<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Trailering a Boat in Mexico
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by David Eidell (07/05)

ED NOTE: The following reply to a reader inquiry about precautions needed to trailer a boat through Mexico and further south into Central America contained a wealth of information that might be of interest to other RVers traveling to or through Mexico who might also be towing a boat or other like item. We've captured the response here in article form...


I saw your letter posted in the RVers Online Mailbox, and I thought that I would share some tips with you. Some tips will answer your questions outright while others are just plain hard-earned knowledge. I have spent quite a bit of time in Mexico and C.A. and have towed three times to the Panama Canal and back.
Insurance I know of no stateside company that could issue you a blanket policy to cover you across six countries (USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica). AS a matter of fact, you will probably have to obtain your insurance on-the-spot as you cross the border.
Trailer Hitch Arm On Boat Trailer No matter how new or stout looking your hitch and trailer appears to be, take it to a welding shop that has "wire welding (MIG)". Have them install quarter-inch thick gussets anyplace that two angles of metal intersect. As a matter of fact, I firmly recommend that you replace the entire A frame assembly and use a class III hitch which utilizes a 2-5/16" ball. Have them weld a piece of stainless steel in the shape of a "U" on the front for an anchor point for a security cable. A marine store like West Marine can make up a stainless steel security cable that uses two padlocks, one on each end. Use those special padlocks that shield the bolt from being cut. You will have to have welded onto your rig another stainless steel U (I like half-inch material with a one and a half inch radius). Stainless steel cable (I like 5/16") will easily defeat bolt cutters, or a cold chisel. Use the security cable ! when you are detached from the trailer to wrap around the trunk of a tree.
Weld onto the side of the frame of the trailer, a total of six (three pairs) of U-bolt fasteners. Then purchase three nylon ratchet strap load binders. Use carpet between the straps and the boat. Toss in two extra boat trailer tires, one on a wheel as a spare. Take along a tube, and two wheel bearing sets. All of this stuff is impossible to find.
If possible store the motor in your rig and not in the boat. Heavy high horsepower motors can tear a transom off in short order. Also outboard motors are highly prized by thieves, so out-of-sight-means-out-of-mind (maybe). Use a boat cover, and without a motor your rig will be much less inviting.
Paperwork. Each country has it's own rigamarole, and you can bet that every single one is going to consume two to three hours to clear customs, immigration, and fumigation. I would advise you to bring along not only the registration for your motor vehicle and boat, but also the ownership certificate, and state licenses. Make no less than (get this!) ONE DOZEN COPIES each of your driver license, motor vehicle registration, ownership certificate, and passport. You won't have a single copy left by the time you arrive at your destination. Then go to a copy store that has a Laser Copier and have two images taken of your passport and another two images taken of your driver license. Go to your local bank and obtain a stack of fifty, crisp one-dollar bills for use to pay border crossing fees, tips, and outright bribes. I use one of those accordion pleated file cases, divided into the number of countries that I plan to pass through. Make su! re that your passport, driver license, nor vehicle licenses are going to expire while on the road. Cops and officials are supposed to ignore this stuff but they always try their best to extract a tip and you won't have the time or patience to haggle on the side of the road somewhere. Maintaining organization is the key to a successful border crossing. Don't forget than a border crossing means contending with the exit laws of one country as well as the entry laws of the next. Sometimes young adults will offer their services as a guide at the border crossing paperwork maze. Most are honest but few speak even fair English.
I like to carry my information in packets relevant to the country that I am currently in. This would include border permits, insurance forms, telephone number and addresses of the US Embassy or consulate. I also carry a comprehensive list of friend's telephone numbers, and my state Senator's telephone numbers just in case.
Get a good quality compass for your dashboard. Carry extra oil and filters (5-30W is next to impossible to find), and the telephone number of your motor vehicle's authorized agency. My local dealer parts manager understands that if he should receive a call from me while I am out of the country that I would be unable to wait fifteen minutes on hold.
The next part involves pure discipline. Every single morning before I start out, I put on my reading glasses and inspect my trailer hitch, and trailer for signs of fatigue or cracks. If the trailer passes muster I then check tire pressure in every single tire on the trailer and on the tow vehicle. I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered a tire that was found to be five pounds low or so, which allowed me to get it fixed before it fixed me on some bad stretch of highway. A good 12-volt compressor is a godsend. If you are the least mechanically inclined, purchase a full-on tire plug and patch kit (From NAPA) and learn how to plug a tire.
When packing, hide everything. If your tow vehicle is a Blazer-like SUV blank out the side and rear windows with white shoe polish. An alarm system (A joke in Mexico City goes "How Do I Know If My Car Has Been Stolen? answer "When you can no longer hear the alarm") may thwart some of the more unsophisticated snatch-and-run-types.
Tip: The larger the town or city the greater the risk of becoming a target for thieves.
Well the above should get you started anyway.