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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I am new to boating and keep my boat near Detroit. About 50-75% of the time I go out I cross into Canadian waters or just pass though while in the channel of the Detroit River. I have been told that most of the nice places to anchor in my area are in Canadian waters (Not staying overnight just somewhere for the kids to play in the water/beach for a few hours).

I'm unclear what the customs requirements are for these situations? My understanding is I'm supposed to let them know I'm there via phone. I was wondering what other folks do about this? I heard of several programs from boaters around my dock that most folks can't remember the name of and have not enrolled in yet that allow you to get a sticker or card of some sort to make these calls easier as I'm not real excited about requiring everyone that comes out with me to have a passport nor do I really want to keep my family's passports on board the boat all the time.

What are other folks that boat on Lake Erie doing other then ignoring the rules as I have been for the last month or maybe this is the norm (not sure of the consequences)?

I found something called CANPASS, which looks like could be the program folks were talking about and it would cost $80 a year for my wife and I (kids under 18 free), is anyone using this and is it worth it and what about guests on board? :CANPASS – Private Boats
 

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If you land in Canada, you have to notify Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). You will be given a number you must record as proof you've done so. Upon returning to the U.S., you have to notify U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and give them that number. Nobody but the ship's master/skipper is allowed to leave the boat until those requirements are met, going in either direction. Failure to abide by the rules can result in serious consequences, amongst them having your boat and all possessions confiscated, arrest, fines, etc.

The trick is: What defines "landing?" According to the Port Huron head of U.S. CBP, "landing" consists of either going ashore or hooking-up with a Canadian boat. Simply anchoring in Canadian waters does not constitute "landing." (Warning: I am not a lawyer. I'm only repeating what we were told at a club meeting, where a U.S. CBP agent held a seminar.)

The documents you spoke of, there are three, are as follows: I68, NEXUS and boat registration. Boat registration is only required for boats over 30' in length. I68 and NEXUS are joint U.S./Canada programs designed to speed the process of crossing the border each way. I68 is good for one year. (I don't recall the process or what it costs.) NEXUS is good for five (5) years and costs $50. They are each per-individual programs and they only help you if everybody on the boat is participating in either the I68 or NEXUS program.

Here's the U.S. DHS site for applying for NEXUS on-line: https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/

I don't know how obtaining an I68 or boat registration is accomplished.

When you do what you're doing, are you "landing?" I don't know. But I would suspect that if you're stopping in a part of Canadian waters that's shallow enough to walk on the bottom with your head above water, as with a beach, you very well may be. I would suggest you call both the U.S. CBP office in Detroit and the CBSA and ask.

Make no mistake: The authorities, particularly the U.S. authorities, have no sense of humour where these things are concerned.

Jim
 

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Lost on the water...
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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you it looks like I68 maybe what I want, I'm unclear if I need NEXUS to do it?

Did they happen to suggest one method over another?
 

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I sailed out of that area for a few years, most recently in 2006. I frequently went over to Pelee Island or other Canadian ports for the weekend, sometimes with (horror!) foreign nationals, such as Australians, Dutch and UK citizens.

I never got a CANPASS. I just turned up and dialed 888-CANPASS from the nearest phone, mobile or payphone, and told them who I was, who was on board and how long I was staying. If I were you, I'd gather the passports and give it a whirl the next time you land. Key word being land. If you aren't on land, you aren't in Canada.

The only time I ever got inspected was at Pelee and with only my girlfriend and dog aboard. The customs officers seemed like they had just gotten sick of being in the office and rolled out for a chat. They didn't come aboard or ask any probing questions, just the formalities.

The worst thing they can do is yell and demand you leave. I'm sure others will give lectures on the possibility of worse things happening, but it's not the reality of the area.

I'd go and see what happens. Everyone in that area bounces back and forth and no one wants any static.

One other bit. I've never called the US authorities. Ever. I don't see any reason to. It isn't like the USCG is sitting at the mouth of the harbor looking to ask questions after you did an overnight from Lake Erie Metropark to Leamington.

When around, I'd highly recommend overnights to Pelee for the winery and perfect beaches. Leamington is a distant second, behind as the marina is expensive and, high on the list because the mexican district in town has amazing, cheap dinners, despite the powerboaters being scared to go there.
 

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I would highly recomend the Nexus card. It is good for 5 years and can also be used to get in the faster lanes at the bridge crossings. It costs $50 which works out to $10 per year. It is free for those under 18 years old.
The I 68 is something like $20 per year and you have to get one every year.
The US side also considers anchoring in Canada waters as having entered Canada so you have to go through the checking back in process.

In Sarnia Port Huron we run a joint race program and this rule has made things rather difficult. When it is time for a US boat to be race comittee we have to alter the race course so they can anchor in US waters. And this is a mile or so from land.
 

