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

Just Posted

Pat McKenna, Habitat VIN's executive director and Alli Epp, Comox Valley Community engagement manager in front of Design Therapy, one of almost 200 businesses contributing to Bid to Build. Karen McKinnon Photo.
‘#BidToBuild’ auction launching to support affordable housing

Auction builds on last year’s successful effort, with new twists

Hope Rocks at the Campbell River Art Gallery highlighting local linguistic diversity.
Paint a rock to celebrate diversity

Hope Rocks highlighting linguistic diversity in Campbell River

Reflective number or design on hoodie. Police are seeking help in identifying three youth involved in an incident on Soderholm Road early June 12. Photo courtesy Campbell River RCMP
Do you know where your kids were at 1:24 a.m.?

Campbell River RCMP seeking help identifying three youths

John Hart Dam near Campbell River, B.C. BC Hydro photo
Campbell River watershed forecasts improve with rainfall

BC Hydro projects slightly higher resevoir levels and river flows after rainy May and June

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Most Read