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    Update on taking alcohol into Canada

    For those of you who may travel from US waters into Canadian waters and truly want to be good citizens and guests please be reminded that once at your legal limit, taking additional beer, wine, and spirits into Canada can be rather expensive.

    We we arrived at our destination in the PacNW yesterday afternoon at about 4pm and I tied up and called Canadian customs. Not having reason to believe that costs related to having excess alcohol on board would incur any big penalty I was totally open about the amount of alcohol we had on board. Our crew of four had 16 750 ml of wine and one 750ml bourbon. We were effectively 10 bottles over our total limit. NOTE that looking thru various Canadian Customs web sites I couldn’t find any details about costs for either national or provincial “surcharges”.

    So hold tight - any alcohol brought into BC above the allowed amount per person incurs an 85% fee. Take your $10 bottle of Costco white. If that bottle is part of the inventory that is above the allowed amount of wine for your total crew then that $10 US gets converted to Cdn $ and you get to pay an $8.50 Cdn surcharge. In our example the 10 x $10 US turned out to be $135 Cdn surcharge. We fundamentally had no choice but to pay.

    What irritated me wasn’t the fact that we had to pay, it was the lack of specifics easily accessible on the web. We would have left some wine behind if I had known. I would have turned some over to an agent had there been one at the dock (we were on the phone over an hour, past office hours for the office in town). I would have put the excess in a sealed bag (happened 18 years ago). In any case, Canada has the right to set policy and given our trade policy perhaps flexibility isn’t in the playbook right now. Just be advised that if the quantity of your value priced wine exceeds the limits for duty free, you may suddenly find yourself drinking a premier cru.
    Patti & Gordon Lewandowski
    Sammamish WA
    1998 4788 (April 2018)
    ”Knot Home”

    #2
    BTW -- It is not uncommon for a large motor yacht to have a "stocked bar" on board, only for consumption on the boat. Typically a "stocked bar" has many already opened bottles. I have heard from many folks that go in and out of Canada that they just declare the stocked bar and separately declare any unopened bottles. So if you carry a lot of unopened wine -- it is expensive! We have mostly just purchased while provisioning in Canada .. Maybe they are getting more strict now.
    Althea -- 2000 3988 270 Cummins, Hull Extension
    Semiahmoo, WA

    Comment


      #3
      That's the whole point of "Duty Free". You are allowed to bring a certain limit into the country and not pay tax, beyond that you pay the equivalent taxes and duties as if the product was purchased here. They can be lenient when you're 1 or 2 bottles over the limit, but with 10 bottles over the limit, I'm not sure what you expected. BTW - here is an online calculator - looks like it works out to something like $20 CAD per bottle depending on the size and where it comes from... http://www.canadiandutycalculator.ca/index.php

      Its the same for Canadians going into the US. There is a limit to the alcohol, tobacco, cash etc... that we can bring along with us. Go beyond those limits and you have to pay the equivalent duty. Lie about it and get caught, and you can be flagged and/or prohibited from entering the country.
      Terry
      1999 Bayliner 3388
      Twin Cummins 4BTA
      Fisherman, Cruiser, Boaticus-enthusiasticus-maximus
      Member Royal Victoria Yacht Club

      Comment


      • Knothome4788
        Knothome4788 commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks for the link. I couldn’t find it. I’m not angry - it’s the law and I didn’t know it. I was just frustrated that I couldn’t find the cost info and surprised when I did in real time.

      #4
      This is a royal pain in the a**

      Supernova has a fully stocked liquor bar. Maybe 10 bottles. Last time we entered CANADA I made sure all were opened and luckily we were not and have never been boarded to check.

      Its a pain. As it’s very expensive to re-buy everything and we are big cocktail fans.
      But bot sure there is any work around and the open bottle theory seems to be vague but it’s my back up solution if boarded and play it by ear.
      BLOG ABOUT MY BOAT... www.seattleboater.com
      5788 Man 610's- Love Her !
      Sold:Bayliner 3587 | Extended Hull

      Comment


        #5
        Same coming into the US.
        P/C Pete
        Edmonds Yacht Club (Commodore 1993)
        1988 3818 "GLAUBEN”
        Hino EH700 175 Onan MDKD Genset
        1980 Encounter Sunbridge "Misty Blue" (Sold)
        MMSI 367770440
        1972 Chevrolet Nova Frame off Resto-mod in the garage
        Boating on the Salish Sea since 1948

        Comment


          #6
          Customs on the West Coast is another planet compared to the East. We all travel from the Canada to the US and back on a regular basis with stocked bars which includes cases of wine and hard liquor. Customs is not interested in what you have on board for personal consumption. Usually the question if asked is clear in asking do you have anything you will be leaving in X country such as gifts. Just like you do not declare your boat because obviously it is coming back.

          That being said, Canada is very proud of its provincially controlled booze and do tax you through the wahoo if you try to bring some in without going through them. The point here is to make it much more expensive so you will not bring it in as in their eyes you are stealing from them. This is for Canadians coming back to Canada with cheap US alcohol. I do know when I go to the states they never ask me about alcohol or cigarettes for that matter as this is a Canada tax thing for Canadians.

          You must have gotten one of those chip on the shoulder officers as honestly I have never had a problem on the East coast that is.
          Cheers, Hans
          2007 Carver 41 CMY
          Twin Volvo D6-370
          Montreal, Canada
          Midnight Sun I Photos

          Comment


            #7
            When I go through customs from Canada to the US in Alaska it is a pass through for US residents.
            Pat says: DO-IT-RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!

