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Archive for October, 2013

Spiritus gets a ‘screened in porch’

This entry is about an idea Carolyn had.  I designed the cockpit additions.  The necessary additions were rails for the sides of the cockpit, floorboards to sit on top of the rails, and cushions to cover the cockpit in its entirety.

This modification which is very easy and structurally insignificant adds the equivalent of a screened stateroom or master cabin with a double-wide berth to the 38 foot Ingrid ketch without interfering with her functionality.  It is for use at a dock or when anchoring out.  The key to its functionality is the pattern of the cushions.  With this pattern, she can have comfortable cushions for cruising, no cushions for when working in the cockpit, or full cushions for the screened in porch use.

Note the shape of the bimini.  It is designed for sailing.  It provides both shade, which is absolutely essential in the tropics, and shelter from weather like rain.

First, the actual cockpit modification.  It consists of two permanently mounted 1×2 rails at the cockpit’s edges on both sides.  See the picture.


The next thing we did was create a set of deck planks.  They are cut to fit onto the rails and inset into the deck created when placed on the rails.  Each has two ventilation holes to keep them from trapping moisture in the cockpit below the cushions.  See the picture.


Then we contacted a local upholsterer to make a set of cushions based on a template I drew by tracing the above contours onto a large piece of paper like foam with a magic marker.  He used it to cut the foam and materials for the cushions.  If you are interested in duplicating this see the picture below.


The result is a very pleasing addition to the boats sleeping areas.  We have slept outside in the cockpit all summer in great comfort.  This includes the rainy nights when we would have had to shut hatches to keep dry and tried to sleep at 90 plus temperatures.


All the technical how to do this and how easy it is aside.  Aesthetically, kind of cool to lay there at night and listen to the rain.  Reminds me of my grandma’s house with the tin roof.  Pleasing, soothing, quieting sound, and cool breezes.  You can see the stars and the storm clouds, lightning and rain drops.  It doesn’t get a lot better.

In effect, it makes the space in the boat more like that available on a 44-45 foot boat than a 38 foot boat.  We even added two small clip on fans to the underside of the dodger so that when the air is hot and absolutely still, we still have moving air to keep us cool as we sleep.

Cost $80 for lumber, as I used Mexican pine (which is as strong as Oak unlike current American pine which wouldn’t make a good tooth pick) and about $700 for the custom cushions made from scratch with high density foam 5″, and exterior sunbrella tan material as a covering.  We also had them made so they can be flipped over to extend the years of wear and fight sun bleaching.

Ingrid 38 owners who read this, let me know what you think of this modification.

Bringing in a replacement part for our boat (Customs and Aduana in Mexico, BCS)

A recent experience with this issue.  My wife returned from the US thru San Jose del Cabo airport in early October with a “replacement” radio for our boat.

We entered Mexico last year and had a Single Side Band Radio on our boat.  It was an ICOM 730.  Our TIP (Temporary Import Permit), which we filled out when we passed through customs and immigration in Ensenada  listed three radios for the boat (not itemized or listed by serial number )  One was a handheld VHF IC M82, one was the IC 730 (an older Single Side Band), and one was an IC120 VHF.  The original TIP just says “3”.

In early October, Carolyn, (Lady Spiritus)  was in the process of getting ready to fly to the states. She was returning to the US to get some original papers we had left with family not knowing that we would need them for the FMM2 (now Residencia Temporal ‘visa’).  Since she was in the US,  I ordered a new/replacement radio for our boat as the IC 730 was no longer functional. It had been removed from the boat in, I believe, December of last year.  I was new to Mexico at that time so I did not understand the implications of this act.

Short version, after reading a number of recent comments about changes in the customs inspections at San Jose del Cabo airport on the Yahoo Southbound Cruisers Group, we did some hurried research.

