By Reinhard Zollitsch

I had crossed over into Canada from Maine and back so many times that I stopped giving it much thought; it had become a routine, like visiting a good neighbor. So when I planned my solo canoe trip back from St. John, New Brunswick, I assumed I knew what to do and failed to pay proper attention to my first aquatic reentry.

I knew there were three reentry points: Calais/St. Stephen, Eastport and Lubec. I picked the last one since I was going on to Machias. I had also seen and used the customs stations at the bridge to Campobello Island in past years, and so I blithely assumed there had to be a dock to tie up to for boats entering or leaving the narrow channel.

I should have known better from looking at the charts. There couldn’t have been a dock in the channel since the tide rips through there at up to 8 knots, and on the outside, the channel opens into a bay of mud and mussel beds, all the way out to the in-water caisson lighthouse.

So here is the scene. I had planned to arrive at the Lubec channel at the end of low tide and gently flush through to the customs station. To my surprise, the tide had already turned. I pressed the panic button and powered my way against the strong incoming tide to the imaginary customs house. Surprise # 2: there was none. Maybe it is just around the corner, I kidded myself. No, not either. In disbelief and desperation, I whipped out my passport, waved it in the air in the direction of the US customs house to relieve my conscience, and paddled on guiltily, keeping an eye out for a chase boat, already mouthing some lame excuses why I had to do this.

FOLKS, THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO REENTER THE US! I knew it even then, before 9/11/ 2001. But after that date it is definitely, positively out of the question, and so that you won’t try my desperate stunt, but rather are better informed and PLAN your reentry, I am writing this brief info blurb.

There is a wonderful, very informative web site you should read before you go on your trip: http://www.quoddyloop.com/border.htm

Go down to “US Ports of Entry” and you will get all necessary info including addresses and phone numbers for Calais, Eastport and Lubec. All three places have a dock, but you have to call ahead to meet the customs inspector there or make arrangements with him/her. In Calais the docks are just below the International bridge.

In Eastport it is Eastport harbor proper, which can be very busy, and remember, the current is very swift at that place. Especially watch out for big freighters docked at the outer pier, forcing you way out into the very fast current. And stay out of the way of the ferries coming in from or leaving for Deer Island, New Brunswick. They are big and clumsy and cannot maneuver too well. In Lubec the town dock is on the inside of the channel, on the right of course, the town side, near that cute little lighthouse.

So I hope you paddlers coming back from St. John, riding the Fundy Bay ebb tide express, or just from across Passamaquoddy Bay, from Blacks Harbor, Letang, St. George or St. Andrews, will heed my advice and do a proper and safe reentry into the US. If you know what to do by informing yourself ahead of time, this is a cinch. Just have your cell phone or marine radio handy.

After 9/11, we small boaters have to help do things the proper way also and not cause unnecessary trouble and ruin our good reputation.

© Reinhard Zollitsch