Boating in Canada Archive

Cruising from Ottawa to New York City 2008

Posted to can.rec.boating August 2008

I have just returned from a trip to the USA (Ottawa to New York City), something I never plan to do again.

Homeland Security and U.S. Customs regulations are bordering on paranoia. The night we arrived we were on their "video phone" for over 45 minutes to report that we had landed and give information to obtain a "Cruising Permit" and "Cruising Number". Then {we were} lectured on the importance and repercussions of reporting into Homeland Security each time we changed port.

Each time we changed location, almost daily, I had to report in to Homeland Security by using their 1-800 number. The toll-free number is very nice IF you can find a pay-phone to use but they are not always available and being a Canadian using a Canadian phone service the costs per call ran between $8 to $18. I do not know if it is their lack of computer competence or their computer systems being slow but it took them forever to log-in and enter information. Their telephone manner is nowhere near common courtesy. One evening I phoned, stating I was calling in to report my position and the phone seem to go dead - no "one moment please", nothing. After about 30 seconds I said "hello" and the response barked back at me was "hang-on, I'm logging-in". After issuing a permit number the boat name was never ever asked of me. Most times they want you to spell the boat name - one time when I started to spell it "M-i-s-s" I was abruptly stopped and asked "are those all capitals?" to which I replied "no" . to which she very authoritively stated "then spell it out correctly indicating which letters are capitals and which are small letters".

The question my wife liked the best was about her status on the boat. They had for the umpteenth time asked the length of the boat to which I replied "20 feet".

Officer: "how many people are onboard?"
Reply: "Two, my wife and I".

Officer: "What is the status of the other person, passenger or crew?".
Reply: "It is a twenty foot boat".

Officer: Loudly: "What is the status of the other person, passenger or crew?".
This put me in a bit of a dilemma, with my wife standing there if I said she was a passenger it would sound like she just sits there for the ride, if I said she was crew then she would feel like a hired hand. I had to go with passenger as there was no monetary exchange for her services.

Be prepared to answer questions about your boat that you probably have never been asked before. Having determined that it was a twenty foot boat, they were obsessed with the draft and gross and net tonnage and asked it almost every call. I guessed at the draft being two feet and they would ask "and how many inches?". For the gross and net tonnage I would reply "the boat weighs 3800 pounds and carries 1800 pounds" which never seemed good enough, and they would repeat the question "what is the gross and net tonnage".

The Erie Canal is the most boring waterway we have ever been on. It is straight as an arrow with scrub brush on each side and very few towns/cities along the canal. Never let your fuel get low, there are very few places to get fuel and even when you see pumps they may not necessarily sell fuel anymore. The current "NY State Cruising Guide" while being very informative, indicates places where you can fill-up but they no longer sell gas.

On the bright side, what the Erie Canal was lacking the Hudson River made up for in scenery, towns, marinas etc. It was an incredible trip down the Hudson and made it all worthwhile. The buildings and structures, the mountains, trees were incredible and an indescribable contrast to the canal.

New York City was awesome from the water but be prepared to pay for an overnight slip at a rate of $4 per foot. I had paid $1.50 per foot a night to stay at Ontario Place Marina and that included admission to Ontario Place Grounds for four people.
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