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Old 18-11-2012, 02:59   #1
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How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

I am in Canada and purchased my first boat a few months ago. Next year I anticipate making my first cross boarder trips in the Puget Sound area.
I am absolutely paranoid about crossing the border, getting the royal sniffer dog treatment and having the Customs agents find old traces of illegal substances. I don't want to end up in jail or have my boat impounded/sold off.
The boat was purchased used and I have no reason to suspect the previous owner carried anything illegal. I have however not pulled up the flooring or examined all possible hiding places (not that I would find anything if it was only there in small traces)

I am sure that neither the Canadian nor the US government is interested in 'testing' boats for possible drugs outside a normal border crossing situation.

Is there some kind of 'service' available that would clear your boat for piece of mind ??? Something like a dog sniffer service so that I can know that I won't be thrown in jail for something I had no part in ?
How do you guys deal with this if you purchase a boat in Mexico for example and want to bring it into the US?

On a related note, how do you verify that crew does not bring illegal substances aboard ? Even if you did search everybody, I am sure that there are many ways that a person could bring 'stuff' aboard in small quantities for presumably personal use that later could be hidden on the boat itself making the captain/owner responsible.

What about delivery captains - how do you verify that you are not inadvertently transport illegal substances hidden on the boat ?

Rightly or wrongly, these scenarios scare the crap out of me when I think about all the stories I have heard (even without being able to cite specific examples) about people that have been thrown in jail for trace amounts of drugs.

What do you do to stay on the good side of the law ?
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Old 18-11-2012, 03:19   #2
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..... Be less paranoid would help!
I am sure Canadian customs would be willing to dog search your boat if asked politely ... You could also suggest to them to use your boat for a dog training session. I would propose to them to bring the boat to a convenient location ... Surely the would not be willing to travel out of their way to do a favor for you.

Crew: reasonable precaution is necessary but body search or checking every toothpaste tube .... This is paranoid. If you don't have a basic trust in your crew, better stay at home and don't go abroad.
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Old 18-11-2012, 04:10   #3
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

Concerned yes, paranoid no. Some place in SE Asia have the death penalty, even for relatively small quantities of drugs.

Thought crossed my mind as well when I bought, but as I bought from an 84 yo gent I was not too concerned about illegal substances. But, as could only happen in the USA, I received a panic phone call from the PO 6 months after I bought it. He thought there were some guns left aboard, and he told me where they were hidden. I checked, but the space was empty - his sons had cleaned the boat and obviously knew about the guns. But had not returned the 3 guns to him!

It reminded me of the recent case of the Australian skipper who spent several months in an Indonesian jail because he failed to declare some firearms. Time out of his life , not to mention the cost and hassle of getting it resolved etc.

Crossing borders these days with some luggage that you packed yourself is one thing. Crossing and making declarations in a new boat is something else. I think the OP has a good question.
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Old 18-11-2012, 06:42   #4
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

A double edged sword.
What happens if the boat is declared "clean", and later attracts attention, and illegal substance is found.
This happened to a friend who purchased a car at auction, only to find out later that it had been siezed from a convicted drug courier.
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Old 18-11-2012, 07:19   #5
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

I agree with Gabilo. I have found customs to be very helpful and friendly all over the pacific and asia. I was only ever boarded in New Caledonia and Indonesia but niether were a problem. The Indo customs and immigration were happy with the bottle of spirit and a carton of cigarettes but that is generally the way in asia. Good luck and dont go to Australia or NZ although I found Australia to be the worst and expensive.
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Old 18-11-2012, 07:20   #6
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

On the crew question there is realistically little you can do. But write up a list do's and don'ts, specify in there that you do not allow drugs of any kind on your boat unless they are prescription and if so these must be registered with the captain. Make each member sign it.
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Old 18-11-2012, 08:21   #7
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

The only way to determine that your boat is drug free, is by chemical analysis; using chromatography and mass spectrometry. Find a local general testing lab that does chemical/drug analysis. You will have to collect and send a few "swabs" from various areas of the boat. You need to wear gloves when doing that. You need to label these swabs, as to what area of the boat they were collected from. Each individual swab should not be touched by hand, and should be placed in a glass container. The testing lab should provide you with the supplies you need and how to collect samples. Using chromatography and spectroscopy analytical methods, a lab should be able to determine concentration levels of most common drugs (legal or illegal) found on the swabs collected. Try to negotiate a price for these analysis', as you are not a "commercial" customer. A pricey cautionary move, but it is worth it. (The cheapest alternative is to bleach clean ALL surfaces with 10% bleach solution, then use copious amount of water to get rid of the bleach residue. Careful with the use of bleach, as it can corrode almost all your metals on-board.)
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Old 18-11-2012, 11:35   #8
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

As a Delivery Skipper, this is a constant worry. I have asked the local police to come onboard with K9 once and as they consider it a good training exercise, were quite happy to do it. I got a bit of paper from them with the date of the inspection but I doubt if it would help all that much?

