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

Adam Walker. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach voters wait to see if they must return to the polls

Byelection could be required if councillor wins seat as MLA

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Parksville man faces charges after incident at car dealership in Duncan

Police were alerted to suspected break-and-enter in progress

(Black Press file photo)
Parksville Qualicum Beach crime report: Bank discovers counterfeit Canadian currency

Oceanside RCMP received 249 complaints in one-week period

Jordan Jay Ward, 20, is wanted Canada-wide for manslaughter. (Calgary police photo)
UPDATE: ‘Suspicious’ man seen in Parksville woods not manslaughter suspect

Hikers say he resembled Jordan Jay Ward, wanted Canada-wide

From left: BC NDP candidate Adam Walker; BC Liberal Party candidate Michelle Stilwell. (Submitted/file)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates wait for mail-in ballot count

NDP’s Adam Walker has lead over B.C. Liberal Party’s Michelle Stilwell

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read