            Bayliner 3870 "ALASKA33)
            Twin 350 GM power
            Located in Seward, AK
            Retired marine surveyor

            Comment


              #8
              I routinely declare "bar stock" and never have a problem. I state something along the lines of I know we have a bit more than the limit in bar stock and mostly open bottles--all for personal consumption, none will be staying in Canada. I have never had an issue. I have done clearance by Nexus this way, by phone at dock, with officers at the dock, and with officers on board. Never once have they cared (maybe they mention it but nothing more), the key is to declare it beforehand but I try to be vague. Imagine if Gordon (Original poster) had stated 16 bottles but was found to have 17--that is a criminal offense as you have now lied to the officer. There is no penalty for being unsure exactly what you have and it has served me well on many occasions.

              Returning to the US is a different matter--they simply don't care. First because it would be stupid to pay Canadian prices and import to the US and secondly the US duty (last I checked many years back) is 10% over what you paid, not 85%, so realistically they won't get much money anyway and would never bother. What I tell the US people is "I have less on board than when I left". They usually get a chuckle out of that and nothing more is said. Like with the Candians I have cleared every way possible and been searched, they, like the Canadians, might mention you are over the limit but have never cared.

              For info: I usually am using the following POEs: Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Port Sidney, Victoria Harbour, and Bedwell Harbour--usually Nexus now but often have others on board without Nexus.

              I am also curious if anyone has asked how we are supposed to declare alcohol above limits when entering the US using the ROAM app... I don't want to jeopardize Nexus by being over the limit without declaring but it seems to just come back approved for entry without any questions being asked...
              2000 Bayliner 4788 "Perfect Balance"
              370HP Cummins
              Zodiac YL 340 30HP Nissan
              Moored at Roche Harbor

              Comment


                #9
                Also a trick I once learned from a US CBP officer regarding fruits and vegetables:

                Whole fruit and vegetables are often restricted as to what can and can't be brought, it changes routinely. Apples are usually out, as are limes, avocados and many other things. The trick is to cut them up and turn them into fruit and vegetable platters. Prepared food is distinct from whole--prepared foods are essentially considered leftovers and they have no care in the world about leftover prepared food--so if you don't want to toss that avocado overboard cut it up, put it on a plate, saran wrap it and throw it in the fridge without the pit.
                2000 Bayliner 4788 "Perfect Balance"
                370HP Cummins
                Zodiac YL 340 30HP Nissan
                Moored at Roche Harbor

                Comment


                  #10
                  No such thing as stocked bar. Opening a bottle does not change the import laws. It is entirely at the officer's discretion.
                  1989 26' then 1994 32' now 2001 39'

                  Comment


                    #11
                    My wife and I just play it safe and don't risk getting our Nexus cards pulled. We only take to Canada what is allowed duty free. Then we find a liquor store and buy anything else we need. It's usually wine for her because I drink beer and they allow plenty of beer per person.
                    1999 3788, Cummins 270 "Freedom"
                    2013 Boston Whaler 130 SS
                    Anacortes, WA

                    Comment


                      #12
                      Its entirely at the discretion of the agent going either direction. If he woke up in a bad mood, the wife yelled at him before he left the house and he didn't have a dog to kick, expect a bad crossing. I've been told that "ship stores" is the magic phrase for the liquor cabinet but I've also been told that sometimes that doesn't work. Its an easy call for Canadians heading south - your booze is so much cheaper it would be lunacy to bring anything. Going north is an entirely different matter.
                      R.J.(Bob) Evans
                      Buchanan, SK
                      Cierra 2755
                      Previously 43 Defever, Response LX
                      Various runabouts, canoes & kayaks

                      Comment


                        #13
                        I just try to be close as I can, we often leave home 3 days before we cross. I can usually guess what we will consume in those 3 days so we are really close to the allowable limits. If we are looking like we are behind on consumption that last night in the US might get a few extra pours. What is far far worse is consuming more than expected on the way up arriving on Sunday of a holiday weekend and the liquor stores aren't open until Tuesday.

                        Not going to lose my NEXUS over a few extra bucks on a few bottles of booze. My math says that it is ~$10-12US more for half gallon bottles. Not a deal breaker in grand scheme of the cost of vacation.

                        We usually take our limit in cheap easy drinking light beer - the cost of "plain" beer up there is insane, micros don't seem to be as far off of my acceptable price point.
                        1989 3888
                        Nobody gets out alive.

                        Comment


                          #14
                          Originally posted by Uncle_Bob View Post
                          No such thing as stocked bar. Opening a bottle does not change the import laws. It is entirely at the officer's discretion.
                          That's why you should declare it ( i.e. stocked bar or ship stores )-- it is then at the discretion of the officer how they treat it. If you are worried or conservative .. just purchase what you need in Canada or the US and stay as close to limits as you can.
                          Althea -- 2000 3988 270 Cummins, Hull Extension
                          Semiahmoo, WA

                          Comment


                            #15
                            Our officer on the phone was pleasant and as helpful as she could be. We were on the phone over an hour. I was tempted to tell her to reduce the bottle count by 2 - because we consumed that much during the wait! Of course then we’d technically run afoul of the BC boating laws for the short 100 yard drive from the Sidney customs dock to the slip! Oh well. Lesson learned.
                            Patti & Gordon Lewandowski
                            Sammamish WA
                            1998 4788 (April 2018)
                            ”Knot Home”

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