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Monthly Archives: January 2012


ART GALLERY OPENS HERE – See “Briefly Noted” below
TWO OLDER CARS available on the For Sale page
EXPERIENCE DIVING ADVENTURE – Click ‘Dive Aventuras’ icon

OK folks: How long was mystery vessel?

Posted o1/09/2012 by Pelican Paulie
     The black-hulled yacht with a helicopter on her deck and swimming pool obviously was no ordinary rich-boy toy. Let’s begin with the fact she was too big to pull into a marina slip here through a too-shallow channel, albeit the channel depth does accommodate yachts at least to around 80 feet.
The vessel appeared with the sunrise Saturday morning just off shore where the deep water is, inviting anybody ashore with a camera to have a field day without knowing what they were shooting.
The Marina and beach areas were abuzz with wild guesses because few cameras were able to pick up the yacht’s identification and flag. “It had some sort of hammer on it,” said one observer. “I think it has Cayman Islands registry,” said another. “Bet it belongs to a cartel kingpin,” was another wild guess, or this one, “It must be Calderon (Mexican president) on his way to his retreat on Cozumel,” or this one, “It belongs to Bill Gates.”

The Pelican can’t say for sure who currently owns this emblematic display of untold wealth, but it can say with nearly unassailable certainty that the vessel is 295 feet in length (90 meters),  is as beamy at 50 feet as a sumo wrestler, has a crew of around 27 with staterooms to accommodate 14 guests; has a steel hull and aluminum superstructure, was launched in 2005 in Bremen, Germany, and at that time at least was reportedly owned by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov. It is an environmental “statement” super yacht that won the 2006 “super yacht of the year” award. The ecologically friendly vessel that moves like cats’ feet incorporated the newest in noise and vibration technology, miserly fuel consumption and exhaust emissions control systems.
Some observers reported seeing a yacht tender come ashore but crew on it were mute when it came to revealing anything about the yacht, particularly who might be on board. Her cruising speed is listed at 16 knots with a range of 6000 nautical miles from her 1,059 gallon fuel tanks.
She is reportedly for charter but attempts to find a listing were not successful. At any rate, if you don’t regularly have lunch with Bill Gates, Carlos Slim or Warren Buffet, you’ll never get to see the inside of this zen-designed interior of super luxury, so enjoy the exterior view and dream on.

Mexican-plated car registration tax plummets

But state to lower boom on foreign-plated cars

Posted 01/10/2012 by Juanito
Good news for those who own cars with Mexican license plates. The cost to renew those plates for 2012 has plummeted to a mere fraction of their former cost. This is because Mexico’s unpopular vehicle ownership tax, after years of lobbying by the local auto industry, has finally been repealed.
Myself, along with two others, went to Playa del Carmen recently to renew our plates and what a pleasant surprise it was. After only a short wait, all three of us walked out of the building holding a renewal sticker in one hand and waiving a paid receipt in the other.

A quick comparison between the three showed that we each paid exactly the same amount even though the description of our vehicles varied greatly. The cost was a meager 278 pesos each. Compare that to what you paid last year and you’ll be waving your sticker as you come out the door too! So, what changed?
Prior to December 2011, the cost to register your Mexican car each year was a combination of two different taxes. First, there was theDerecho Vehicularcommonly known as a referendo, which is a “fixed amount”, and the only one that you still pay when renewing for 2012.
The other tax was the tenencia,which was an annual tax calculated as a percentage of the car’s value and could become quite exorbitant when tacked onto the back of an already expensive new car purchase.
The tenencia had long been a perennial point of contention for the Mexican automotive industry since it was introduced in the 1960s to help pay for the country’s 1968 hosting of the Olympic Games. It was widely seen as a serious hindrance to domestic new car sales. That tax has now been eliminated altogether for cars costing 250,000 pesos ($19,250) or less.
While 2012 brings good news for cars sporting Mexican plates… this doesn’t seem to be the case for those who continue to harbor foreign plated cars and trucks in Mexico. The State of Quintana Roo, who for many years has looked the other way when it came to expired registrations and vehicle import stickers, has now joined the federal movement in cracking down to eliminate these past discretions.
To learn more detail about these and other rule changes, you are invited to attend an informational seminar that will be presented by U.S. Consular Agent Samantha Mason, on Tuesday morning, February 7, 2012, at the Colonos Meeting Room in Puerto Aventuras. The meeting is free and open to the public. No reservations are required and seating will be on a first come, first served, basis.
This seminar will be followed by another, on February 21, that will be hosted by representatives of BBVA Bancomer, to talk about the advantages of having a Mexican bank account through their English Speaking, Preferred Customers Unit. I expect both meetings to be informative and look forward to seeing you there!

