American pleasure crafts unwelcome in B.C. this year. (BP File Photo, Susan Quinn)

American pleasure crafts unwelcome in B.C. this year. (BP File Photo, Susan Quinn)

B.C. boaters on lookout for unwanted American travellers

Ad hoc group scanning boat data to catch boaters violating border rules during COVID-19

The U.S.-Canada border is closed because of COVID-19, so when B.C. boaters started noticing American pleasure craft in B.C. waters, they got concerned.

More to the point, they started doing something about it.

The group of six or seven people, loosely organized through the Council of B.C. Yacht Clubs, is using computer programs to monitor marine activity on the B.C. coast, with a focus on American boats that linger where they shouldn’t.

These coastline watchdogs are perusing websites like www.marinetraffic.com, that shows a real-time map of vessels all over the world with the vibe of an early 90s video game. Boats with automatic identification systems (AIS) transmit their name, where the boat is registered, boat type (fishing, sailboat, ferry, transport, etc.), trajectory, speed and location. Users can watch the boats blip around the ocean, or sit still in docks.

Most are Canadian registered, but a few times a day, the group spots an American boat. If that boat looks like they’re recreating, it gets reported to Canadian Border Services Agency. Boaters with essential business in Alaska are permitted to travel through Canadian waters, but are required to take the most reasonable direct route and make no stops.

“That’s part of our problem, because we’re not seeing that,” said council president Bill Wilson. “We’ve tracked a number of boats to Port McNeill, where some have stayed a couple of days. There’s some that have gone to Desolation Sound, some to Pendrell Sound,” said Wilson, noting the areas are popular with recreational boaters.

In one case, an Oregon-registered boat was spotted a few days after the first report with a brand-new Canadian flag, and fenders hung strategically to conceal its name and home berth.

“And he was telling people he was going to be cruising B.C. all summer!” Wilson said.

“American boaters coming here to recreate is of concern because B.C. has done quite a good job controlling the virus,” Wilson said. In comparison, infection rates in the U.S. are soaring.

There are remote coastal First Nations communities in B.C. who have closed their territory to outside visitors for good reason, Wilson said.

“They are really concerned about the virus getting into the community, and we are as well. The health resources are not as good in these areas as they are in somewhere like Vancouver, or even Nanaimo. Imagine if one American boater docked and had the virus, and it spread from there. We don’t want to see that.”

After the group submits data to Canadian Border Services Agency, members have no idea what happens. Wilson has heard of some fines being issued. On some busy, sunny weekends the group has also reported infractions to the RCMP, but they don’t get any follow up to learn what happens.

And, they don’t know how many boats the websites are missing.

“We’re only tracking the ones that are equipped with automatic identification systems. Some reports we’re getting are boats that don’t have those. We don’t know how many boats that don’t have these transmitters are coming through.”

READ MORE: Two U.S. boaters fined after B.C. RCMP find they broke COVID rules in Canadian waters

READ MORE: Dual Canadian-U.S. citizens face hostile reception on Vancouver Island

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Boatingborder agencyCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Volunteers sort food donations during the Agassiz Fire Department’s food drive on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (Agassiz Fire Department/Facebook)
VIDEO: Agassiz Fire Department to host COVID-safe food drive

This year’s drive looks a little different

With news that Santa won’t be coming to Cottonwood Centre this year, April Blais wanted to set up a photo op with the jolly old elf in her front yard. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack family blown away by response to Christmas light display

The Blais family has decked out their yard with holiday decor, collecting food bank donations

Abbotsford residents gather in the Clearbrook area on Monday to demonstrate against what they say is unfairt treatment by the Indian government to farmers in the Punjab region of that country. (Maan Sidhu photo)
Abbotsford residents gather to protest unfair treatment of India farmers

Locals believe new bills will devastate small farms, demand farmers be allowed to protest peacefully

The paraglider pilot, while attempting to free himself, dropped 30 feet and sustained serious injuries as Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue members worked quickly to extract him from the trees. They were able to get him to a waiting ambulance at the end of a nearby forest service road. (Contributed Photo/Dave Harder)
UPDATE: Rescued paraglider being treated for non-life threatening injuries

Pilot tried to self-rescue but sustained serious injuries in a 30-foot fall

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Most Read