Busted at the Border


After motoring around the San Juan Islands since June, we decided to meet up with friends and head to the Canadian Gulf Islands. It’s a whole new play ground of islands with small quaint towns, marina pubs, remote anchorages and some excellent fishing. The Gulf Islands are the islands in the Strait of Georgia (also known as Salish Sea or the Gulf of Georgia), between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Gulf Islands Map

When entering Canada by boat, one has to go through Canadian Customs and since we have a Nexus Pass we are able to report in via telephone. When reporting into Canada with a Nexus Pass there is always a series of question that the Customs Agents ask in which the following is always discussed. U.S. citizens crossing the border into Canada to visit are allowed to bring the following item quantities into Canada duty free:
• 1.5 liters of wine, or 1.14 liters (40 ounces) of liquor, or 24 cans or bottles of beer.
• 1 carton (200 cigarettes), up to 50 cigars, and 200g of loose tobacco
• Up to $60 in gifts per recipient. (excluding alcohol and tobacco)

Well, can you guess which limit we exceeded? If you guess wine or liquor…bingo you are correct.

Our list of declarations was as follows:
54 bottles of wine 750 ml each
1 1.5 liter bottle of gin
1 750 ml bottle each of Rum and Bourbon
3 open bottles equaling 750 bottles of misc liquor
1 case of beer

Personally, I don’t think this is really excessive for a 2 month cruise, but yes it is way over the limit. So busted we were thanks to our by the book customs gal. No jail time required but she sure busted our wallet – to the tune of $530 CAD or $414 US. Ouch…We knew we would likely pay duty but the killer is that our friends in two other boats declared just as much and paid ZERO! Why the inconsistency? Who knows but I did stew on it awhile, then had a cocktail with my heavily taxed gin and just let it go! What really chapped me was the customs agent never told me how much the duty would be and only said I would receive a invoice in the mail. Curiosity got the best of me so I checked my credit card online and whamola!

Liquor is expensive in Canada and heavily taxed, however maybe not as much as I paid for mine in the US with all the duty and taxes figured in. We usually have just brought wine as we can’t often find the wines we like in remote areas of  Canada. In hind sight, I should have left some of the liquor in the US but oh well, cie le vie, live and learn.

We stayed at the Port of Sidney Marina for three days and enjoyed all this small, charming seaside town has to offer.


The first night we dined at Thai Corner, which I would highly recommend. The Thai Sukiyaki and Panang Curry were both killer. This family owned restaurant not only dishes up great food but the service was friendly and warm. Thai Corner

Sidney has some great walking and biking trails, not to mention a very walkable town with great shops and grocery stores. We enjoyed strolling the waterfront path called the Lochside trail which takes you along the shore and will eventually link up with another bike trail that you could ride all the way to Victoria.  Sidney Trails


You don’t need a boat to enjoy Sidney as you can catch a ferry from the US to many points on Vancouver Island. There is so much to do and see in the Canadian Gulf Islands and with the easy ferry access, a vacation to this area should be on your bucket list. Gulf Islands Planning


Our plan is to cruise in this region as far north as Nanimo until late September or until our supply or over taxed beverages runs out.




4 thoughts on “Busted at the Border

  1. Ouch is right on that liquor tax. Not fair! We just came back from a week’s vacation in Victoria and had a blast. We might have been there at the same time as you. (We left our rig behind and stayed in an Airbnb.) The distillery on the waterfront in Sidney has the best gin we’ve ever had — including a beautiful purple variety made with flowers.


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