Average Canadians Are Tracking U.S. Yachts Illegally Crossing The Border

People walk under the rain near boats docked off downtown Victoria, British Columbia, on January 21, 2020.
People walk under the rain near boats docked off downtown Victoria, British Columbia, on January 21, 2020.
Image: MARK GOODNOW/AFP (Getty Images)
BoatlopnikBecause boats are cars too

Some of those good productive Americans who through hard work and superior morals definitely deserve their own yachts have been illegally sneaking across the Canadain border with their tracking responders switched off and our neighbors to the north have had enough.

NPR spoke to one of these Canadian who felt called to action to prevent any more potentially diseased Americans from entering his country illegally:

For George Creek, a former insurance agent, whose home overlooks Nanaimo Harbor in British Columbia, it has been a call to action.

“A number of us that are retired boaters and still members of the Council of BC Yacht Clubs started looking at the number of American boats that were crossing our border, in spite of the prohibition by the federal government,” says Creek, president of BC Marine Parks Forever.

And they can do so from their living rooms.

Under international maritime law, every passenger boat must be equipped with an automatic identification system that is to remain on at all times. This allows for tracking boats in real time and helps prevent collisions in fog and bad weather.

Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can click to see what kind of vessels are sailing, where they’ve recently been and which country they are from.

And plenty are from the United States.

Creek estimates that right now some 30 to 40 American pleasure boats are cruising through British Columbia’s pristine waterways.

Lately, however, many have gone dark. Creek says that the Americans have figured out that they are being tracked through their transponders.


Gee, it sure seems like some of our upstanding upper-class Americans are committing illegal border crossings, but don’t take my word for it—Canada Border Services Agency reminded American boaters in July that sneaking around in its waterways carries some very real penalties:

Boaters who enter Canada without reporting to the CBSA (including for the purpose of refuelling) may face severe penalties, including monetary penalties, seizure of their vessels and/or criminal charges. The minimum fine for failing to report to the CBSA upon entry to Canada is $1,000. Furthermore, non-compliance by foreign nationals may affect their immigration admissibility and ability to re-enter Canada in the future.

In addition, failure to comply with the current border entry restrictions is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to up to 6 months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines. Further, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening this act or the regulations could be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment of up to 3 years or both.

We don’t exactly have the best reputation around the world right now and sneaking around in other people’s countries isn’t helping. Canadians are particularly horrified by what’s happened right on their border. Crossing the border was closed to nonessential travel on March 21, an order that has been extended to August 21, and is expected to be extended again until next year, according to CBC News. While American lawmakers want to reopen the border to nonessential travel, 86 percent of Canadians are against it.

As of this writing, Canada has the virus far more under control than the U.S. with 117,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 8,945 deaths. The U.S. currently sits at 4.75 million cases and roughly 157,000 deaths. Canadians had a few advantages, such as less population and more space between major population centers, but there was another reason, according to the Washington Post:

The Canadian people have been less divided and more disciplined. Some provinces and territories could have locked down sooner, analysts say, but once measures were announced, they were strict, broadly uniform and widely followed.

“It was completely unexpected,” said Gary Kobinger, director of the Research Center on Infectious Diseases at Quebec’s Laval University. “I thought that people would not accept to stay home. . . . This also helped.”


This border crossing is hard on a lot of families and friends who live just over the line, as well as businesses that depend on the flood of tourism from the U.S. each summer. I know I miss going to Canada. But unfortunately, smoked meats poutine and all-dressed chips are for good countries who washed their hands and stayed home back in March.

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.

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