S/V Hello World's Travel Log

Border crossings

June 18, 2013

If you’ve ever crossed an international border, you know there are certain things you can bring with you, certain things you can’t.

I learned this the hard way one year in college when five of my college buddies and I piled into two cars and took a roadtrip from Pittsburgh to Niagra Falls, Canada. Why Niagra? Not for the waterfalls, or the scenery, or even the 18-year-old Canadian drinking age. No, we went because we heard about a strip club that had both men and women stripping in the same place. A place we just had to see for ourselves.

On our way back into the US from said strip club (we stayed a total of one night since we were all mostly broke), we stopped at the duty free store. Upon asking the clerk how much liquor we could take back into the US, she told us we could take as much back as we wanted and we’d just have to pay duty. We math-wizzes quickly calculated said duty and determined we needed to get as much as we could afford. So we filled the trunk. Literally.

Driving across the border, just minutes later, we were questioned about what and how much we bought while in Canada. My answer? “Liquor. A lot of liquor.” My poker face sucks. I proceeded to hand the customs agent a receipt as long as my arm of the tastiness that occupied my trunk. After nearly fainting at my stupidity, she proceeded to inform us that if she turned us in, we would have to pay a fine and our liquor would be confiscated. Our collective looks of panic must have indicated our thoughts: fine us all you want lady, but we’re poor college kids who just spent our lifesavings on a down payment on a hell of a party. She decided to let us go – no fine, and we kept the liquor.

Oh those college years teach you dear lessons, don’t they? Now when we cross a border, Jason and I pay particular attention to the legalities of it all, and don’t solicit advice from duty-free-store clerks. The reality is that prohibited items seem to change frequently and there’s no clear list, so we just try to get rid of everything fresh. We love fresh fruits and veggies on board and always tend to overbuy. We find ourselves going to dinner on other boats, catching fish or choosing a lazy meal of cereal instead of fresh stuff once in a while. It always ends in us scarfing down the leftover veggies just before facing the customs agent. On a delivery from the Bahamas to Virginia a few years ago, we found ourselves sadly heaving 12 coconuts off the stern as we approached landfall.

Some new boat friends boiled it down really nicely for us the other day:
• Don’t bring potatoes or cored/pitted fruits (like apples) into Canada.
• Don’t bring citrus into the US.

I guess we’re done with the pre-border crossing force feedings…until the rules change again, in about 4.7 hours.


Megan M. said...

Hehehe!! I'll never forget "a LOT" :) :)

BTW, a few years ago some Canadian friends almost got detained coming into the US with tomatoes...

Latitude 43 said...

We would hit up a place called Mints(?) in Niagara Falls. Fun and a little creepy. We would lie our asses off about how much beer we had at the border. Many cases of Molson Export were in the trunk, back when it was not $50. Never had a problem. A few years back I bought a dinghy in Kingston, and completed every form to make it all legal and I get detained by a guy in camo and an M-16, who orders me in the office, where I pay a fee while they rip my car apart. WTF

Ken and Susan said...

This is the best picture-free blog in the land.