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Old 25-05-2019, 17:39   #1
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North Channel: International Border Navigation

Hi all,

I’m looking for some advice. I’ve done a lot of research, but am still a little confused as to proper requirements here.

I’m a Canadian boater with a 34’ cruiser. I have spent my life boating the Georgian Bay coast and as such have never had to worry about international borders.

However, this year I’ll be cruising up the Georgian Bay coast to Killarney, through Little Current to the North Channel, and through Sault Ste. Marie into Superior for an ultimate destination of Thunder Bay.

Obviously, I’ve studied charts thoroughly and generally have solid routes in mind. However, I’m still lightheaded after trying to confirm the requirements for crossing over the Canada/US border within the North Channel between Manitoulin and SSM. Some of, if not all of, the best routes require crossing over the over-water Canada/United States international border. From my planning, there are times that I’m likely to cross the border for a few hours or less before crossing back in to Canada - with this occurring several times. Basically, I foresee myself regularly crossing back and forth between the countries, not planning to anchor or spend a night on the US side but simply daytime cruising time.

Basically, what do I need to do?! What are the customs requirements for reporting to US CBP (do I need to in some fashion report to CBP *EVERY* time I cross in to US waters - likely to be multiple times during a single day?) and the same for when I cross back into Canadian waters (my country of citizenship).

Or, so I simply need to have proof of citizenship on board and in the event that I’m stopped by CBP I report to them at that time?

I’m a little dazed. I read something about a sticker/plate for my vessel that essentially (I think) is notice that I am entering the United States over water, but I also read I need to call/radio in *every* time I cross the over-water border.

For any North Channel veterans - particularly if there are any with experience from a Canadian citizenship point of view - any and all advice is GREATLY appreciated. The arrival by water customs reporting info on the CBP website is confusing at best, misleading at worst, and the CBSA isn’t much better for the Canadian side.

Thanks for any assistance. I am indebted to all who may help me plan this trip and adequately understand what my responsibilities are when crossing into both countries as a Canadian citizen. Again, I do not plan on landing ashore in the United States or spending any time at anchor - only daytime cruising before crossing back into Canada.

Cheers
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Old 25-05-2019, 17:48   #2
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canisbay View Post
Hi all,

Iím looking for some advice. Iíve done a lot of research, but am still a little confused as to proper requirements here.

Iím a Canadian boater with a 34í cruiser. I have spent my life boating the Georgian Bay coast and as such have never had to worry about international borders.

However, this year Iíll be cruising up the Georgian Bay coast to Killarney, through Little Current to the North Channel, and through Sault Ste. Marie into Superior for an ultimate destination of Thunder Bay.

Obviously, Iíve studied charts thoroughly and generally have solid routes in mind. However, Iím still lightheaded after trying to confirm the requirements for crossing over the Canada/US border within the North Channel between Manitoulin and SSM. Some of, if not all of, the best routes require crossing over the over-water Canada/United States international border. From my planning, there are times that Iím likely to cross the border for a few hours or less before crossing back in to Canada - with this occurring several times. Basically, I foresee myself regularly crossing back and forth between the countries, not planning to anchor or spend a night on the US side but simply daytime cruising time.

Basically, what do I need to do?! What are the customs requirements for reporting to US CBP (do I need to in some fashion report to CBP *EVERY* time I cross in to US waters - likely to be multiple times during a single day?) and the same for when I cross back into Canadian waters (my country of citizenship).

Or, so I simply need to have proof of citizenship on board and in the event that Iím stopped by CBP I report to them at that time?

Iím a little dazed. I read something about a sticker/plate for my vessel that essentially (I think) is notice that I am entering the United States over water, but I also read I need to call/radio in *every* time I cross the over-water border.

For any North Channel veterans - particularly if there are any with experience from a Canadian citizenship point of view - any and all advice is GREATLY appreciated. The arrival by water customs reporting info on the CBP website is confusing at best, misleading at worst, and the CBSA isnít much better for the Canadian side.

Thanks for any assistance. I am indebted to all who may help me plan this trip and adequately understand what my responsibilities are when crossing into both countries as a Canadian citizen. Again, I do not plan on landing ashore in the United States or spending any time at anchor - only daytime cruising before crossing back into Canada.

Cheers
I think you're over thinking this. Just go. Technically it's been said if you cross into US waters and return to a Canadian port you have to call in to Canadian authorities. Has anybody been charged for not doing this? Like I said just go.
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Old 25-05-2019, 17:50   #3
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

I’m not as concerned with crossing back into Canada as I am with being stopped by a US CBP vessel and being arrested for illegally entering the United States.
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Old 25-05-2019, 17:50   #4
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

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I think you're over thinking this. Just go. Technically it's been said if you cross into US waters and return to a Canadian port you have to call in to Canadian authorities. Has anybody been charged for not doing this? Like I said just go.
Iím not as concerned with crossing back into Canada as I am with being stopped by a US CBP vessel and being arrested for illegally entering the United States without properly reporting.
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Old 25-05-2019, 17:56   #5
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

I guess you started two threads on this:

Canadian citizen here. Have done the trip a number of times both ways. Bottom line is, you can cross the border without having to clear into either country as long as you do not touch land in any way. No docking, no dinghying ashore and no anchoring.

You can even go through the American locks at the Sault without clearing into the USA, although I certainly donít recommend this. The Canadian locks are far easier for us recreational boaters.
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Old 25-05-2019, 18:02   #6
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

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I guess you started two threads on this:

Canadian citizen here. Have done the trip a number of times both ways. Bottom line is, you can cross the border without having to clear into either country as long as you do not touch land in any way. No docking, no dinghying ashore and no anchoring.

