The Big Day
At the end of June, we flew from Edmonton to Vancouver to finally accept possession of our boat. It had been a long time coming and at this point nothing was going exactly the way I had planned. Certainly the process had none of the slow and languid pleasure I had anticipated. Your new car, your new house, these are things that you savour in some magical sense of time where the new reality slowly seeps in and surrounds you. No, the process of introducing our boat to our lives was, as everything has been to this point, fast and confusing, and it left us very little time to really experience the moment.
We arrived in YVR and grabbed the train to Olympic Village station. Lawrence the broker had agreed to pick us up there; after a brief wait he pulled into the parking lot and moments later we were at Granville Island. The boat had pulled out around 8 that morning to make the trek to Point Roberts, but we needed to pick up some paperwork before we headed out by land. At the office there was unfortunately some confusion with the paperwork; it seemed the delivery skipper had taken both his and our packages. So Leslie and I dumped out bags and wandered Granville, grabbed a slice of pizza and generally felt that unsettled feeling you feel when things are hovering slightly out of your control. Hurry up and wait. Eventually we picked up a nice bottle of BC red to hopefully christen the boat and meandered back to the Specialty Yacht Sales offices.
So. The paperwork was (re)done and ready. Lawrence had filled out our clearance form (from the U.S.), presented us with a package that contained an invoice for moorage ($1968.75), an invoice for the final payment on the boat (already paid), a copy of the Statement of Facts on Out-of-Province Delivery, a Bill of Sale, a copy of our Pleasure Craft License and an invoice for $7838.75. The last one was a bit of a shock and we were expected to pay it immediately. My math skills haven’t always been the best but I hadn’t expected we would owe more than two or three thousand at most. What I had failed to include was both the moorage for Mosquito Creek and the moorage at Granville Island (another $1567.50), Skipper delivery charges, the cost of new flares and extinguishers and about another $1000 in miscellaneous repairs and cost overruns. To be honest, there wasn’t much in the bill that I could quibble with (although I did get a set of replacement zincs knocked off since they had already been replaced once in April). Really, people should never let me do math when money is involved. So $9000 more-or-less lighter, we left the office and waited for our cab. Lawrence had intended to deliver us to the border himself, but the Hunter Rendezvous was scant days away and everyone was swamped with finishing up details.
So Lawrence was paying for us to take a cab to Tsawwassen, where we would hop in a different cab to cross the border. It was a surprisingly quick ride out midday through Vancouver traffic. After some confusion we were dropped off at the Save-On Foods so we could call a Delta Surrey cab to cross the border in. These cabbies carry their passports/Nexus cards and cross the border regularly. A short drive about 2 km down the road and we were waiting at the border for 5 or 6 minutes for the cars ahead to pass through. At the border itself we handed over our passports to the driver to present to the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection). The fellow in the booth questioned me as to our intent and, when I told him we were there to pick up our boat as an offshore delivery, he decided that it would be best if we checked in inside to ensure all our paperwork for picking up the boat was in order before we were allowed entry. So we pulled over and the three of us trooped in. Meter running. Hurry up and wait.
Of course the fellows inside had no idea why the booth guy had decided to send us in. They looked over our paperwork anyway, complimented me (Lawrence) on how well the clearance form was filled out and asked us when we were leaving. My answer was “Well… maybe today, maybe tomorrow… It depends.” So our agent decided to be helpful and clear us out right then and there to save us (them, really) a trip to the marina when we actually departed. There is a $19 usd fee to clear out and we had brought along a bit of US cash just in case, so we paid up and were issued a clearance number based on leaving the next morning. It was actually a pretty smooth and easy process. I get the feeling they do it a lot.
Back in the cab we drove on for another 5 minutes or so and were dropped off at the marina. The first thing I spotted was the restaurant (pub) and a huge deck and decided it was about the right time to have a cold beer. But of course this was the one day a week the place was closed. So we set the bags in the shade and relaxed. It was a little after 2 pm by this point but the boat wasn’t due until 2:30 at the earliest. Hurry up and wait.
We’d been warned that we were not to board the boat until it had been cleared in and the exchange had been formalized, so we sat up on the wharf and enjoyed the day.