Ferry plan defies Mayan end of world; plods on

Meanwhile, container shipping here seems healthy

Posted 1/7/2012 by Pelican Paulie
    Businessmen in Tampa are still talking about a car and passenger ferry from Tampa, Fla. to a Yucatan port, most likely Progeso, by the middle of this year despite Mayan theories of Armageddon. But meanwhile, Hyde Shipping out of Port Everglades, Fla., near Ft. Lauderdale, is already hauling items as small as outdoor grilles and as big as cars, housefulls of furniture and more in containers to Puerto Morelos, around 40 miles north of Puerto Aventuras. Progeso, near Merida, is about a 5.5-hour drive from here.

While  United Caribbean Linesexecutives continue to predict the proposed ferry service on European style ferries capable of 1,000 to 2,000 passengers and as many as  600 cars for sometime this year, Hyde Shipping is chugging two container ships and delivering more than predictions to people choosing to haul their stuff from there to here or vice versa.
One case in point is that of Janet and Bruce Hardwicke of Puerto Aventuras who shipped their 10-year-old plus car from Florida recently and were quite satisfied with the service  despite having to jump through a number of seemingly redundant hoops once the car arrived in Mexico..
“I found Hyde Shipping while perusing the Internet under ‘international shipping’,” said Mrs. Hardwicke. Her husband then took over, called the company about shipping the car and got instructions. “I e-mailed them a copy of the car title and they e-mailed me a booking number and said if we delivered the car  on a Monday it would ship on a Thursday and take five days to get to Puerto Morelos.”
The car was already in Florida, so they drove it to Port Everglades. Mrs. Hardwicke chuckled as she noted the car made a classy crossing, being cooped up in a container with an expensive Hummer.

But the Hardwickes had to go to Cancun to complete paperwork before they could take possession of the car in Puerto Morelos. That turned out to be a daylong affair, having to visit several offices in different places to get papers stamped and in the process spending nearly $1,000 USD for the shipping and other fees which included, in Puerto Juarez,  $200 “cash only” for duty and $50 for a tax stamp
They recommend anyone using the system make three or four copies of every paper then have…passports, FM3s, bills of lading, titles, since all the various offices need a copy to stamp. They also recommend getting the options for payment of shipping either in Port Everglades or in Cancun, where cash only may be the standard. “It’s a lot of work,” the Hardwickes agreed.
Finally getting to Puerto Morelos, they had to surrender their FM3s and passports at a guarded gate that “looked like a military installation” in return for a badge allowing them access  to collect the car.  One man helped them get the car, which was sniffed by dogs and searched, then to an office where another man again checked the car, took photos of the I.D. plate and stamped papers, charging $384 pesos for removing the car from the container.
Now the Hardwickes are happy driving their old car around, suggesting the effort was worth it.
Meanwhile, Louis and Pat Horner of Playacar are an example of a smaller  experience. They shipped a Weber Grill from  Massachusetts to the Hyde Corp., which crated it bound for Puerto Morelos for $59. “They were great,” said Mrs.Horner. “They even e-mailed us photos of the grill before it was crated and containerized to show they had received it undamaged.” She too said security is primary at the Morelos port,  but the employees helpful and efficient.
Hyde doesn’t carry passengers, however, which leaves an opening for United Caribbean to launch such a service. “It’s a no-brainer,” says United CEO Bruce Nierenberg. He believes one ferry would generate (an estimated) $300 million a year in economic impact. “They have more impact” than cruise ships because the passengers stay at destinations longer, he says.
The a ferry trip would take 27 hours, provide stateroom or seat options and charge an average of $195. More information on Hyde Shipping prices and box sizes is available at its website,www.hydeshipping.com

Phrase a week … By Gloria Contreras, state certified interpreter
A witty Mexican lady, commenting on local movies, joked that actor
George Clooney was in her bedroom. It goes like this: George Clooney esta en mi recamara.
(Ms. Contreras teaches Spanish classes from 3 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Tiramisu Restaurant and all are welcomed to attend. The fee is $150 pesos. Please call her first to make arrangements at 984-108-3517)

What’s Playing…

See for yourself what’s showing at the local movie houses in Playa del Carmen at the links below.


