On Saturday, June 25th, 2016, my wife, Denise and I left Midway Marina on Catawba Island/Port Clinton, OH via our 30' Sea Ray power boat
named Pure Pleasure at 10:00am. We stopped for fuel
and a pump
out at Anchors Away Marina on our way out of West Harbor and dropped anchor
in Canadian Water
near West Dock/Mosquito Bay/Fish Point off of Pelee Island. We were meeting friends on another vessel that were already anchored in that area. Prior to leaving, we spoke with several boaters in our area, my Dad who is retired Coast Guard and the couple that we were meeting, who have been doing this trip for 15 years to see what the procedure was for entering and anchoring
in Canadian Waters.
As soon as we dropped anchor off of Pelee Island, I called 1-888-CAN-PASS. I spoke to a female agent and answered all of her questions before she issued us a report number.
She asked the standard questions; who was on board, if we had firearms, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, pets
, plants and Passport information. I gave her my Passport Number and my wife's Enhanced Michigan Drivers Licence Number. She asked where we were, I told her that we were off of the Southern part of the Island which I believed was called Fish
Point. The agent said she didn't know where that was, I told her that is was near West Dock
. She asked us what our intentions were and how long we planned on staying. I told her that we were going to have lunch on the boat
, swim with our friends that were also anchored where we were, walk up and down the beach on Fish
Point and have dinner at the Pelee Island Winery and that we were planning on leaving around 7:00pm that day.
She gave me a Report Number and told me to write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the back of the boat so that if there were any patrol boats out they would be able to see that we had already checked in. She also informed me to take our Passports and the Report Number with us when we went to shore and ended the conversation with "enjoy your stay in Canada".
We had lunch on our boat before our friend picked us up in his dinghy
to take us to shore to walk up and down the beautiful beach and take pictures. After that we decided to go to the main land to check things out and have a bottle of wine before dinner. So, we got on our friends boat which he pulled up his anchor and moved North up the coast line so that we were closer to where the winery was. He re-dropped his anchor and then my wife & I and he and his wife got into his dinghy
and again went to shore.
He tied his dinghy off and we walked up the hill to the road that the winery is on. When we got to the road, a mini van pulled up and 2 Canadian Border Patrol Agents got out to greet us. One agent seemed to have an attitude and wasn't very friendly, the other agent was friendly and didn't seem to be too concerned in what we were doing. They said what's up guys, what are you doing. We said hello and that we were heading over to the winery. He asked if we had checked in and we told him yes, that we checked in around 11:30am that morning. He asked if we had our Report Numbers and we told him yes and gave him the numbers. He then asked if we had our Passports and we again told him yes and handed those to him as well. He asked who we checked in with and we told him 1-888-CAN-PASS. He said that we didn't check in with him and we again told him that we called the 888 number when we dropped anchor. He said that the agent that we spoke with was in Windsor. We said okay. He then said if we want to come to "his Island" we need to check in with him and that he seized a boat an hour and a half ago and that he wouldn't hesitate to do it again. He asked us if we were vagrants, and we told him no. He then asked where we told the agent we were docked and we told him that we told her that we were anchored near West Dock
. He then said that where we were "didn't look like no God damn West Dock to him". We apologized and were being very respectful as we didn't want to get into trouble or cause any problems.
The agent then told our wives to go ahead and go to the winery that we needed to go with him so "he could teach us a lesson". He told us that we needed to walk a mile and a half or so to his office so that "we could properly check in" and that he couldn't give us a ride because they didn't have a caged vehicle and we were "God damn vagrants".
We walked to the agent's office and answered a series of questions, basically the same questions that we answered with the agent in the morning before she issued our Report Number. After answering his questions the agent told us to wait outside and he would let us know when he wanted us to come back in.
After 3 hours, one of the agents came out and said that we could come back in. The agent with the attitude said "well gentlemen, as of right now your boats belong to the Canadian Government
, that they were under seizure". We were flabbergasted and asked him why because we felt that we didn't do anything wrong. He said that we didn't check in properly. I tried to explain that I thought that we were okay because I called the 888 number and received a Report Number. He asked me how old I was and I told him that I was 39 years old which he replied "well you're not a God damn 12 year old boy and I should've known better to find out what the proper check in procedure is and that if I come to his Island, I need to check in with him". The other 2 agents were saying and doing nothing, it seemed as if they felt bad for us. The agent then said that he was going to cut us a break and write us up for a Level 1 Infraction and that if we each paid $1000 Canadian we could get our boats back.
They said that they didn't accept American checks but they would accept Canadian or American cash or Credit Cards. I didn't have that much money on me so I tried to use my credit card. I didn't report to my credit card company that I was leaving the Country, as I wasn't planning on making any charges, so as soon as they swiped my card the credit card company froze my account and declined my card. The same thing happened to my friend when they tried to run his credit card. They said that our boats were to remain with them until we could make payment and that we could take a ferry
back to the United States and come back when we had the money and get our boats back.
Luckily I had my cell phone
and tried to call my credit card company to get the card unfrozen and out of fraud. I tried 5 times and kept getting disconnected due to poor cell reception
at which point I asked the agent if I could use their phone
, one agent said sure, but the agent who was giving us a hard time then said "no, the cord wouldn't reach where I was standing". Fortunately, the 6th attempt with my cell phone
went through and I was able to touch base with my Credit Card Company and get the card to work
. My friend wasn't able to get in touch with his credit card company or bank, so I paid for both of our boats to be released, which was $2000 Canadian, $1,618 US. He then told us to go back outside while he filled out our release forms.
45 minutes later he told us to come back in and sign our paperwork. He then told us that we were all set and that we were free to go anywhere in Canada that we pleased for as long as we wanted. He also informed me that I would be ineligible for a NEXUS Card for at least 5 years and "good luck trying to get one even then" and that I was going to be placed on a watch list and anytime that I wanted to travel anywhere that they would look at me hard and scrutinize me because I now had a record
. They never searched us or our boats, they never even asked. Our boats remained where they were anchored the entire time. We walked back to the winery to get our wives and tell them what happened and then got back on my friends dinghy and asked him to drop us off on our boat. As soon as we got back on our boat I pulled the anchor up and hightailed it back to the United States. We wanted nothing more to do with Canada after the experience I had and the way we were treated and wanted to be back home. We will NEVER go back to Canada. Never.
As soon as we got back to our dock On Catawba Island/Port Clinton, OH we drove to Brand's Marina and used the Homeland Security Phone
to check back in, with no problems.
I don't know if there is anything that can be done, but I really don't want to be on a watch list. I am a law abiding, tax paying, God fearing, American Citizen without any record