Recreational Boating Information for the Northwest

U.S. citizens entering Canada by boat must comply with requirements for the Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator Card. (PCOC). U.S. citizens are not required to carry a PCOC if their visit into Canada is 44 days or less. If your visit into Canada is longer then 44 consectuive days you must either have a Canadian PCOC or the equivalent operator card issued by your state of residence which most should have due to Washington State law. Visit the Transport Canada  website for details.

Everyone crossing into Canada must have required citizenship documents including children. Passport, NEXUS card/permit, I-68 permit, Military I.D., or an enhanced driver's license are acceptable. Children traveling which are not family members must have their parents provide a written and notarized authorization to cross the border. Pets must have written proof of rabies vaccination.

Please note: Customs must be cleared whenever you cross the US - Canadian border. Until you have cleared customs, it is not legal to anchor, tie up to a dock or buoy unless you are there to check in. Other then docking assistance, only the vessel captain may leave the vessel until check-in is completed. Nothing may be off-loaded and no person may board the vessel (except for Government officials) until the check-in is completed. If customs dock is closed, you may tie to customs dock but do not leave your vessel for any reason except an emergency. 

Courtesy Flag | Host Country:
Standard flag etiquette suggests a vessel should fly the Canadian flag when entering Canadian waters. The host or courtesy flag should be flown alone or seperate from U.S. flag if displayed. Common placement is on the bow, mast or VHF/radio antenna. 

Arrivals into Canada:
Vessels must arrive at a marine telephone reporting site and immediately call the Canadian Telephone Reporting Centre at 1-888-226-7277. Canada Border Services Agency number is good 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. If reporting at a site, only the boat master may leave the vessel until authorization is given by the CBSA. Once cleared, you will be given a number with date/time of arrival location. (Note: it is suggested you keep clearance numbers for 12 months.) Once in Canada, vessels maybe subject to reinspection. 

Arrivals into the United States:
Boats must arrive at a physical report site and the boat master must call the local CBP reporting telephone number. A customs dock will have a CBP phone or CBP officers on site. You may clear by phone at 1-800-562-5943 if boaters have nothing to declare and all on board have I-68 on NEXUS passes. Even with passes, you may be asked to report in for vessel inspection. Like Canada, you'll be given a clearance number which you should keep for 12 months. 

United States Processing Fee:
Boats under 30 feet are not subject to processing fees. Boats 30 feet or more will need to purchase an annual processing fee when entering or re-entering the U.S. which applies to U.S. and non-U.S. boats. I-68 and NEXUS pass holders are required to pay fee as well.

The processing fee is under $30 which can be paid at customs dock, over the phone or on-line. You can also order a sticker before you leave and return to the United States. Stickers are not available at customs locations but can be purchased on-line. Sticker / fee is good for one calendar year. Renewal notices for the next year are also mailed out.
See DTOPS (Decal / Transponder Online Procurement System) PDF file >on-line registration tutorial.

Information needed during check-in:
  • Estimated time of arrival (ETA) when calling with NEXUS or CANPASS.
  • Names, DOB's, address, and documents of citizenship of all persons traveling. 
  • Nexus number or CanPass if you have one.
  • Boat registration numbers, owner of boat and boat name.
  • Purpose for visit along with destiations, lenght of stay and return date.
  • A declaration of goods being imported including firearms and currency if greater than $10,000 dollars.
Customs - Pacific Northwest
U.S. & Canada
Food and Beverage Restrictions > Guideline entering Canada | United States:

  • You are allowed to bring in 24-12 oz. cans or bottles of beer or 40 oz liquor or 1.5 liters of wine - per person.
  • 1 carton of Cigarettes or 50 cigars.
  • Dairy products - less then 44 lbs.
  • Meat - less then 44 lbs.
  • Chicken - less then 22 lbs
  • Fish - up to 20 kilograms per person
  • Potatoes & Fruit - most prohibited
  • Pet food generally ok if from the U.S. (no lamb or goat)
  • No fresh tropical fruits or vegetables
  • No corn on the cob, regarless of origin
  • Avoid flowers, purchase in-country

Click here for more details on restrictions. 

