spanish.  Though they could have certainly struggled through the inspection, it just went more smoothly with someone there to translate.  New at her job, she chattered excitedly on the dinghy ride out to the boat.

Quarantine sticker sealing the freezer

On board she asked where the food was.  When I showed her our cabinets she blanched.  We had over 100 lbs of rice, beans, and other types of seeds not counting the long-lasting vegetables (squash, sweet potatoes and the like) or the frozen meats.  I had figured that the meat and vegetables might be an issue, but when she said that rice, beans and our staple foods were banned the bottom dropped out of my stomach.  Almost nothing we had on board was allowed in the country.  The prospect of having to dispose of our vast store of food was terrifying.

The girl quickly reassured me that wasn’t necessary.  She only had to seal our cabinets to insure we couldn’t use the prohibited foods while we were in the country.  When we left another officer would come out and take the seals off to be sure we had left them on.

When we returned to the port captain’s office we realized the other steps were slightly more complicated.  Immigration needed our exit form from the Bahamas and we didn’t have one.

If you are sailing out of the Bahamas they have a relaxed check out policy.  Because there are so many islands, and only a few immigrations offices you can check out by mailing your departure form into the Bahamas’ immigrationsStarting next year, if you don’t check out of your port of departure with Mexico as your destination there is a $5,000 fine.  Luckily the fine didn’t go into effect until 2012.  Unfortunately the officer who could help us circumvent this step would not be in the office for the next few days.

To make matters worse, the drug and fire arms officer was stationed in Cancun, hours away by ferry, and had not made it to the Isla Mujeres office for weeks. But by this time it was late in the day.  The port captain’s office was closing.  We couldn’t take the quarantine flag down.  We weren’t even legally in the country yet.  All there was to do was to go to the grocery store and buy some food for the remainder of our stay in Mexico.

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