Crossing from the San Juans to Canadian islands?

SWriverstone

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Jun 22, 2021
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Eugene, OR
I'm wondering about paddling from the San Juans over to the Canadian islands (like Pender Island, or Galiano, or others in that area). Does anyone do this? Or is it considered madness to paddle across Haro Strait?

Seems like (aside from tidal considerations) distance-wise it's not far from Patos to Saturna islands (3.5 miles)...or from Stuart Island to South Pender (4 miles) or Moresby (3.2 miles).

I also have no idea what's involved or required from a customs standpoint? Can you even go to those places? Or do you have to go straight to a dock where there is a customs office?

I've heard anecdotally that the Canadians are pretty laid-back customs-wise (for incoming Americans) but the reverse isn't the case (the Americans treat everyone like a potential smuggler, even returning Americans LOL).

Scott
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
In calm conditions, the crossing of Haro Strait is trivial. Here's a trip report from a 2019 overnight crossing from San Juan Island, WA to Discovery Island, BC and back. I've also crossed from Stuart Island to South Pender.

On the Canadian side, you have to check in at either a telephone reporting site/marine or, if you are enrolled in Nexus, you may use a Nexus/Marine designated calling site.

On the American side, you may either check in at a designated port of inspection, or else you may check in by telephone if you are enrolled in Nexus (no need for a designated calling site as in Canada), or you may check in remotely using the CBP Roam app. A word of caution: if something goes wrong with your use of Nexus or the CBP Roam app, or if US Customs desires to inspect your boat, you may be redirected to a designated port of inspection, which for a kayaker could pose a logistical challenge.

Alex
 
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CPS

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Oct 27, 2020
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Not sure about contacting customs. I think I have heard you can call in and self report somehow. May be misremembering it.

I world with a chap who accidentally ended up on Stuart island when we thought he was still in Canada. So distance is definitely doable.
 

kayakwriter

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As best I understand this page, it's still not legal for American boats to come into Canadian waters for "discretionary (non-essential) reasons." Boats can transit to Alaska provided when refueling/reprovisioning they do so directly at the dock and don't leave the boat. Could be a challenge in a kayak...
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Victoria, BC
Friends of mine finished up their paddle from Victoria to Alaska by taking the AK ferry back to Bellingham and paddling home from there.

But for now, we should all stay 'on our own side of the line', I think.
 

ChrisPoteetPdx

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Jan 17, 2021
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Portland, Or
Hi Scott,

It's not madness to paddle from SJI to Canada. Just requires planning. (when the borders were open): We kayaked across Haro Strait (San Juan County Park to Little D'Arcy Island) then up to Rum island where we set up camp for two days. From there we paddled across to Henry Island and back down to SJ County Park. It's doable....just plan it when the borders are open, and the tides are in your favor.

Cheers,
Chris
 

Sarah Hipkin

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Jul 7, 2021
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12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
I'm wondering about paddling from the San Juans over to the Canadian islands (like Pender Island, or Galiano, or others in that area). Does anyone do this? Or is it considered madness to paddle across Haro Strait?

Seems like (aside from tidal considerations) distance-wise it's not far from Patos to Saturna islands (3.5 miles)...or from Stuart Island to South Pender (4 miles) or Moresby (3.2 miles).

I also have no idea what's involved or required from a customs standpoint? Can you even go to those places? Or do you have to go straight to a dock where there is a customs office?

I've heard anecdotally that the Canadians are pretty laid-back customs-wise (for incoming Americans) but the reverse isn't the case (the Americans treat everyone like a potential smuggler, even returning Americans LOL).

Scott
Hi Scott,
If/when you do get around to it (pending travel restrictions, etc), I'd be curious to know how the marine border crossing goes... My sister is in Friday Harbor and the convenient ferry run across border from Sidney (near me) to Friday Harbor has been closed. I'm hoping the borders re-open and they fix the back-up ferry since I'm not willing to attempt via canoe at any time (and 20 min in a charter flight is like a plane ticket to UK). My brother-in-law is thinking of getting a sailing boat so they may can visit that way more often. So, I'd love to hear how it goes, or if anyone has tried paddling from Friday Harbor to Victoria or vice versa!
 

SWriverstone

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Jun 22, 2021
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Eugene, OR
Thanks for the replies all! Lots of excellent information. I wasn't sure if the border was still closed. Sadly, with Covid case numbers on the rise (again) in the US (largely due to the Delta variant) that border closure may remain in place for some time. I have to say, it seems silly for ANY border regulations to apply to kayakers, but I get it. (I highly doubt drug dealers, smugglers, and the like are going to be hopping into sea kayaks to ply their trade anytime soon...but maybe I underestimate them? LOL)

The other option of course would be the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria—then paddle from over there. (But I'm guessing the same regs apply).

There are countless places in the San Juans I've yet to explore, so I'm not hopping to get to Canada anytime soon. But I rather like the idea of an "international" paddling trip, LOL.
 

kayakwriter

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(I highly doubt drug dealers, smugglers, and the like are going to be hopping into sea kayaks to ply their trade anytime soon...but maybe I underestimate them? LOL)
It was decades ago, pre-interwebs, so I can't find a link, but I can remember reading a story in the newspapers (remember them?) about one of my fellow Canknuckleheads who decided to run some of BC's finest bud down to Washington State (pre legalization of course). I guess he'd seen sea kayakers and thought "How hard can that be?" As I recall, he was found washed up on one of the San Juans, wet and shivering and actually relieved to be stuffed into the US Coast Guard's nice warm brig. They found his weed-filled kayak not far away.
I've done sales of various kinds over the years, but never for "recreational pharmaceuticals." Still, I seem to recall there's a saying that you shouldn't get high on your own supply.
 

SalishSeaNior

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Joined
Nov 15, 2020
Messages
43
Location
Okanagan Valley, Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada, made the following statement to the Premiers of the Provinces yesterday during their meeting:

"Canada could open its border to fully vaccinated ( two shots ), Americans for nonessential travel as early as mid-August."

Thus far, President Biden has not made any similar statements. But I doubt Canada will allow non-essential American travellers unless the US reciprocates. The current border restrictions run until July 21st, so perhaps there will be a bit more formal guidance then. So, any of those wishing to do the Boundary Pass crossing may get to have a go late August or September.

For those who wish to try to fit in a trip to the more remote parts of the B. C. Coast after the Border opens, remember that the first nations and coastal communities all have their own reopening plans as well. As an example the Hieltsuk Nation of the Central Coast, Bella Bella, have the following information - Community First Reopening Plan

I am possibly tentatively planning a trip to the Nuchatlitz on the West Coast of the Island in August. The Kyuquot Nation has opened their campground, cabins and marine facilities at Fair Harbour as of July 1st but with strict public health protocols still in place. So anyone, Canadian, or later American, will still need to contact the local communities for guidance before making plans. I have friends who had planned to paddle in the Kyuquot area in June, but ended up going to Barkley Sound instead because of closures still being in place.
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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Bend OR USA
I wouldn’t plan something unless I knew for sure - because they can change their mind about the border so quickly. But I can hardly wait.

I recall coming back to the US and was expecting the friendly, “Welcome home (or “back”)” and the guy was one of the sourest people I’ve come across. I don’t recall he said a word that didn’t sound like an order. There was definitely no, “Welcome”. Then I discovered it wasn’t Customs, it was Immigration. When we reach the Custom’s crossing, I got my friendly, “Welcome”. We tell them we’ve been kayaking for days and when they ask us to roll down the tinted back window they can smell it for themselves. We are waved right along.
 
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