Los Coronados Dive
By: Scott Greene 2L
On Sunday, April 10, 2011, I went on a scuba diving trip to the Coronados Islands, which are located a short distance into Mexico from the U.S. border, with a chartered dive boat named the Horizon. After having three great dives in the morning and afternoon, we were headed to a site near Point Loma for a final dive of the day.
The boat we were on had bunks below, so I had gone down to sleep for the journey. I woke up to the captain on the loudspeaker telling us that all passengers were needed on deck. When I arrived on deck, I witnessed a 25-foot Mexican Navy vessel with about 15 military personnel carrying M16s, attempting to get close enough for some of the soldiers to board our boat. It was explained to us by the captain that we needed to stay on the port side of the deck and not move until further instructed. He also mentioned that the Mexican soldiers should just need to check our permits and it was no big deal. I was a little concerned, because the boat wasn’t flying a flag and I thought to myself “how do we know this is really the Mexican military?”
The soldiers came on deck. While several guarded the 34 passengers, other soldiers searched the entire boat. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me until I noticed a much larger boat approaching us. It was a military vessel and even had cannons; it resembled a small, World War II-era battleship. This boat started circling ours and I witnessed at least three or four people watching us with binoculars. My only concern was that this incident was somehow escalating.
This went on for approximately an hour. At some point, the captain told us that it was going to be some time, but that we were now allowed to go inside the cabin of the boat instead of just on the deck. The total time of the incident was almost three hours, at which time the soldiers guarding us went back on their boat, the battleship left and we were allowed to leave Mexican waters.
It was later explained that the dive boat hires an agency to make sure the boat had all necessary legal issues taken care of before we go into Mexico. The problem is that a lot of times, this agency is more in the know about the current Mexican laws than the military personnel on patrol, which likely contributed to this. Apparently they were asking for a permit that didn’t exist and some attorneys in Mexico City had to get involved and contact the military to straighten things out. It is my understanding that they basically kicked us out of Mexico, however, so I don’t think the issue was ultimately decided that day. At this point, I’m not sure what else may have happened afterwards.
Editor’s Note: The incident was covered in the media and Greene was one of those interviewed.