U.S. Customs procedures on Cape Cod? - SailNet Community

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Old 07-09-2008
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U.S. Customs procedures on Cape Cod?

After spending many happy hours on the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) website, sailnet.com, and other forums, I remained not 100% clear on Customs' procedures, so I eventually called CBP. Turns out, it appears, that some of the CBP website content is wrong. My wife and I, both U.S. citizens, are planning on returning to the U.S. from Nova Scotia, making landfall at the Cape Cod Canal, then moving on to Connecticut. The CBP website states that Provincetown, MA, is a port of entry, but the P-town Harbormaster says that is not true. Please verify if the following is correct: The port of inspection (apparently that is different from a port of entry) I should use is New Bedford. It is ok to transit the Cape Cod Canal before clearing officialdom (perhaps you get style points for hoisting a Q-flag). I should proceed without stopping through the Canal toward New Bedford. When about one hour out from New Bedford I should call 207-532-2131 ext 255. Of course, I should have all documentation handy for this call such as passport numbers of all aboard, Customs decal number, etc. I will probably get cleared via this call, and I should note the clearance number issued by the officer and the badge number of the officer. If a personal inspection is required, that will take place at the State Pier in front of the Custom's Office in New Bedford. Contrary to the CBP website, call-ins are accepted 24/7 not 0800-1700 Mon - Fri. Easy as that. Have I missed anything?
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Old 07-09-2008
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I'd just go straight home...is that a bad? I cannot believe that anyone could or would pick your boat of of the horde transiting the Canal on a summer day. On most of my trips Boston-Cape and back I never see a USCG boat, let alone a Customs boat, only the Canal police watching for no-wake violators.
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Old 07-09-2008
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Pre 9/11 and Homeland Security and etc I used to bring boats in from the Caribbean to their homeport and call the closest customs office on arrival and they'd clear me in over the phone or come to the boat. And I'd not worry about clearing until you actually came into a port (Ct?)
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Old 07-09-2008
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A 207 area code would indicate a MAINE phone number, not a Massachusetts one.

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When about one hour out from New Bedford I should call 207-532-2131 ext 255.
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Sailingdog, yes, that's right, the number reaches Houlton (?) Maine, not Massachusetts. Apparently this is a centralized office that handles call-ins for all of New England. So, although it seems that you are to proceed toward New Bedford, you do not call New Bedford, you call Maine. One of many sources of my vague suspicion that my understanding of this system may not be correct. See:
New England - CBP.gov
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sad to say

while I'm an avid fan of proper procedure when it comes to checking in. I'm sad to say that I don't do it any more. US customs is the most difficult to work with this side of Panama. The answers are never the same when you talk to two different offices. Some say you can call in to clear some say you can't. The user fee decal I thought was supposed to help you clear in but they ask you the same questions any way as if you did not have one. Except for airports I haven't cleared in in 7 years.
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Are you a participant in the Nexus program? If not, merely calling isn't going to work for you.

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Participants in these programs may report their arrival to CBP by calling the number below. Unless directed by a CBP Officer, participants in these programs do not have to report for an in-person inspection.
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Scary stuff. I wonder how many unchecked boats enter the country every day. Funsail - I am not trying to pick on you - I understand where you are coming from and you just want to go home and not have the hassle. But what scares me is that I am sure it is not lost on others who might have a darker purpose that this is something that people can usually get away with.
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you are quite correct

I started to post what you just said but thought it would rapidly get off topic. I have lived in the keys for 15 years and read about human cargo smuggling almost everyday. There are hundreds and I do mean hundreds of people successfully brought to south Florida every year. That is a scary thought.
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Old 07-26-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Are you a participant in the Nexus program? If not, merely calling isn't going to work for you.

Quote:
Participants in these programs may report their arrival to CBP by calling the number below. Unless directed by a CBP Officer, participants in these programs do not have to report for an in-person inspection.
Sailingdog, the evidence you provided does not support your claim. The fact that members of "alternative inspection programs" may report by calling in does not imply that anybody who is not a member may not report by calling in (even if it does informally hint at the fact).

I make this point, not [solely] out of a desire to be pedantic, but also because it speaks to a situation I was in this morning/last night.

I arrived late at Point Roberts, WA, having sailed from Vancouver, BC. I called the number for after-hours reporting listed on a sign at the marina, and was redirected to another office, which took my information and told me to wait for an inspection at 8am the following morning, because I was not a NEXUS/I-68 member. I called the following morning and was told that they had no record of my entry, so I went through the twenty-questions again, and inspectors arrived at the customs dock at 9pm and issued me a warning.

Apparently, they said, I was not permitted to call in to report. The warning they issued did not say this, however, and upon request they could not show me in the warning where it said what I had done that I was not supposed to do, or what I omitted that was required. They also could not tell me what the correct procedure for non NEXUS/I-68 members arriving after-hours was. They did say that "Point Roberts is not the right kind of port for that," (paraphrased), though PR is listed as a port of inspection on the CBP website.

The CBP officers were very courteous in a "I don't understand what I'm doing I'm just doing my job" sort of way, and tried to convince me that there was no problem and I wasn't in trouble; I was just being issued a warning. I tried to explain that if you only get one warning for doing something that is not disallowed, then the first warning is half a punishment... but I don't think I got the point across.

Anyway, as much as I don't like sticking myself into one more government database, I will probably sign up for NEXUS, if only to make it easier for customs folks to do their jobs. If anybody happens to know what *IS* the correct procedure for after-hours reporting for non-Nexus members in Washington state, I'd love to hear it. Also, I'll be writing to the CBP to get some clarification, and will post what I find out.
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