Friday, August 9, 2013

Customs Boarding In Canada

I noted in a previous blog that I was working on a post about Canadian Customs boarding our boat at Gore Bay.  I thought it would be a good idea to wait until we were well inside the US again before actually posting it - you never know when law enforcement folks may not have a sense of humor!

If you recall, we checked in with Canadian Customs officials by phone at our first land stop in Canada, Trenton, Ontario, at the entrance to the Trent-Severn Waterway.  They asked a few questions, assigned us a number, and asked us to post it in the window.  That was it.

Now we are 60 miles from leaving the country, docked at Gore Bay Marina.  I’m on the front of the boat washing all of the mud and weeds off of the boat from anchoring out at Baie Fine, and I turn around and see three uniformed customs agents/officials/officers/bounty hunters or whatever you call them.

I’d like to share that experience with you.  Keep in mind that this will be from the eyes of a slightly anti-excessive-government individual with a bad attitude when representatives of the government have the right to board my home at their whim and search through drawers and any nook or cranny they choose without a search warrant, when I’ve never committed a crime in my life outside of a few traffic tickets.

 I understand that governments are necessary, and they serve many necessities for a nation to function well.  I also get the threat that illegal aliens in a country can pose, and that is part of the basis for my attitude.  Just seems to me that they should be out tracking the ones known or suspected to be illegal instead of little old me who has no intention of breaking their laws.  After all, we are the folks that got passports and called them at the appointed place and time to let them know we were here!!!!!!!!

Now don’t misunderstand me – I don’t have a radical total anti-government attitude, and I’d like to have a little fun with this as well.  So, here’s the format - actual conversation first, then (my true thoughts in parenthesis), and necessary explanation in italics.

- Customs:  Sir, we are with Customs and would like to ask some questions.
- Me: OK (Can’t you see I’m busy washing the mud and weeds off of my boat?)
- Customs:  We’re trying to assist the US Government in finding two of your citizens, something about years of tax evasion, reported to be hiding out in Canada aboard a boat named “Mooring Dove,” which matches the description of this boat next to you.  Do you know these people by any chance? (Man, Galen wasn’t kidding when he told me that, huh?)

- Me:  No sir, I don’t know anything about them, but the one time I’ve seen them since we arrived, they did look suspicious, you know, like they were up to something.
- Customs:  OK, thanks. 

OK, the rest of this is actually true.

- Customs: While we’re here, do you have your customs number?
- Me:  Yes.  (It’s right in front of you, there on the window, where we were told to post it.  Did you think of looking there?)
- Me:  It’s posted right there on the window as you directed.
- Customs:  Is this boat registered or documented?
- Me:  Both.  The Alabama registration sticker is right here (where it is supposed to be).  Coast Guard documentation numbers are permanently inscribed on an interior portion of the boat structure, not anywhere on the outside.
- Customs: Which number did you use to register with Customs? (Don’t you know?  Remember, I called you.)
- Me:  Documentation number.
- Customs: What is that number?
- Me:  This one right here on the Erie Canal permit sticker. (Which we got when we also legally registered with them to transit that canal system.)

- Customs:  When did you enter the country?  (Again, don’t you know?) 
- Me:  I don’t recall the exact date, but about a month ago.  Do you need me to check our travel log for an exact date?
- Customs: No, that’s not necessary.  Where did you enter the country?  (Don’t you know?  After all, I believe we are the only ones assigned that number posted in the window.)  It’s kind of like going to the doctor’s office and taking 45 minutes to fill out forms, describe your history and the details of your current aches and pains, then the nurse walks in and asks you all the same questions.  Then, the DR walks in and asks you all the same questions again.  One day I’m going to say, “read the darn forms” but then the DR may remove a kidney or something instead of writing a prescription for high blood pressure.
- Me:  Trenton, Ontario.
- Customs:  Do you have any liquor or cigarettes on board?
- Me:  No, we don’t partake of either.  (I expect you don’t believe that, but it’s true).
- Customs:  Do you have any weapons or guns on board? (Yes, they are hidden in a secret compartment behind the wall between the lower helm station and the forward shower with the heroine we’re transporting for our Mexican drug cartel friends.  You know, we illegals got to stick together.)

- Me:  No.
- Customs: How much cash do you have on board? (None of your d__n business!)  My attitude really starts to deteriorate about this point.
- Me:  I have no idea.  You’ll have to ask my wife and she’s not here right now.
- Customs:  Do you think it’s more than a thousand dollars?
- Me:  I have no idea – really.  (What part of “I have no idea” did you not understand the first time?)
- Me:  Rhonda walks up about that time.  Here’s my wife now.  Honey, do we have more than one thousand dollars cash on board?
- Rhonda:  I have no idea, but probably not.  (Ah, revenge is sweet!)
- Customs: Do you have any ID?  (No, I just walked up to the US Passports Office and they took my word for it!  Never thought about getting a drivers license, credit card, or anything like that in the last 60 years.  That must be something new that people interested in abiding by laws do.) 
- Me:  Here you are.

- Customs:  Has anyone been traveling with you?  (Just the folks on Mooring Dove.  LOL!  Oh yeh, and Wilson since Amsterdam, NY. Guess that makes him illegal, huh? But they probably didn’t see the movie and wouldn’t think it was funny).
- Me:  No.

 - Customs:  OK, we’re going to board your boat now and look around some.  Probably should not print my thoughts here, especially since there were 2 of them on the boat at one time and I couldn’t be with both at the same time as they were poking around, opening drawers, cabinets, medicine cabinets, storage lockers, etc.  Rhonda was still outside with the 3rd one being asked the same questions I had already answered before she returned.

-Customs:  Everything looks OK.  How much longer will you be in the country? 
-Me:  I have no idea, but certainly a few more days. 
-Customs:  A week?  10 days?  (What happened to “Welcome to Canada.  Enjoy your stay” from when we checked in at Trenton?)
-Me:  Why?  Is there a hurry for us to leave?  Yes, I really said this.
-Customs:  So, you think 10 days will cover it?  (What part of “I have no idea” did you not understand this time?)
-Me:  Yes.
-Customs, as he completed writing the inspection notice:  Post this in the window so any other agents will be aware of our inspection.  (You mean post it with the customs number you seemed to have trouble finding, even though it was right where it was supposed to be since I am a law-abiding citizen of the US and a law-abiding guest in your country.  What makes you think the next customs agent will think to look there?) 

-Me:  OK.  (Can I get back to washing my boat now?)
-Customs:  Enjoy the rest of your stay.  (You mean all 10 days?  What if we want to stay longer?)

-Me:  OK, Thanks. (I’ll say hello to Galen and Becky for you.)

I should note that our experience with US Customs when we re-entered the US was not nearly this traumatic, and we thank them for that.  Unfortunately, our friends on Mooring Dove did not fare as well.

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