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Old 08-26-2016, 07:41 PM   #21
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Here is another customs problems story -

How to Get in Trouble with U.S. Customs - Waggoner Cruising Guide
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:07 PM   #22
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Feedback to CBP

I urge everyone with skin in the game to PLEASE take a few minutes and provide feedback to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If the "flagpole" gets a few dozen constructive comments from our community, perhaps they will have the needed information to make a change. Often management knows of problems but does not have the documentation necessary to act.

Below is a link to a CBP webpage where you can send your comments.

https://help.cbp.gov/app/home/search/1
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Old 08-26-2016, 08:25 PM   #23
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The most basic rule of all is the one that says you must get cleared before anyone other than the master leaves your boat. I'm sure if he appealed the fine it was reduced if not eliminated. It's difficult to judge attitudes in a situation from only hearing one side of the story. Now, if it occurred exactly as written, the behavior of the agent was out of line. Still, it all started from ignoring Rule #1. I advise anyone that customs and immigration where ever you are have very rigid rules and are often sticklers for 100% compliance. If anyone wants to find out then call in when returning to Fort Lauderdale after hours and then everyone on your boat doesn't report in person the following day as ordered. Oh, and they do hold the master/captain responsible for getting them all there.

I know the regulations are complicated and handled as a practical matter differently in each location. However, some things are unwavering and staying aboard until after the initial call and being given clearance is one of those things. As was pointed out, it is immediately.
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Old 08-26-2016, 09:43 PM   #24
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I agree with most of the above in that rules are rules, and its our job to know those rules. But at the same time when you consider the govt as it is today, one that wants to import by the thousands mostly undesirable non citizens from foreign countries; to then make its own citizens feel like criminals is a little hard to swallow at times. Its the same at airports, getting the third degree from gun toting pencil pushers demanding to know the this and the that. Its just slightly irritating. And Dhays, I look forward to seeing that "big beautiful wall". LOL!
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Old 08-26-2016, 09:45 PM   #25
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Different experience

On our recent nightmare trip out the Frazer River in BC and into the US we saw the other side of this.
Our float plan (not filed anywhere) called for us to arrive Point Roberts in the mid afternoon on a favorable tide for a deep draft boat in a shallow entry to that Harbor. We had called customs tmge ther schedule and to alert them of our intention to re enter two US citizens and import the Dutch boat. We had used an import broker on my import bond and the paperwork was in order to the best f my knowledge and effort.
It became clear when all hell broke loose of our plans that that was not going to happen. We were much later due to the fuel issues we were working on, had little control of the boat and barely making way in fair sized seas that were going to preclude entry due to wave action on an unfavorable tide and be later than the hours they kept at PR. We called ahead and payed this out for them and begged for mercy and permission t go directly to Blaine Harbor if we could make it there. Names, DOB, ssn and all that exchanged fr all aboard.
This was denied initially but we were able to work up the chain f command and beyond that geography until we got folks that took account f the real danger to crew and craft. They approved Blaine if before 10 PM and agreed to send staff from Bellingham Airport by car t clear us and the vessel. Wow, so far s good I thought.
Well 10 PM is approaching and not close to port yet. The Bellingham agent calls us for an update. (Really?). We report our situation and he responds by saying he going home thirty minutes the opposite direction, gives me his home number because his government cell will not work there and agrees to drive one hour to Blaine to check us in should we succeed in reaching that port.
We finally approach the harbor, give him a heads up by phone and he finishes clearing us and importing the vessel at 2 AM and treats us in an extremely civil though serious matter as the consummate professional he appeared to be.
I am eternally grateful and respectful for what they do and how they treated us. We failed in any number of ways to uphold our responsibility in the process yet they still got it done.
I would like to think that we had the right attitude, kept them informed four situation and intent the best we could but still.....we got better than we deserved from them.

Hats off to CBP from my ship.
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Old 08-26-2016, 09:55 PM   #26
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Its good to hear such an account, glad it turned out well in the end. Govt agents are govt agents, some good, some great, some not so much.
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Old 08-26-2016, 10:30 PM   #27
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I can second the East German Stasi treatment by CBP in Roche Harbor. The contrast could not have been clearer. We chartered out of Bellingham and entered Canada at Poet's Cove, Pender Island. You walk up the dock, get a number at the phone box, get a friendly welcome to Canada, and you're done, off to drinks at the resort. We re-entered the US in Roche. The CBP agent, mirrored sunglasses, jackboots and all, made us stand in a line against the boat and interrogated each one of us down the line, like he was doing a shakedown in a penitentiary, then he disappeared with our passports for half an hour while we stood there. I didn't know whether to be angry, embarrassed, or ashamed of the authority in my own country. That was last year. This year we chartered out of Nanaimo and stayed in Canada for the duration, so thankfully we never had to repeat that experience or be treated like that at any US port.
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Old 08-26-2016, 10:57 PM   #28
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Where did you try to use it that they said all the above? Must have been Michigan. They don't accept SVRS. Did you end up using OARS? For NY it was easy, just calling 1-800-827-2851. We called that number and we were in. Just gave them the float plan number.



We left the US from Oswego, NY, returned in the 1000 Islands area (Heart Island). We called the SVRS number and they claimed no record of us on any Federal database they could access. Interesting, because my wife's high level security clearance (in conjunction with her work as a forensic scientist) always pops up whenever her passport is scanned on re-entry to the US. I got the feeling the CBP,HS & USCG information systems are not too well integrated...

