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

Speed carving event on Friday and Saturday in Memorial Park

Organizers are keeping event small, physically distanced and stocked with sanitizer

Mission man who nearly died from COVID-19 at Abbotsford hospital reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Lavender hand sanitizer sale raises cash for Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Golf course and lavender farm partner up to support health care in the Fraser Valley

UBC soccer star Victory Shumbusho offers one-on-one training for Chilliwack players

The Chilliwack FC grad believes players need more training to reach higher levels of soccer

Wings and Wheels fundraiser ready to roll in Abbotsford this weekend

Unique collection of cars invading Tradex for drive-thru experiences on Saturday and Sunday

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

35,000 doses of fentanyl part of huge Maple Ridge bust

Largest seizure in RCMP detachment’s history included submachine gun, body armour

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read