Vail Valley Voices: Crime at the border
Vail, CO Colorado
We were on our boat on a warm, clear October morning when we set out for Forrest Island in British Columbia, about an hour and a half away.
First, we had to stop in Friday Har-bor and get I- 68 passes for our six guests so they could return from Canada easily and officially, as customs closes at 5 p. m. and we knew we’d be later than that. This way, we could call in our return.
About 500 yards from our dock, a Coast Guard boat came alongside and asked permission to board. ( I wondered what they would do if you said “no”?) We lay dead in the water while two officers the size of middle lineback-ers in the NFL clambered aboard. They let us cruise slowly toward our destination at the customs office in Friday Harbor as they performed a routine safety inspection.
We suspected that one of the boarding officers was training the other one in boat searches, with everyone on our boat being used as unpaid participants.
After an hour and a half, we were cited for not having a refuse- dispos-al procedure plan posted some-where where everyone could read it, and a Y valve was not wired shut that might jiggle open. The valve is 12 years old, and I need to use pliers to open it.
The customs office was slow on this fall Saturday morning, and what should have taken 20 to 30 minutes to get permits took an hour and a half. By now, we were already over-due for our luncheon engagement in British Columbia.
Canadian customs, like the U. S., has a deal at a dock where you just phone in all of your data and pro-ceed from there. We have cleared customs this way hundreds of times in the past 25 years, but this time, they insisted that we all stay on the boat until they could come down and inspect the boat and interview all of the passengers.
They had to drive from the Sidney International Airport and then walk down a quarter- mile- long dock. When they got there, they ordered all of us off of the boat to stand out on the dock in the cold north wind while they searched our boat for smuggled illegal aliens and other contraband such as cocaine, mari-juana, diamonds and hand guns.
After searching diligently, they didn’t find any, and we proceeded to our desti-nation and sat down to a scheduled noon lunch at 3: 30 p. m.
The lunch was fabu-lous, and the trip home only took an hour and a half. There is a procedure that we always follow while getting back into the U. S. that involves a Nexus Pass so we can use our cell phone, give them the ID number and few bits of infor-mation and then proceed home to our dock.
Laurie started calling at the bor-der. We wallowed in a beam sea until the kids started to get seasick. We couldn’t get through, so we headed home and arrived at our home just after it got dark and we docked by moonlight.
The U. S. customs phone number was finally available about 9: 30 p. m. When she told them that our guests had already gone home because their line was busy for so long, they said, ” You have just committed a federal crime. Someone will call you on Monday morning and tell you the consequences of what you have done. Be sure and stay by your phone until noon on Monday.”
Laurie explained the full situation of this federal crime, and we now both have a much better under-standing of what the customs people really catch by being so strict.
Untold hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, at least a metric ton of Vancouver bud every year. Vancouver bud is a special breed of marijuana that is many times as potent as what you hopefully don’t grow in your backyard for medicinal purposes.
I have seen a police car here on our island filled to the rooftop with shrink- wrapped bricks of marijuana after catching some not-very-smart drug dealers right in front of our house. These agents are on the front lines and go about their job quietly and what appears to be slowly when you are in a hurry as we were.
Whatever you do, when you meet up with them, keep your mouth shut and do not ask for favors. They don’t care about you being in a hurry or having to get to a party. Anything like this arouses their suspicions, and they have to see for themselves that you don’t have six handguns and a king’s ransom in diamonds hidden in your pleasure boat somewhere.
After all, our boat is 47 feet long, full of all kinds of places to hide things and, besides, we really fit the profile of smugglers. I’m 6 feet tall, bald, except for a few grey hairs left here and there. Laurie is older than 60. Our guests were from Minneapo-lis and Mill Valley, Calif. Maybe the fact that four of them had flown up to see us in their own private air-plane raises a red flag on the entire group? I don’t know, but it was an amazing day.
I just wish there was some way they could catch the high-speed motorboats that go by our dock southbound in the middle of the night. I know that the boats are trav-eling in the dark at 50-plus mph around midnight for a reason. They were not going on a picnic at noon on a clear, cold Saturday afternoon and traveling at 10 miles an hour.
Again, I’m becoming more aware of how many, many undesirables are being caught trying to get into our country, and my hat is off to all the men and women who have to per-form this unpleasant and dangerous job!
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publica-tions. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log on to warrenmiller. net.