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OCC RoRC report - West Coast of North America

by David Bridges 29 Apr 15:58 UTC
Spruce anchored at Portland Island in the BC Gulf © Sue & Andy Warman

Our 2018 cruising season ended with the advent of November and arrival in Blaine. People have asked us "Why Blaine?" After our long haul across the North Pacific a goal was to park Spruce, travel east and visit family and friends in the UK.

For cruisers contemplating a crossing from Japan there are a few things to be considered prior to arrival in either Southern British Columbia or Washington, USA. Information on the main cruising websites and grapevine is misleading or incomplete.

Considerations on where to overwinter a boat are many, including price of "moorage", boat repairs required, where you need to travel, tax regimes, personal budgets, and particularly do you need to live aboard for much time? We attempted to find answers while in Asia. OCC Port Officers in Canada were most helpful. An issue that repeatedly surfaced was limits to duration allowed living aboard in British Columbia. We wanted to live on board perhaps for 4-6 weeks at either end of travel to the UK and California. Many folks in southern BC choose to live afloat where they work; alternative accommodation is expensive. Officially, municipal authorities limit those without a "Permit" to 5-days per month. Obtaining a permit involves being appended to a waiting list, often with a non-returnable fee for each application.

In the USA, the situation is again waiting lists for berths, their reason is high demand. The only marina promising definite availability of winter berths and reasonable access to transportation networks was at Blaine.

Bear in mind, if we could not be certain of a place to berth then our plans might need to be altered to bypass Washington State before the commencement of autumnal weather and leave time enough to head south to Mexico before winter. The distances to be travelled in one season were already large.

Anecdotal Information about Washington State often mentions boat-taxes as "punitive". This statement may well be true for vessels owned by US residents but was not the case for foreign flagged and owned craft. Yes, we needed to register with the Washington State vehicle taxation office, easily done through the desk staffed in a local Blaine supermarket. Documentation, a single $37 fee and Spruce was registered to be legally in Washington State: seemingly exempt from taxes indefinitely. There may be some other federal importation rules but as long as we maintain a US Cruising Licence, issued by CBP for 12-months validity upon arrival, and provided we depart before it expires, there is no problem. We understand a new licence will be issued if we re-enter the USA after the old one has expired.

Friends due to come south from Alaska later in 2019 are also finding the availability of berths in Washington is "wait listed" apart from Blaine Marina.

Boat services in Blaine may be limited, but Bellingham, 20-miles to the south is well appointed with contractors and haul-out facilities. The yard in Blaine will not allow owners to do any of their own work. There is a bus service at only $1 per ride. Car rental can be arranged in Bellingham or farther south. For our winter stopover, Blaine suited our purposes perfectly. The marina staff proved helpful and overall we enjoyed our stay.

In February, OCC Port Officers Liza and Andy Copeland held an OCC and Blue Water gathering at their home in Vancouver. It gave a wonderful opportunity to meet new cruisers and we hope to meet some of them again as we cruise in 2019.

We departed from the USA in mid-March and commenced a spring and summer cruise in beautiful BC.

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This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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