U.S. Customs

From the September, 2004 issue of Pacific Yaching
©2004 A.L. Smith

Despite many indications to the contrary, Neah Bay, near Cape Flattery, is not an official port of entry to the United States. The 2004 U.S. West Coast Pilot and U.S. Customs and Border Protection brochures still erroneously list Neah Bay as a port of entry. To add to the confusion, there is a sign at the dock that gives a phone number for entry procedures.

Canadian yachts travelling down the U.S. West Coast and planning their first stop here may be forced back to Port Angeles or on to the next port of entry (Astoria, Oregon). The latter means crossing the notorious Columbia River Bar. It would be better to take care of initial entry formalities in Port Angeles or Friday Harbor. However, if you already have a Cruising Permit and PIN number, you can check in by phone from Neah Bay.

In March 2003, the U.S. Customs Service and the Department of Immigration and Naturalization merged to become U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security. As a result, customs officials are learning immigration rules and immigration officials are learning customs rules. Many of those rules are open to interpretation.

When calling 1-800 numbers, some personnel may not be familiar with small boat entry procedures, so be prepared to explain your situation.

Whenever possible, get names of all officials you deal with so you can refer others to them. They customarily call each other to check your story. Keep records of all contacts. This shows you are trying to comply with the rules. In these post 9/11 days, it pays to make as few waves as possible.

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