Some of you know the dilemma of our sailboat being on the “other” side of the border held hostage by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) but those of you who don’t, here’s a bit of background:
In the early days of the pandemic, Dan and I crossed the border into Canada in March of 2020, just 12 hours before the border shut down. We visited the CBSA in June and got special permission to sail our boat in Canadian waters for the summer. Gaviidae is a US Documented vessel and boldly shows Duluth MN as her home port on the stern. We were assured at the time that if the border had not re-opened by the end of the summer, we could simply call the CBSA and they would give us another 6-month extension for Gaviidae. If you missed our prior post of our encounters with various Officers of the law last summer, click here.
Well I’ll be …..
Buggered. In November I contacted the CBSA to let them know the boat was still in Goderich Ontario. A by-the-book CBSA officer took my call and informed me the prior officer we dealt with was no longer at that office. And going forward, we would be dealing with him. Not good. He insisted that we should have been able to take our boat across at the end of the season, even though the border was still closed to recreational boaters. After many, many phone calls and emails, I started to feel as though I was just digging a deeper hole with ever-increasing $ signs being tossed about by Officer Rule Book.
In a panic, I reached out to White and White Customs Brokers in Mississauga Ontario for guidance. Joe Bailey, an expert in working with customs and border issues, stepped in on our behalf and in the end got the appropriate extension completed by the by-the-book officer. This completely unnecessary drama lasted six months before it got resolved! In theory, we should be able to get the money paid back, once we get Gaviidae back into the US.
With Gaviidae safe for a few more months, we started planning for various options of getting her out of Canada. Plan A was for us to cross the border and sail her from Goderich to Sarnia and then across to Port Huron Michigan.
But Plan A had more than a few obstacles:
- Covid-19 Vaccines – not a requirement for crossing the border but we figured it would help if we had them. Dan got his in California and I got my first shot in California and second shot in Washington.
- Passports – Canadian for me and US for Dan.
- Covid tests completed within 72 hours of crossing and results in hand. Rapid tests (Antigen) were not acceptable.
- Proof of health coverage for the time in Canada including Covid-19 coverage. Thank you Seven Corners for providing coverage with less than 24 hours’ notice!
- A place to quarantine for 14 days – it’s good to have friends on both sides of the border! And quarantine rules are much stricter than last year – even going for walks are not permitted unless it’s at the designated property where the quarantine is occurring!
- A justifiable reason for crossing the border – in our case, the requirement by the CBSA that Gaviidae had to be out of Canada by June 21 was the justifiable reason.
- An advance application submitted and accepted. This was not an approval to enter, just an acknowledgement that the CBSA would consider your crossing.
- An understanding CBSA officer at the border – and this was the biggest wildcard of them all!
Crossing the Bridge
We figured we had maybe a 50/50 shot at making it across the border. We also had Plan B, C, and D as backup plans if we encountered another by-the-book CBSA officer.
Our appointed time to cross was noon on May 13th – we paid the bridge toll and headed across the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron to Sarnia with fingers crossed. We had also solicited friends to send positive thoughts our way! We needed all the help we could get!
We pulled up to the Nexus lane and were greeted by CBSA Officer X – I have no idea of his name because it either was not showing or I was too nervous to notice. He gave us the expected drill along with numerous questions about our plan for quarantine. I had everything printed out and just started passing documents to him, in some cases before he asked. The one wildcard that I wasn’t expecting was that he asked if we had a copy of our marriage license. I scrambled into the back of the RV and grabbed our traveling file bag. I never know what I have stuffed in there and was ecstatic to find a copy of our marriage license!
With that he proceeded to explain about the testing procedures and follow-up calls/check-ins during our quarantine. It was then I realized we were actually going to be allowed to cross the border. I can honestly say I was downright giddy when we were escorted forward to the Covid-19 testing station for yet another nose/brain swab. Most people complain about the procedure! Nope – just happy to comply!
We drove on to Owen Sound, for our designated quarantine in the home of friends who were leaving the next morning. Stopping only to get diesel and take-out food along the way as instructed, we arrived at our friends home. And just before they departed, it was decided that we would care for their adorable cocker spaniel, Cocotte, in our care. Bonus!
And now we are officially on Day 2 of our 14 day quarantine. We got the expected daily check-in notification first thing this morning and responded appropriately. On Day 8 we will do another Covid-19 nose swab. It’s all good. Thank you Canada, we are so happy to be here!
May 14, 2021 Owen Sound Ontario 44°38.9348’N 80°53.9241’W