Then, somewhere a few minutes before 3 pm, I spied a Hunter rounding the breakwater into Point Roberts, and Leslie and I walked to the rail and watched our new boat slowly motor up to the customs dock. We weren’t sure how strict they were about these things, so I elected to watch from up on the wharf while the delivery skipper docked the boat solo . It was a goofy decision, and I immediately regretted not being down their to help him as the wind caught the nose a bit and he had a little wrassle to get her all secure. In any event, he got her tied up and we met him (Larry) at the top of the dock and introduced ourselves. He then headed over to the phone to call Customs and report in. Then we settled at one of the picnic tables to chat and wait for the customs agent.
Larry’s wife was coming to pick him up and he offered to give us a lift to the grocery store and back. That meant we would have plenty of time to get settled and still cast off without having to stay the night. And right about then I got a bit worried that my clearance was dated tomorrow but if we left today we would arrive in Canada today — before we had technically left. I had no idea how strict people were about these things but I have always had a healthy respect for the power of the border guys. While I was pondering my small dilemma, the fellow from the CBP showed up, and he and Larry headed off to do the clearing in. We just sat there in the sun; hurry up and wait.
It took about 20 minutes, but the Customs fellow was pretty chatty so I think that made it a slightly longer process than strictly necessary. Paperwork completed, we started down to the boat with our gear. As the CBP fellow was about to drive off, Larry handed me my clearance out and I realized that he had payed an additional $19 on top of the fee we had already paid and gotten a completely new clearance. So we caught up to the officer, explained the situation and got our money back. But now I luckily had another clearance form and number, this one with today’s date. Excellent.
Back down to the boat, we threw our gear onboard and signed the Statement of Facts on Out-of-Province Delivery, and that was that. After all the paperwork was sorted I had multiple copies of a lot of it, but just made sure all of it it was signed and filled out properly to avoid any confusion later.
Then we walked back up to meet Larry’s wife and drove off to the market. A couple of meals worth of food, some beer, water and snacks and we were dropped back at the soon-to-be ex-Rainbow Hunter. Then we said our goodbyes and boarded our boat officially for the first time.
I was aching to go; we had about 22nm to cover to get to Bedwell Harbour and back into Canada, and I would prefer to be able to check in tonight. So I chivied Leslie into dumping everything and we fired up the diesel. A few minutes later I cast us off and Leslie motored us out into the Georgia Strait and started heading south. Of course it was straight into the wind so there was no hope of sailing, but it was a sunny day and we were just pleased to be off finally.
About 2.5 hours later we rounded the bottom of Saturna Island, passing by Tumbo Island, and bashed through the rough water that swirls and churns there. I had forgotten about that. It was on the chart, which I had ignored in favour of the chart plotter as I hadn’t had a chart for the first leg from Point Roberts. Along the way we had been passed by several container ships and the HMCS Calgary, but they had all gone the long way around the buoys through the shipping channel. But the excitement of my shortcut was short lived and there was never any real danger. We adjusted course SW and motored down the Boundary Pass towards South Pender Island. And of course the wind shifted as well so we were still nose into it.
One of the more pleasant moments of the day was finding a card and gift from Dave and Margaret of R Shack Island. Dave had dropped it off when the boat was still in Granville Island and we found it almost immediately after we boarded. Dave had made us up a kellet as a boat warming gift and left a lovely note. R Shack was currently in the San Juan Islands, so I tweeted a thank you. Turns out they were (relatively) close by in Roche Harbour. If our schedule hadn’t been so constrained, I would have kept going and joined them. But alas I didn’t want to add any more confusion to our clearance dates.
Five and a bit hours after casting off, we pulled up in the failing light to the Customs dock beside Poets Cove on South Pender and performed out first official docking maneuver in our new boat. It went pretty good considering and the empty dock sure helped my confidence.
I knew that Customs office had closed by now so I supposed we would have to stay tied up to the dock until morning. But as Leslie was securing the boat, I wandered up to the office to see what was posted. There was a bank of phones and instructions to call if the office was closed. So I wandered back to the boat to pick up the paperwork and then tromped back up to call. Less than 10 minutes later we were cleared in by phone and all that paperwork and multiple clearances were totally ignored. All I had needed was our birth dates, the licence number of the boat and a promise we weren’t importing any produce. We were home, legal, and free to wander as we wanted in our boat. Sometimes the universe is pretty foolish.
At this point I called the office of Poets Cove and they told me to pick an empty berth and call them back with the number. Leslie and I settled on a nice empty slip and we tied up again right around 10:30 pm. A quick call back to the office and we were settled for the night. Time for a beer and finally a moment to relax and try and absorb it all.
And that is how we finally got our boat.
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