How to Enter Canada by Boat: A Get-Started Guide

by admin on December 2, 2013

Welcome to Canada, concept road sign

The Canada-U.S. border is the longest international border in the world shared by two nations that have not been at war. Its peaceful presence is a longstanding symbol of the two nations’ determination to keep a peaceful border for travelers to and from each country. Maintaining this requires cooperation from citizens on both sides of the border.

A Few Rules When You Float to Canada

Much of the border is water. All five of the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair, plus five rivers—the St. Lawrence, Detroit, Lake St. Clair and Niagara—and the Juan de Fuca Strait are waterways the two nations share. If you decide to ditch the bridge traffic and come to Canada by boat, contact the Canadian Border Patrol (CBP) as soon as you first enter Canadian waters. Do this even if you are just out for a day and crossing back and forth. The CBP has made this as simple as possible by letting visitors contact them via cellphone. You can also stop at one of the 439 marine reporting sites.

If you call them, be ready to provide basic information including: when you entered Canada/expect to enter/realized you were already there, your boat’s registration number and name, passport details for all boat passengers and how long each person plans to stay.

Make Sure You’re Licensed to Operate That Motor Board

If you’re literally sailing into Canada, you won’t need to show a boating license—but if that sailboat has a motor, you will need to show proof that you are certified to operate a power boat. According to, you will need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card if you plan to operate any boat in Canada for more than 45 days.

Declare Your Possessions

As boatmaster, you are in charge of what’s on your boat, regardless of who actually owns it. So be smart and make sure there’s nothing questionable on board. Current prohibited items include:

  • Potatoes
  • Radar detectors
  • Most weapons
  • Pepper spray
  • Frozen or salted minnows

You can bring in a fair amount of tobacco and a case of beer, as well as some hard liquor and wine—and according to, “a reasonable supply of food for personal use.”

Documents to Present at Canada’s Ports of Entry

If you leave the boat to enter the country, you will need to show one of these identification pieces:

  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Passport Card
  • Enhanced Drivers License, available in four states that border Canada

Frequent travelers to Canada can apply for a Nexus card, which gives Canadians and U.S. citizens faster clearance at ports of entry. There’s a $50 application fee and you must pass a security interview and be approved by both nations. Once you have the card, all you need to do is make a phone call to get through security. Each card is good for five years.

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