At dawn, on the 10th of March, I found myself motoring through crystal clear waters off southern Cozumel, heading toward the small town of San Miguel.
Curiously, everyone else seemed to be going the other way!
As I watched, vessel after vessel, a seemingly endless procession, sped south.
What was going on?
Apparently nothing… or should I say “business as usual”…
On closer inspection all the boats were heavily laden with tourists preparing to partake in various activities including snorkelling, para-sailing, scuba diving or whatever else is the latest in seaside resort entertainment.
There were so many water craft, it felt like the start of some huge regatta.
Where did all these people come from?
There were literally shiploads of them. Mostly from the US… All I could compare it with was Aruba, but an Aruba on steroids!
The town was similarly awash with visitors, shopping for all those must have tourist accoutrements. One dollar maracas, bracelets with your name woven into the design, 6 T-shirts for 20 US…
OK, not my cup of tea perhaps… and no prejudicial jumping to conclusions. This could be fun… I’ll just sit down, relax, have an ice cold corona and check the weather forecast.
Strong northerlies descend upon the Yucatan Channel at this time of year and unfortunately the anchorage off San Miguel is very exposed. While a sailor could probably find shelter to the south of the cruise ship terminals many prefer to make a run for Isla Mujeres (approximately 40NM further north).
This was not an option for me, as my next destination was Cuba and I had every intention of getting there with a complimentary current.
If I intended to escape the uncomfortable northerly and take advantage of the closing weather window to Cuba, I had just 24 hours to visit Mexico.
Unlike Honduras where check in and out are a breeze, Cozumel’s procedures can politely be called challenging.
Despite what you may have read elsewhere, here’s the latest on what is required.
- Visit the port captains office and fill in their arrival form;
- Catch a cab to the airport (50 pesos) to see (in this order)
- Immigration (306 pesos),
- Customs (free),
- The office of Agriculture (to confiscate your fruit).
Let me diverge at this point and explain that some cruisers try to give the last two a miss by only visiting the immigration office in town. But do you really want to risk being on the wrong side of Mexican law?
Besides, as happened in my case, both Customs and the Office of Agriculture might be rather keen to visit your boat. Kindly giving me a lift back to the port, I brought Eileen alongside the ferry terminal so they could carry out their inspection.
Everyone was rather chuffed about the whole affair.
- Then it was off to the hospital for my obligatory health stamp (even if nobody checked my health),
- and finally back to the port captains office to return the forms and finalise check-in.
There is slightly less running around for checking-out.
- Be sure to provide a crew list, a copy of your registration papers, and the stub of your immigration entry form for the office in town,
- go to the bank and pay another 471 pesos to the Secretaria de Communicaciones y Trasportes,
- and collect your Zarpe at the port captains office.
Why it took an hour (upon producing the requested documentation at immigration), to just have a stamp placed in my passport is a mystery I prefer not to dwell upon.
At my age you start worrying about your blood pressure.
Only results matter. I had officially checked in and out, even if it took most of the time I was in Cozumel to do it. What more could I want?
I suspect it might be a bit easier for cruise ship passengers to stopover for 24 hours than it is for cruisers… or there wouldn’t be so many of them…