Briefly Noted…

Compiled from staff, contributors and media reports
AN ART GALLERY  has been opened here in the ample space above the former SiSiSi Restaurant on

the Dolphin Walk by artist Peter Terrin, causing an anticipatory stir among art lovers. If you missed the opening Wednesday (1/11), check his work and philosophy at[email protected] SPEAKING OF ART,  a “Saturday in Puerto Art Festival” is slated for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Colegio. Musicians, singers and dancers are invited to enjoy the day and perform. It’s free, although donations accepted for the school. More information at  873-5141 or[email protected] ….A STATE POLICE PAY HIKE of 20 percent for all officers in Quintana Roo has been announced by Gov. Roberto Borge Angula. Maybe this will help ease the traditional on-the-spot method of collecting traffic violation “fines”…HEARING SOME TALK about increased taxes for PA condo units along the waterfront’s receding beaches…RELIGIOUS TOURISM conclave will be held April 23-27 at the Cancun Convention Center…   

End this post Broken heart   See previous posts below.

‘Dreamer’ pilots PA onto Mexico’s sailing scene

RECYCLING PROGRAM FRIDAY 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at skate park
MAN ATTACKED IN N. PAAMUL – Read the story below
SNACK ON SHUSHI see food/dining page
DOG TRAINING AVAILABLE –Click on services page

National championship regatta to bring visitors, profits


Volunteer extraordinaire makes it happen

Posted 12/31/11 by Pelican Paulie
     You have seen him rushing about like an action-movie director if you’ve been to the annual road race of Puerto Aventuras, or to the growing number of popular concerts at the Cultural Center, or the annual gastronomical event at the Colegio, or at local sailboat races or buzzing along in a beat-up blue pick-up on his frequent trips to the Colonos office.
He moves like a whirling dynamo bursting with energy, grayish mane flowing behind a weathered face accented with intense, purposeful eyes and ready smile. Yet, Capt. Daniele Gracis, who plied the Mediterranean in his impulsive younger years as a yacht skipper, refers to himself as not just “ a dreamer” but a “a dreamer who actually realizes his dreams.”
The latest is not only another feather in his cap, but a coup of considerable note for Puerto Aventuras, its reputation and its businesses. Gracis, with the help of a small committee, has landed one of three preliminary “national” championship sail races to be held here April 28,29,30, the results of which will be used to select a team representing Mexico in international competition.

“We expect 100 boats will be participating,” Gracis says with gusto as he contemplates landing a major sponsor, building a staging area, preparing local hotels and businesses for the influx of visitors that come along with the boats…youthful skippers, their parents, their friends and more, “about 500 people” said Gracis, “who need lodging and food and other services.”
This regatta is for the “Optimist Dinghy Class” sailboat – those you see on various days exiting the south channel and bobbing along silhouetted on the horizon of the Caribbean’s sun-splashed blue-green waters.
Briefly, the “Optimist” class is designed specifically as a single-person crew “learning” boat for youth to age 15. Its hull was originally designed from 4×8 plywood sheets, but most boats are now built of plastic and glass. It has a waterline length of 7 feet and 3’8” beam, uses a daggerboard or centerboard and is Spirit-rigged.