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It isn't the USGC that is interested. It is Homeland Security. Specifically Customs and Immigration. You have left the country, assuming you landed in Canada, and are required to present yourself for reentry. If everyone on the boat has a Nexus card and you call within 30 minutes of arrival, you most probably will simply be cleared and not be required to go to a port of entry.
 

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A good general operating practice is - to never surprise customs. Cruising guides, pre-arrival phone calls, etc (communicate) will help you confirm what their expectations are going to be.
I always make a note of who I spoke to, badge number and which port of entry office they work in.
Local rules often change - it always makes things easier if a traveller is well informed and prepared.
 

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Dhs

I went to a seminar put on by DHS out of Detroit this spring. Here is the drill. If you go over the border by boat a lot and land in Canada get a Nexus card or an I-68 card. You also need a passports for you and your children and any crew. If you have an I-68 you can call Customs and Immigration up to 2hours before your return to the States and they will generally clear you through. If you don't you need to call customs when you return. You and the crew are required to stay with your boat until an agent is dispatched from the DHS office which is at the Ambassador Bridge. Expect to wait a couple of hours for the agent to arrive. The agent might be less than patient because he has just fought his way through traffic to see you. You must check in with Canadian customs when you land in Canada. For those of us in the Sandusky area we can use one of the call-in phones at Put in Bay or Cedar Point Marina to check back in. No need for an I-68 or Nexus in that case.

For the guy giving the advice not to worry about it, it is ill-advised. Just because you haven't been caught doesn't mean that you won't get a nasty letter in the mail for the first offense and big fine/confiscation on the second. All of these federal agencies are looking for revenue. And yes we have been stopped and boarded by the USCG twice in the last 5 years north of North Bass Island. Both times it was a unit out of Chicago attached to DHS doing border patrol. The local Coasties are too busy doing S&R operations. I wouldn't want to have a bunch of foreign nationals on board if hadn't properly checked in.

BTW- The agent claimed that Canadian C&I and DHS doesn't officially trade information. He winked and said that was "officially" which did not preclude an unofficial fax from Canadian C&I occasionally. The implication was that you don't want to piss off the Canadian C&I guys. A quick fax to one of their buddies in the US and your return trip might be a bit longer than you bargained for.
 

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Key word being land. If you aren't on land, you aren't in Canada.
As I stated earlier: Bad assumption. Both Canadian and U.S. authorities regard rafting-off a Canadian boat in Canadian waters as having "landed" in Canada. If you think about it for a moment, the reasons why should become clear.

The worst thing they can do is yell and demand you leave.
If you substitute "are likely to" for "can," you're probably correct. But "yell at you," while you're in their country, is certainly not the worst thing they can do.

One other bit. I've never called the US authorities. Ever. I don't see any reason to.
Look up the penalties for re-entering the U.S. illegally--that should give you some.

It isn't like the USCG is sitting at the mouth of the harbor looking to ask questions after you did an overnight from Lake Erie Metropark to Leamington.
You really haven't been paying attention to what's been going on in the last eight years, have you? Yes, they are, actually. Well, not so much USCG, but DHS CBP (Dept. of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection).

To the other readers: Follow pschoonveld's recommendations at your own risk. For us: Having fellow club-members detained, fined, and nearly losing their boat because they didn't quite follow the rules, and a presentation by somebody who actually knows whereof they speak (head of Port Huron DHS CBP), was enough for us. The Admiral and I have NEXUS cards (it's a relatively painless exercise) and we'll be following the rules to the letter. It irks me to have to do it, but the alternatives I'm sure would be several orders of magnitude more irksome.

Jim
 

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The US side also considers anchoring in Canada waters as having entered Canada ...
Check with DHS CBP. I think you'll find that's not true. The head of the Port Huron DHS CBP office stated clearly, multiple times, that merely anchoring in Canadian waters was not regarded by U.S. authorities as "landing in Canada." I believe Canadian authorities hold the same view.

Jim
 

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I went to a seminar put on by DHS out of Detroit this spring. Here is the drill. If you go over the border by boat a lot and land in Canada get a Nexus card or an I-68 card. You also need a passports for you and your children and any crew.
Or a Michigan Enhanced Driver's License. But... according to the DHS CBP and CBSA agents The Admiral and I talked to when we went for our NEXUS interviews: A NEXUS card is now regarded as "proper identification" for crossing the U.S./Canadian border, either direction.

If you have an I-68
Or NEXUS.

you can call Customs and Immigration up to 2 hours before
We were told a half-hour is sufficient, if we call the Port Huron office.

your return to the States and they will generally clear you through. If you don't you need to call customs when you return. You and the crew are required to stay with your boat until an agent is dispatched from the DHS office which is at the Ambassador Bridge.
More precisely: Nobody but the boat's master is allowed to leave the boat, and then only to call DHS CBP and return, and nothing may be taken off the boat, until DHS CBP arrives.