You can even go through the American locks at the Sault without clearing into the USA, although I certainly donít recommend this. The Canadian locks are far easier for us recreational boaters.
Thanks Mike. Yeah for whatever reason I thought the GL destination one didnít post.

Appreciate the feedback here. Makes things much simpler. Thank you very much!

Cheers
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Old 25-05-2019, 18:06   #7
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

That’s a great trip you have planned. I cruised the North Channel and Lake Superior for over a decade. I’m based in Newfoundland these days, but I still miss the Big Lake. The Canadian shore is a wilderness cruiser’s paradise.

If you need any info or advice, feel free to ask. Happy to help if I can.
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Old 25-05-2019, 18:23   #8
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

Cheers appreciate that. I probably will ask some questions.

I’ve spent years cruising Georgian Bay and the eastern end of the North Channel, but never went further up to Superior. The pristine wilderness along the eastern and northern shores of Georgian Bay and the North Channel are literally breathtaking. I’m looking forward to cruising the eastern Superior coast all the way to TBay. Plan on taking my time and enjoying the scenery along the way.

Again I appreciate the advice. I may be in touch!

Cheers
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Old 26-05-2019, 10:31   #9
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

Everything I've ever understood is that you would be OK so long as you don't put into a US port. Crossing the water border, even several times, isn't a problem if you don't anchor in US waters or put in to a US port.
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Old 26-05-2019, 10:48   #10
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

as far as I know, if you do not touch land ( I believe you can anchor, to wait out a tide, or the dark, etc) or have any physical contact with another boat you are considered not to have entered the US and you don't have to call in
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Old 26-05-2019, 11:14   #11
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

FWIW: Lake Superior, like the other Great Lakes, water levels are "high".
Currently (as of May 14/19), the Lake Superior water level is approximately 183.71 m IGLD85*.

The monthly mean water level of Lake Superior was 35 cm above its period-of-record (1918-2018) average for April, the 2nd highest April level on record. For reference this level is just 7 cm below the record high April level set in 1986.

* The current datum water level station is located at Father Point/Rimouski, located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, and is the reference station used for IGLD 85.
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Old 26-05-2019, 11:50   #12
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

When travelling across borders like you have described, you are a "vessel in transit" and DO NOT have to clear out/in/out/in to Canada and the USA. All types of vessels, large and small, do this every day as they make their way along the St Mary's, but also in Lake St Clair in the waterways there. The conditions are that you MAY NOT return to the same port from which you departed, and you MAY NOT stop in the USA, whether to set foot on land OR to anchor. (When you anchor, you are "grounded" in the country, and must check in)

For US vessels, we may use the Canada Lock (radio call: "Canada Canal", as I recall) without checking in to Canada. Using mooring lines inside the lock chamber is a special case, and is not considering touching Canadian soil, which would require clearances. A previous poster said the same is true for Canadian boats using the US canals. (Use the Canadian ones, unless you want to share the chamber with a 1000 footer!)

HOWEVER, you can be stopped and boarded at ANY TIME in ANY water in the area, probably by a patrol boat manned by both US and Canadian crew. Have your documentation up to date and use the key phrase "vessel in transit" and all will be fine...

FYI, it is well established under law in the USA that there is NO "expectation of privacy" on a vessel, even if it is your primary/only residence. Law enforcement may board and search at any time in any location, without any level of suspicion or reason ("without cause"), including when tied up in a marina.
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Old 26-05-2019, 18:22   #13
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

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Originally Posted by peter loveridge View Post
as far as I know, if you do not touch land ( I believe you can anchor, to wait out a tide, or the dark, etc) or have any physical contact with another boat you are considered not to have entered the US and you don't have to call in
No real tides on the GL (there are tiny ones, but inconsequential), but I donít think anchoring for tides is ever acceptable to retain your transit status. I know anchoring for darkness is not acceptable. I did it once. The border folks told me ó in no uncertain terms ó that they could now seize my boat and bring other legal forces to bear. Donít do it.

I think the only valid excuse for anchoring is when your crew or vessel are in immediate and dire threat. Otherwise, donít touch land if you want to remain in transit.

Gordís point about high water is good to keep in mind. It might affect the flow of the St. Marys River. The river can have a noticeble current, especially in choke points, and just downstream of the dam near the Saults (Soo Michigan and Sault Ontario). These currents will be stronger if they are letting out more water at Sault Ste. Marie.
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Old 27-05-2019, 01:15   #14
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

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Iím not as concerned with crossing back into Canada as I am with being stopped by a US CBP vessel and being arrested for illegally entering the United States without properly reporting.
Fishing boats from other countries are often seen in US waters. If stopped by US officials just tell them that it is your belief that as long as you obey US regulations for fishing, you are OK and not entered into US until you touch land. They may want to inspect your boat and have authority to do so. Play dumb and be nice, no weapons or drugs, no problems.
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Old 27-05-2019, 03:50   #15
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Re: North Channel: International Border Navigation

I specifically asked the office in Houlton, Maine ( HQ for NE) if I was going from Grand Manan to Mount Desert Island, the nearest point of entry, Supposed to be one in Jonesport, but it is not manned and the officers don't like coming from Eastport could I anchor to wait out a tide, or anchor as I didn't want to go though fields of lobster pots in the dark. Perfectly fine, he said, as long as you don't go ashore. Now, as anyone whos done this a few times knows, different districts interpret the rules differently
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