It is an international class boat with an estimated 160,000 skippers worldwide and 150,000 boats in 120 countries (of 196 in the world today), with 20 of the boats here in Puerto Aventuras teaching 42 local children, 14 of them on scholarships. The boat competes in an annual world championship and six continental championships. That’s what Puerto Aventuras will become a part of with its own successful sailing school initiated by Gracis and others here, and by hosting one of the national championship trials in April.
PA’s young sailors, about 7 to 8 years old, learning their sailing kills here for only a few years, have brought home several area victories already. Instructed and coached by two Cuban brothers, Gracis says sailing brings a lot to the individual youngster “alone out there against the wind and waves, making decisions that inspire self-confidence.” (The Pelican will explore this story as it develops and moves toward April.)
For the moment, it is difficult to conceive that Gracis is a relative newcomer to Puerto Aventuras, having been here only six years and so quickly bringing to fruition his dreams of a road race, food fest, concerts, sailing and more as volunteer chairman of the Colonos Association’s Sports and Cultural Committee.
“It takes two to three months of serious volunteer time to prepare each of these events,” said Colonos GM Armando Rincon. Add up five major events and we’re talking about 10 to 12 months of 7-hour-a-day labors willingly volunteered by “The Dreamer” (El Sonador) Daniele Gracis.
No wonder then that last year Gracis made an emergency trip to Italy, his native country, to take care of a heart problem, then gladly rush back to handle last-minute details for one of his well-received concerts.
And no wonder, also, that at the Colonos Association meeting a few weeks ago, he implored the audience to hire a full-time manager of sports and cultural events because, he admits, he is beginning to run out of steam as he ages. And there’s also that little thing called earning a living. How does he? Gracis waves an arm, almost irritably, and mutters something about money not being everything and passions trumping such quotidian concerns. they have enough, he says, betweem his carpentry and his wife’s massage business.
“We have managers for security and for public works. Why do we not have one for sports and cultural events?,” he asks. Alas, there is a limit to volunteerism and the community should not expect more than what a person is able to give. And no, he’s not pushing for the job himself. He wouldn’t take it.

Rincon suggests that were it not for Gracis, the aforementioned events probably wouldn’t exist today and if he suddenly abandoned these projects, “they would cease to exist,” in his opinion.
Gracis is now a carpenter and boat repairer by trade, results of previous dreams as a young man who yearned to sail the Caribbean, “I would captain yachts off Italy during the summer,” he recalls, “then spend all winter building my own yacht of ferro-cement,” a mixture of cement, sand, steel mesh and rods used to construct ferroboats. It took him nine years.
On the day before he was leaving to cross the Atlantic 23 years ago, he met Lucia, a like bundle of seemingly inexhaustible energy. “She asked me where I was going. I said I was sailing across the Atlantic. She said, ‘I’m coming with you’…and that was that,” he recalled with a loving glance in her direction. She is now his wife and they have two children, Morgan, 19, and Gioia (pronounced Joy), 22, both of whom are now working as crew aboard ocean-crossing yachts.
Before settling in PA, Gracis and family lived on Caribbean islands including Antigua and seven years in Cuba, noted for its ferroboats, where he continued to build vessels for the government there before leaving for Mexico six years ago.  If Puerto Aventuras had an annual “Citizen of the Year” award, the Pelican would gladly nominate Daniele Gracis for the honor.


Homeowner attacked, beaten in his N. Paamul yard

Posted 01/04/2012 by Pelican Paulie
    The Municipal Police are searching for two men who randomly attacked a North Paamul resident last Friday evening in the yard of his newly-built home, pummeled him about the head with a truncheon then fled. The man required more than 20 stitches and told the Pelican Free Press he was “lucky” he wasn’t more seriously injured.
It is suspected the two men had been living in an unfinished house in the area near the jungle and were discovered by a Paamul security guard who was overcome by the men, tied and interrogated as to how many guards were on duty, then gagged.
The victim of the beating, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons and is of retirement age, said he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as the two men were trying to escape from the area and saw him crouched in his yard just after sunset working on some wires near the house foundation.
“I think they might have seen an opportunity to rob me,” the man told the Pelican Free Press. He said he was initially “stunned” by about four “full swing” blows to the head before he could stand and begin to defend himself. He was able to grab the man with the truncheon shaped “like a baseball bat maybe of metal or wood” and place him between himself and the other man who was pointing a large-caliber pistol at him.
“I was expecting to see a flash from the gun in those two or three seconds,” he said before deciding to push his assailant away and run for the house and lock the door.
Unfortunately, he said, the event is being embellished by theorists short on facts. “I’m just an average person who retired here,” he said. “It was a random act by two opportunists.” He said he is beginning to feel much better, “just a little bit of a headache” he said on Wednesday.
The victim, who previously lived in Puerto Aventuras for a brief time, said he is now considering a return to Puerto Aventuras with its heavily guarded front gate and high fence where one can feel safer, albeit, he said, he never before felt in danger in Paamul. “I’m still happy to be here,” he said.
The victim had kudos for the staff at CostaMed who cared for his wounds, for the security personnel who arrived within three or four minutes and the municipal police “three trucks of them” who arrived in “10 or 15 minutes” to begin a search and investigation.
He said his view of the incident is balanced in the knowledge that events like this occur in every town, hamlet and city everywhere. Nonetheless, he said, he is beefing up security.

