Church services done? check! Course plotted? check! Weather as nice as it gets this time of year? check! Lines untied? check!
And off we went from Bellingham. Dodging crab traps as we went southwest through Bellingham Bay and northwest through Hale Passage, out through Lummi Bay into the deep waters of Georgia Strait. We made a direct course for Point Roberts, but were mightily distracted by the sight on our stern quarter:
It’s hard to look where you are going when that view is behind you!
Nonetheless, we soldiered (navvied?) on to our destination at the marina in Point Roberts.
The line at the top of the picture is the Canada-United States border (the 49th parallel). Little 5-square mile peninsulas aren’t of much interest to the colonial powers who took a a beautiful area from the Coast Salish peoples, and without even adequately surveying cut off this area from its natural geography. Since the Canadian-US border has always been quite open, It didn’t matter much until COVID came and closed it tight. There’s only one small store in “Point Bob”; there’s no health care, minimal other services. The only way in and out (from the States) was by boat from Blaine, the little town next to the Peace Arch. We tied up at the marina on the south end of the Point.
So it’s been tough, and we wish we could have stayed a little longer, but we were on a bit of a schedule—COVID tests are only good for 72 hours (three days!). Never mind that a three-day-old PCR test is all but worthless given the reports of the omicron variant’s ability to infect, and an antibody test would be much more useful (not to say vastly less expensive), the slow moving and fearful public health bureaucracies on both sides of the border march to their own (pavane-like) drumbeat. Martin joined us for supper (Canadian residents didn’t need a test to re-enter for less than 72 hours in the US) by riding a folding bike south from the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen, BC and we got ready to depart the next morning.
Monday we got off to a relaxed start and headed north to Vancouver. While small pleasure craft (I know, 46 feet and 16 tons doesn’t sound small) don’t have to use the Vessel Traffic System in the area between Victoria and Vancouver, but it’s so well run, and frankly, it is rather fun to be part of a communications network that is much like the aircraft system, and we have all the pieces (radios and Automatic Identification System transponder) to make it easy, that you want to play in the “big kid’s pool.” Not only that, were Braesail to be run over by a fully loaded container ship, it wouldn’t notice, and there would not be much of us left! As a result we got to wait for messages like “Braesail, after Queen of BC [a fast-moving ferry] and M/V Francesca [a 400-foot long container ship] pass you, assume a course of 5º to cross the traffic lanes.” That kept us safe in a very busy are of the ocean.
We crossed under the Lions Gate Bridge at 3:00 and tried to find customs and immigration (the Canadian Border Services Agency). Problem is that with closed borders for most of the last two years of closed borders and a major storm in November, there was a lot of maintenance going on. The main port of entry in the central harbour is being rebuilt. The two Royal Vancouver Yacht Club POEs were closed for repairs (and crowding). The desk at the Van (the RVYC) thought that the False Creek POE was also closed. We called the CBSA, and of course the Ottawa, ONTARIO, based call center had to be convinced that Braesail was a boat, not a plane (we were directed to a gate at the Vancouver airport), and we finally were directed to the Burrard Yacht Club, where we had reservations to await clearance into Canada.
When the incredibly helpful (and, I think, amused, for I’m sure they wondered whether people going out for a sail in December didn’t need a psych evaluation more than a customs inspection) CBSA agents arrived, we found that we had run afoul of rapidly changing regulations. Previously, they gave a bit of freedom in reporting the tests: you had to remain in quarantine until your test came through and then you were free to go. Lorelette’s and my tests, though promised in 48 hours, hadn’t come through, but the yellow flag (the “Q” for quarantine signal flag is bright yellow) option is no longer available. No result, no landing. We were told to depart at first light the next morning and return to the states. (There were lots of winks and nudges about how long we might delay because of safety, but, of course, no permissions).
Then we got to the Canadian. The rules had changed, or more than likely, been “clarified.” Marine travelers didn’t fall under the 72-hour rule; they had to be tested just like airline travelers (remember, they tried to have me sail Braesail to a gate at YVR). That meant that Martin was actively and intentionally violating the Quarantine act, and as one agent put it, the moment he stepped off the dock, they’d have to fine him $5000. Since there was an open testing station about four block away, they tried to get permission for him to ride his bike up and back and quarantine on the boat until the results came through. Twice they called public health, and no luck whatsoever. So the agents suggested that the best thing we could do was to immediately rescind our request to enter Canada and get the heck out of Dodge ASAP.
At 5:30, as it was getting quite dark, we left the dock, and in the dark headed through the English Bay anchorage in the full dark (the moon was hidden, even though it was full), make the left turn and head for Anacortes, for another try.
Stay tuned to see if we make it back to Anacortes…..