I only ever had one problem, in Grand Cayman where I spent one whole day having the boat torn up around me in a search for illegal substances. They found nothing but got exceedingly excited when they discovered a piece of sh*t close to the holding tank. A field test revealed that that was exactly what it was! I invted them to try a taste-test......I'll not go willingly to Grand Cayman again! Tony
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Old 18-11-2012, 11:49   #9
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

Other than a thorough cleaning I wouldn't worry about it. But if it concerns you most local law enforcement agencies are likely to be willing to do an inspection. For them it's good training, and they get to go play on boats instead of doing real work.
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Old 18-11-2012, 17:21   #10
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

Thanks guys, I will try the local police to see if they want practice on a boat and I will try to be a tad less paranoid (that will be a tough one though).
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Old 18-11-2012, 18:33   #11
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

Being proactive is commendable but there can be a double edged sword in today’s world of electronic intelligence. The inspection may only be noted as a “drug search”, which is then tied to your yachts name and registry and could haunt you at every crossing.

Better to do your own thorough inspection and cleaning and be sure to have every crew sign a statement that you ‘support the International War on Drugs’ .

This is what I used on deliveries and large yachts:

Drugs
The Owner of this yacht is an active member of the international war against drugs.

A) The Crew are not permitted to have, bring or attempt to bring on board the Yacht, drugs and chemical preparations of any type, other than those drugs and chemical preparations prescribed by a physician or readily available in a pharmacy.

B) The Crew will be detained and handed over to the appropriate authorities if he or she brings or attempts to bring on board the Yacht drugs and chemical preparations of any type, other than those drugs and chemical preparations prescribed by a physician or readily available in a pharmacy.


Some background reading:

US Drug Control Policy and International Operations
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Old 18-11-2012, 18:45   #12
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

The important thing is to make sure you've smoked up everything onboard before you cross the boarder into tbe US. Really, man you are getting too worked up on this. If a drug dog starts a ferocious wag fest, then your boat will be throughly searched. It could get searched for lots of reasons. Like everytime I enter Canada and they send someone down to the boat to ensure I'm not bringing more than a liter wine. Life's too short to spend it worrying about the outliers.
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Old 18-11-2012, 18:45   #13
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

It is probably more of a problem in your mind than in reality, Jd1. Your local police should be happy to run a sweep for practice to ensure your vessel is 'drug free'. Delivering boats on the west coast for many years, I had a crew who sailed with me on deliveries regularly who knew the rules and the consequences if they carried drugs aboard. They also realized we were prime targets for interdiction so were all super careful they were clean.
In over 25 years, the only problem I had occurred on a delivery of a US documented vessel from a southern Mexican port in the 90's. After querying the owner several times and being assured there were no firearms aboard, I delivered his boat to San Diego. Upon calling him to let him know his boat was back safe and sound in San Diego, he asked me to remove a panel in the master head and UPS a couple of pistols he had secreted aboard. Had I been boarded in Mexico by the Mexican Navy and they had found the arms, I'd still be in jail.
Needless to say, his name is out in Southern CA and no reputable skipper would do business with him. I deep-sixed the pistols in San Diego harbor and haven't heard from him since. Phil
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Old 18-11-2012, 19:43   #14
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

Pelagic - Never thought of that (the fact that a voluntary search could get you "listed" on a data base)! Oh well - too late now! Tony
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Old 18-11-2012, 20:03   #15
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Re: How to verify a new boat is "chemically (drugs) clean"

This advice was given to me by a retired senior state department official and FBI guy whom we consulted with on VIP Security.
Basically they opinioned that Intelligence Agencies have created a monster of electronic reports that can often become silly in the hands of an overzealous agent.
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