First, we went to Pichilingue which is a few kilometers north of La Paz – this was the day (October 3, 2013) of the trucker union strike at the facility. Trucks were lined up for miles outside the terminal.  My taxi driver, whom Carolyn and I now know by first name is really good at what he does.   He got us past the stoppage, picketers, State Police (Policia Federal), and troops into the port facility. The good news was that there was little business when we arrived at the terminal.

For this interaction with customs, I had prepared a letter in Spanish and English detailing what I needed which was an amendment to my original TIP.  Carolyn and I now speak and write Spanish well enough to use a Google Translate program and adjust it to our use of language so that it is pretty error-free and sounds like something we would write.

I had nice pictures of the old radio in my boat, and  a picture of the very sad, little sympathetic hole where the radio used to be and where the new radio would go.


Be aware that the destruction of the old radio be witnessed (it’s an official form); unfortunately,  I did not know that information at the time of the problem.  However, I did have receipts for the “New radio” which listed models and packing contents of the shipment to a US address of the components.  It was an ICOM 802, and AT 140 tuner, and the associated cables, ferrites and mounting hardware.

It took less than thirty-minutes for the very professional staff at customs and Banjarcito to provide me with an amendment to my original TIP form with the required Banjarcito stamp.  That stamped copy is necessary to show you don’t have to pay import fees of about 16-17% for the piece of equipment you are bringing in for a boat.

On the trip back to the US, my wife took, (1) the boat’s USCG original certificate, (2) the original TIP import permit, and (3) the original of the ‘amendment’ to the TIP, (4) and, two copies of each of the above.  You carry copies because one of the oddities of dealing with government offices down here is you provide the copies, they do not make copies of your originals.  But, they will want to see the originals so you carry both.

She also carried the original letters (or a copy cause Pichilingue took one of them for their records along with the invoice).  Oh, we also had a copy of the appropriate statutory language (Club Cruceros Website) in both English and Spanish, just in-case.

Attached were the very sympathetic photos of the “hole” in the boat’s communications station and the old picture of the original IC 730 filling that hole.  We had the older photo as part of the 2009 original survey when we bought the boat  The survey also had the serial number of the radio.

A the airport, when entering Mexico at San Jose del Cabo, she showed them the “nothing to declare” notation on her “Visitante” and when asked to push the stoplight button, simply said “no”,  that she had radio equipment for a “boat in transit” that she wanted them to know she was bringing into Mexico.

They thanked her for pointing that out and had her open the bag containing the radio components.  In it was a copy of the letters, a note saying in big magic marker “Radio parts for a Boat in transit”, a boat card from our vessel Spiritus, and pictures of the actual new parts (we added this so Homeland Security in the US would recognize a radio from a suspicious bunch of buttons, switches, metal boxes, (get it?).

She showed them everything in the pictures and was cleared thru customs without fees in less than ten minutes.  We had allowed her an extra hour in case there was a problem .

There was none.

Conclusions, (1) entering with equipment, even if it is ‘replacement equipment’,  is not to be taken lightly. (2) A little preparation beforehand can make it pretty hassle-free. (3) Be painfully honest with them and don’t even take a chance that you might be misinterpreted as trying to slip something in.  (4) Have the paperwork in order  before you leave Mexico for the reentry.

They took a look at the letter to Pichilingue Customs and the Banjarcito stamp and said everything was “in order … welcome back to Mexico.”

Hope this info on our very recent experience helps others.  The recent posts to the South Bound Cruiser’s Group in Yahoo Groups, probably saved our butts ’cause till we read ,we were being very casual about the whole trip.  We had not properly documented the new radio.

One last lesson, probably should have noted serial number and types or radios on the original tip.  Ditto for computers etc … cause looking at the document now, it is not very specific about exactly what particular pieces of equipment are “original” to the boat as it entered Mexican waters.  Not sure if this ambiguity is good or bad.  When we filled out the original at Ensenada as part of last year’s Baja Ha Ha we did not know we needed all the numbers and the official at customs was not pushy about getting them on the document.  Just a heads up…