Phrase a week … By Gloria Contreras, state certified interpreter
Spanish classes resume Monday at 3 p.m. at Tiramisu Restaurant. Las clases de Español reanudarán lunes a las 15.00 horas en restaurante Tiramisu
(Ms. Contreras teaches Spanish classes from 3 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Tiramisu Restaurant and all are welcomed to attend. The fee is $150 pesos. Please call her first to make arrangements at 984-108-3517).



 Beware flying to Cancun with pets!!

Submitted by Judith Labrozzi, Villas Talia, Puerto Aventuras
On December 28, 2011 we went to the Cancun Airport to pick up our neighbors and their dog who were spending the winter in their home in Puerto, as they do every year. Already delayed on their flight from Seattle, they were arriving in Cancun at 12:30pm, 2 hours later than planned.

When they went to the agricultural office to retrieve their miniature Schnauzer, they were told the dog had been sent to the Customs office. We eventually located the correct office, only to be told by Mexican customs that the dog was there, in a warehouse, but that we could not see him or care for him. “Maybe” we could get him manana.
After much pleading, we were handed a card for a customs broker and told that engaging this customs broker was the only way the dog would be released. We finally located the customs broker in the Centro de Abastos, still wondering why the dog is being subjected to this when his Health Certificate and shot records were all in order. It is now a little after 3pm and the dog has been locked in his crate for 18 hours.
After much conferring among the help at the customs broker’s office, we were informed that maybe we could get the dog if approximately $800 USD was paid to cover “document fees” and “taxes”. What do you do when a beloved pet is suffering neglect? Whatever it takes, which in this case was paying. We received the dog, still locked in his crate with no food or water, at exactly 7pm, which, coincidently, was quitting time.
We still have no answers as to why this dog was sent to customs. We certainly have no answer as to the exorbitant amount of extortion demanded and paid. Upon talking to veterinarians in Playa, I found that no one has ever heard of this happening. We are not done with this and plan to file a complaint with the Tourist Police. Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer North Americans want to come to Mexico?
The Mexican customs official spoke excellent English and his name was Roberto. He was in the main customs building located between terminals 2 and 3. He is the one who told us that the only way to get the dog released was to use a customs broker. He was also the one who said we could not see or care for the dog.
He then handed us a card for a company named RedAduanal, located in Centro de Abastos. He stated that they had someone who spoke English and would wait for us. After being presented with the exorbitant bill we called Samantha Mason (US consular agent). She called the people at RedAduanal but that only seemed to irritate them. The payment was made with a credit card and they promised to email the itemized statement, which has not happened.
(Ed. Note: In a later development, the dog owners’ credit card company denied payment to the customs broker until an itemized bill is presented.)

Drawbridge noise draws a complaint

Submitted by Deborah Benson, [email protected]
     Please tell me how to file a noise complaint against the draw bridge. Colonos made a feeble attempt to solve the problem in November by putting a tiny piece of wood under the metal plates instead of welding the broken plate. The wood chip has failed and the noise (as cars and trucks go over the bridge) is VERY LOUD! My husband and I live in Marina San Carlos (at the bridge) full time, and are considering moving away from PA because the noise is so loud.
(Ed. Note:  Anyone with helpful information can contact the Bensons at their email address above.)

Briefly Noted…

Compiled from staff, contributors and media reports
BEACH REPLENISHMENT FOLLOW-UP – Divers off Playa del Carmen report beach replenishment program there in 2010 may be affecting clarity of water along the nearby reefs. They offer photos that show diminished clarity since Playa’s beach replenishment project of 2010 has partly washed back out to sea…A RENEWED CALL IN TULUM to end bribery as relates to traffic stops by police has been re-initiated in asking for stricter enforcement by the high police command…BUSINESSES IN SOME shore-side areas say they watched as activity fell as much as 70 percent in one day, from last Sunday to Monday following the New Year holiday…MEXICO’S NATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE says 2012 came in with a 15 to 33 percent price increase in basic food and construction materials, some of the uptick attributable to higher gasoline prices. Agricultural products rose about 20 percent…RIVIERA MAYAhotels will participate in the International Tourism Fair to be held later this month in Madrid, Spain, from where issues 60 percent of the Riviera Maya investment funding…

The Storm cloud   End

Pelican Free Press Newsletter

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