The in-person check-in was quick, routine and cordial both in NY last fall and a couple of weeks ago at Roche when we checked in on a charter boat.
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:03 PM   #29
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We came back from a trip to B.C. and checked into Friday Harbor, The customs agent we got I had dealt with before.. and I though .. oh great.. here we go again. I was the only one off the boat ( I have done this in a LOT of countries and know the dance ) I went through the formalities and thought he had possibly gone to sensitivity training recently when he asked me where one of our guests as located.. I replied "on the boat".. his reply "get him in here" .. I retrieved guest and customs guy proceeds to dress him down as I watch through the window.. guest walks out shaking head and says " he wants to see you".. I think oh great. Custom's guy goes off on me about not getting crew papers " in order " as he pretty much throws the passports at me.. come to find out my guest.. who had used his recently renewed passport to fly to Europe and Morocco and back had failed to sign his passport ..he had done customs in L.A. ( where they didn't notice lack of signature). I finally had had enough and told the schmuck W.T.F. it is not my job to snoop into peoples passport and then told him " whatever dude " and walked out. I figured I was going to get yelled at the least but he sat there and didn't say a thing.

As a side note I typically treat Customs agents with the same respect as members of the armed forces as I grew up in a Air Force household.. but all this guy deserved was the finger.

My experience with Canadian customs has always been positive.. it is Our agents that treat us all like criminals

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Old 08-27-2016, 12:31 AM   #30
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Where did you try to use it that they said all the above? Must have been Michigan. They don't accept SVRS. Did you end up using OARS? For NY it was easy, just calling 1-800-827-2851. We called that number and we were in. Just gave them the float plan number.



We left the US from Oswego, NY, returned in the 1000 Islands area (Heart Island). We called the SVRS number and they claimed no record of us on any Federal database they could access. Interesting, because my wife's high level security clearance (in conjunction with her work as a forensic scientist) always pops up whenever her passport is scanned on re-entry to the US. I got the feeling the CBP,HS & USCG information systems are not too well integrated...

The in-person check-in was quick, routine and cordial both in NY last fall and a couple of weeks ago at Roche when we checked in on a charter boat.
You had entered your float plan and called the SVRS number and they couldn't find it? That is strange. Heart Island is clearly listed as accepting SVRS. We entered in Buffalo and had no problem. We called the number, got clearance and then entered with no issue.

We were not able to use it returning into Michigan later.

Like you, we've had no issues checking in whether in Washington, Florida, New York or Michigan.
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Old 08-27-2016, 05:54 PM   #31
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Well Bob, knowing the rules are the Captain's duty. Quite simply you snuck into the country and were likely assigned a red check mark for your future travels by boat.
Bob, There is a lot of truth in Sunchaser's statement. This has absolutely nothing to do with the other issues that are off point here. You as the captain are responsible to know the customs procedures. There were countless times I heard U.S. and Canadians boats calling the USCG on VHF 16 asking how they could get ahold of customs on the radio as they did not know the check-in points! Really? Sir you have that responsibility.

Unfortunately for you, based on your actions, do not be surprised if you are now truly flagged and reentry into the U.S. or Canada (or any other country) will subject your vessel to additional searches and delays when re-entering.

Sorry to seem so blunt, but that is reality.
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Old 08-27-2016, 08:08 PM   #32
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Is there USCG Vessel Traffic Service radar/communications coverage in the PNW area? Would it be helpful to maintain radio contact with VTS when approaching the border?

To a guy like me who never leaves his local waters (SF Bay/CA Delta), this sounds like a scheduling and logistics nightmare jumping through all the hoops in the proper sequence. When I transit sensitive or restricted areas, I check in with SFO VTS to confirm no restrictions are in place then remain on freq for advisories. It makes me feel better that they know I'm there and and changes can be easily coordinated.

If it's possible and practical, I'd favor speaking to the USCG before and after crossing the border just so there are no surprises. It's what I always did on the job and seems like a natural compliment to the system in which we operate.
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Old 08-27-2016, 08:48 PM   #33
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My .02 on US customs. We went on a train trip from our cruise ship in the US, I forget what port. We went into the Yukon Territory. The Canadian folks were very polite and jovial. They were dressed in stylish military fatigues.

Re-entering the US after being on Canadian soil for no more than an hour a group of kids, <25 YO all kitted out for a SWAT evolution boards the train, each with semi auto MP4 and Beretta side arms, Tasers, Mace the whole "I am cool Kit"

Demanded our passports, grumped and gruffed at us, as we old folks may have had an extra quart of Maple syrup or whatever they were worried about. I am very pro 2A citizen was truly embarrassed by their behavior.

Senior citizens one hour in Canada?

I had the balls to ask one kid about the customs checks they were doing in Chula Vista, he tossed my passport back at me and strutted off in his Jack boots!
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Old 08-27-2016, 10:08 PM   #34
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To FlyWright, yes there is of course a VTS in the Puget Sound region and beyond, just like pretty much everywhere there is lots of traffic. There was none in SE AK when last I worked on tugs but that was many years ago and there may be now, but we did check in with Vancouver upon entering CN waters northbound and Prince Rupert southbound.
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Old 08-29-2016, 12:16 AM   #35
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Can't touch the U.S., even with an anchor, until you have permission from CBP. That's rule #1. The same applies to Canada. If you have a problem that requires you to stop before you've cleared, inform customs and ask for permission.

FWIW, I just cleared U.S. Customs in Roche Harbor. Friendly, efficient, and professional. Just a few minutes chatting with the officer, mostly about living aboard the boat, and I was welcomed back home. I'd previously had bad experiences at Roche, but maybe things have changed for the better?
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