For example, if I as a Canadian took a sail boat with infinite supplies, left Halifax, NS and did a giant loop of the Atlantic Ocean never getting within 200 NM of any other country (thereby leaving both territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone), do I have to report to Canada Border Services Agency upon returning to Canada?

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    I recently saw a Canadian Border Force show where a Canadian citizen bypassed the customs dock, tied up at a buoy, ate breakfast, then finally headed to a dock after being there over an hour. Customs was not amused and levied a C$1000 fine.
    – mkennedy
    Aug 23, 2017 at 18:32
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    Fun fact: Even astronauts have to go through customs. In particular, the moon astronauts who launched from Florida and returned near Hawaii had to make a customs declaration. And apparently an expense report, too. Aug 23, 2017 at 20:23
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    YES, because you left Canadian territory. It's that simple. Is it 100% enforced, no.
    – DTRT
    Aug 23, 2017 at 22:02
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    @GregHewgill What would happen if they were refused entry? Aug 24, 2017 at 6:47
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    Another fun fact: The first man to sail solo around the world (Robin Knox Johnston) had his boat Suhaili boarded by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise officer almost exactly in this situation (he perhaps broke the 200 NM line a few times on his voyage). His coming to Falmouth, from where he had set off some year earlier, was cheered by some quarter million people and otherwise well publicised, yet the officer's first question was "Where from?"
    – Pavel
    Aug 24, 2017 at 8:51

3 Answers 3


Yes you will.
Even when you go out for a trip of a few hours and return to the same port you left from, you can be asked to go through the full checks. When having been away long enough to have been in international waters, it is almost certain that you need to report to the border services at the port, or at least call in to the nearest office if there is non in your home port.

For a trip of more than a few days you will certainly need to report to the border or port services.
Just like that for any flight out of your home country, on your return you will need to pass through immigration and customs, even when you just transfered abroad to return to your home country.
They can see you come in from abroad, they can not be sure what you did when they did not see you.

Months at sea makes is almost certain that you will have interacted with other people, border security people will assume you have whether you did or not.

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    On the other hand, in most of the dozens of airports I've gone to in three years, I just walked through a door labeled "nothing to declare" with no one saying anything.
    – WGroleau
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:26
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    Having to report to the border services does not mean that you will be searched, it will mean that you will be interviewed, just like they usually do at immigration at the airports. (And in some countries immigration officers will send you on to customs for a special check if they feel it needed, like they do in Canada.)
    – Willeke
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:31
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    Accurate answer in general, but I disagree with the initial statement. Plenty of people go on trips of a few hours and are not required to clear customs. It's about whether you leave Canadian waters. Aug 23, 2017 at 20:39
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    Is this also true if you're working your way down the US coast, inland waterway, rounding Key West and the like? Sure, you could've gone out and met a Russian sub, but other than that, there's not a lot of non-USA you could go to... Aug 24, 2017 at 6:54
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    @Harper Don't know the answer (but suspect "yes")... although they're probably more worried about having met a Colombian boat with "interesting" cargo than Russian subs.
    – TripeHound
    Aug 24, 2017 at 8:13

To add to the answer above:

Yes, you would as the Customs have no means to verify this. But even if they were sure you're telling the truth, they would still need you to go through procedures:

  • To ensure that you are still eligible to reenter Canada after leaving. Even citizens sometimes are stripped of citizenship by the court orders;

  • To ensure that everyone on your vessel is an eligible for entering Canada. Even if you left alone, you might for example have rescued someone at sea - which is your duty as captain;

  • To ensure that you did not bring in any contraband, and to charge proper duty on dutiable goods which you have acquired from other vessels at sea (in international waters) or salvaged from the sea (such as treasure you retrieved from a sunk ship);

  • To ensure that you are not bringing animal/marine products from your own hunting/fishing activities;

  • To ensure that your travel purpose was lawful, and you were not for example participating in activities which are considered a crime in Canada (for example piracy in international waters).


Not in the UK. If you don't land in another country, you don't fly a Q flag and clear customs. They could still board and ask where you've been, but yachtsman sail offshore all the time without clearing customs. (There are several races, such as the Fastnet, which round marks offshore and return to the UK without stopping).

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    Even in the UK, if you arrive at any port, however small, without contacting the harbourmaster, you are likely to regret it after the bureaucracy machine starts grinding into action! A short radio call before arriving may be all you need to satisfy "the powers that be," though - especially if it's your home port and you are well known there.
    – alephzero
    Aug 24, 2017 at 8:44
  • I don't see anything in the link that states that even racers in the Fastnet race don't have to clear customs. Aug 24, 2017 at 14:29
  • It doesn't say they do, either. I know this information based on growing up sailing yachts in the UK, we'd often sail out into the Channel and back and never trouble or be troubled by customs (a coastal passage across Lyme Bay takes you well offshore).
    – Rich
    Aug 24, 2017 at 23:39
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    @alephzero You mean all the thousands of boats coming into Cowes on a summer Saturday call the harbourmaster (who isn't customs) and reassure them they're only coming from Hamble? Not. All they have to do is pay for their mooring/marina berth if they don't have one cowesharbourcommission.co.uk/visitor_moorings
    – Rich
    Aug 24, 2017 at 23:44

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