For the guy giving the advice not to worry about it, it is ill-advised. Just because you haven't been caught doesn't mean that you won't get a nasty letter in the mail for the first offense ...
"Nasty letter in the mail?" They're not that forgiving anymore, from all I've seen and heard.

Besides the one crew that was nearly arrested on the spot, we had another club-member's boat picked-up by a DHS CBP helicopter halfway across the lake, and they went right for 'em, and follow them back to their slip. Maybe it was a practice run, because said crew had not violated any laws and nothing ever came of it.

I don't know how it is on the Detroit River and points south, but Lk. St. Stupid and the surrounding area has quite a visible DHS CBP presence. One regularly sees their aircraft over the lake and surrounding areas,; their boats on the lake, rivers, creeks and canals; and their vehicles on the roads.

(And, boy, do they ever have some bad-a**-lookin' stink-boats! :D.)

Jim
 

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Check with DHS CBP. I think you'll find that's not true. The head of the Port Huron DHS CBP office stated clearly, multiple times, that merely anchoring in Canadian waters was not regarded by U.S. authorities as "landing in Canada." I believe Canadian authorities hold the same view.

Jim
As an auditor for a really big company, and since I work with DHS on a somewhat formal basis regarding security issues, I can expertly say that the verbal presentation you received is worth the paper upon which it us written. Each person from DHS who seeks information from you may have a slightly different interpretation or the rules. And each one of these men and women have the ability to arrest and use deadly force...

It is very clear what the passport requirements are when you sail between US and a foreign country. And it is an interpretative issue of what constitutes travel into a foreign country. Do you really want to risk your time and assets to your interpretation of the law? How do you think your explanation of an informal discussion with an unnamed representative of the Port Huron DHS CBP office will stand up in court?

Very interesting thread! Thanks everybody!!!

Eric Read
 

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Each person from DHS who seeks information from you may have a slightly different interpretation or the rules. And each one of these men and women have the ability to arrest and use deadly force...
Deadly force for anchoring a boat in Canadian waters ..........
 

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As an auditor for a really big company, and since I work with DHS on a somewhat formal basis regarding security issues, I can expertly say that the verbal presentation you received is worth the paper upon which it us written.
So if I can't believe the head of DHS CBP in Port Huron, who can I believe?

Each person from DHS who seeks information from you may have a slightly different interpretation or the rules. And each one of these men and women have the ability to arrest and use deadly force...
This is common amongst law enforcement of all types. For example: I'm a gun-owner and possess a Michigan Concealed Pistol License. I know the law. And most CPL holders know the law. (Considering the potential penalties, it behooves us to do so.) Many police officers do not, experience has shown.

Do you really want to risk your time and assets to your interpretation of the law?
None of what I've written has been my interpretation of the law. It's been what I've been told by customs and border agents.

How do you think your explanation of an informal discussion with an unnamed representative of the Port Huron DHS CBP office will stand up in court?
You mean the man that was invited to our club specifically to present the requirements, rules, etc. of the various programs to our membership, and is the head of the Port Huron DHS CBP office? That man?

Jim
 

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Anchoring

Anchoring in Canadian waters might be common on Lake St. Clair but there are only a few places in Lake Erie where it is even feasible to anchor. Fish Point and maybe off of Scudders at Pelee are the only places that come to mind. And then anchoring when the wind is from the right direction. Swimming off the boat at fish Point used to be pretty popular until people became aware of the abnormally strong current that sometimes happens there.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I'm a bit unclear, does getting the Nexus card allow me to just call in or is that privilege reserved for I68 holders?

I would prefer to get the Nexus card as its cheaper any only need a new one every 5yrs vs every year & may help when going over the bridge/tunnel.

We have plenty of places to anchor for short visits like boblo, sugar island, etc..
 

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If everyone on the boat is a Nexus card holder, you can call in at least 30 minutes before arrival and will probably be cleared for entry. This removes the need to stop at the customs dock and wait to be cleared. If your land crossing supports Nexus, not all do, it can be a real time saver. On my last trip it saved 45 minutes on the way into the US and 1 hour on the return.
 

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The US rules enforced by Homeland Security changed on March 31 of this year. Check with them before you make your trip. When I returned from the Caribbean through Bermuda this Spring, my entire crew had to present our passports at the nearest Homeland Security office. (BWI airport) Luckily we had a car.
 

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I'm a bit unclear, does getting the Nexus card allow me to just call in or is that privilege reserved for I68 holders?
Yes to the first, so no to the second. However, understand: Either only works on a boat if everybody on the boat has an I68 or NEXUS card. Furthermore: I was informed when we interviewed for our NEXUS cards that they now serve as "proper identification" for border-crossings between Canada and the U.S., but with an I68 you may still need a passport or, alternatively, if you're a Michigan resident, a Michigan enhanced driver's license.

As for border crossings by motor vehicle: I believe only the NEXUS card lets you use the special lane(s), and, again: Only if everybody in the vehicle has a NEXUS card.

Jim
 
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