Keep in mind restrictions change all the time. Don't be shocked if customs officers make you throw away some items.

As a general understanding, when returning back to the United States the food and beverage restrictions are pretty much the same. Most people recommend consuming any food and beverages purchased in Canada before returning to keep it simple.

The NEXUS Card:
The Nexus card is a United States - Canadian program for pre-approved, low-risk travellers entering Canada or the United States at designated air, land and marine ports of entry. The card is WHTI compliant for entering the U.S. (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative).

The NEXUS card has been approved as an alternative to the passport into the United States for U.S. and Canadian citizens. Members can report by phone (1-866-996-3987) from 30 minutes up to four hours prior to customs arrival into Canada. You can also call 1-800-562-5943 for Puget Sound Boat Arrivals Only.

Both the United States and Canada must approve your application for you to become a member of NEXUS. The U.S. application is generally done on-line and Canadian citizens can also apply on-line or with a paper application. Appointments for interviews will be requested with locations in Vancouver, B.C., Blaine and Seattle.

Note: all family members and or guest traveling together on a boat must have an NEXUS card for check in. If not, check-in at a customs dock. The card is $50 per person but children under 18 are free. Card will need renewal every 5 years.

Calling In: Members can report by phone from 30 minutes up to four hours prior to customs arrival into Canada or the U.S. When calling, a border officer will provide a report number which you must keep and have avaliable. After establishing an ETA, a border officer will meet you at the specified docking location. If an officer is not at the dock location at the time of arrival or ETA, you may proceed on. We however recommend giving them 10 or 15 minutes. 

  • Information (U.S. and Canada) 1-866-639-8726

CANPASS - Private Boats Program
Canpass is a co-operative effort between the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to streamline customs and immigration clearance of low-risk travellers. The program combines a telephone reporting system with a pre-approval permit for recreational boaters.

The CANPASS - Private Boats permit allows boaters, who have enrolled and been security cleared, the option of calling before they arrive and receiving clearance to enter Canada.

Travellers may declare goods by telephone, and can pay any applicable duties by credit card. Those who want to pay cash have to report to the nearest customs office.

The program is available to citizens and legal permanent residents of Canada and the United States who have no record of any customs or immigration violation, and who have not been convicted of any criminal offence for which a pardon has not been granted.

Permit holders report to customs by calling 1-888-CANPASS up to four hours before they arrive in Canada from the United States. For more information, click CBSA.

Canadian Border Boat Landing Permit (I-68)
Canadian Border Boat Landing Permit (I-68) applicants for admission into the United States by small pleasure boats are inspected and issued an I-68 permit for the entire boating season. The I-68 permit allows boaters to enter the United States from Canada for recreational purposes with only the need to report to CBP by telephoning in their arrival.
Canada | Port of entry:

Bedwell - Poets Cove 
May to late September only - 8-5.

Nanimo Port Authority
Customs on "E" dock - next to fuel dock.

Powell River | Discovery Harbour
Call marina for details.

Sidney, Port of | Marina
Customs on the end of "G" dock.

Sidney | Van Isle Marina
Next to fuel dock.

Vancouver | Coal Harbour
Call for check-in location

Vancouver | Fishermen's Wharf
False Creek Public Dock

Victoria Harbour Authority
Between Wharf Street & float plane term.

Victoria | Oak Bay Marina
End of "F" dock | Fuel dock.
United States | Port of entry:

Anacortes | Cape Sante
call 360-293-2331 one hour before arrival.

Friday Harbor
On breakwater dock as you enter.

Roche Harbor
Main outside dock as you approch.

Point Roberts
Call for check-in location

Port Townsend
Schdule appointment prior to arrival.

Port Angeles Boat Haven
Contact 24-hours prior to arriving.