If you’re coming into the United States from British Columbia by boat, the customs office at Roche Harbor Resort is no longer a staffed point of entry.

US Customs & Border Protection strongly recommends using the CBP ROAM APP to clear customs. If Roche Harbor is your first stop after crossing the border, there are designated iPads in the unstaffed customs booth for reporting your arrival via the ROAM App. CBP ROAM is a free mobile application that allows pleasure boaters to report their U.S. entry to CBP via their personal smart device. In circumstances where you are unable to clear via the CBP ROAM APP, you may clear in person at Friday Harbor, Point Roberts or Anacortes. However, in this case you MUST clear during business hours (8 a.m. – 8 p.m., mid-May to mid-September. The rest of the year 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun-Sat. 360-378-2080), arriving at least 30 minutes before closing. Also, be aware that typically you will still be asked to clear via the CBP ROAM APP while you sit on the customs dock.

Here is the clearing procedure when using the CBP ROAM app on your phone/tablet:

  1. At least 24 hours before you plan to clear customs download the “CBP ROAM” app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
  2. At least 24 hours before you plan to clear customs use CBP ROAM app to create login profile, sign into app and create mode of travel and traveler profiles. Then submit a trip by selecting your profiles and completing trip information.
  3. As soon as you cross the border line into the US (but not before), initiate a report of arrival via the app. A CBP officer may initiate a video chat and will send a notification of approved entry or next steps. Be prepared to divert to Friday Harbor, Anacortes or Point Roberts if instructed. Otherwise, once cleared, continue to your next US destination. (Note that Roche Harbor is no longer an option for in person clearance.)

Editor’s note, recent personal experience: On the 48° North Cruising Rally in late July, all boats cleared in using the app, and it was an easy experience. No one was required to come to the dock in Friday Harbor, including the group that was sailing a borrowed boat without the owner aboard.

The decal for your boat that accompanies the CBP Roam account set-up seems key to a smooth experience. If you don’t already have a current one, the set-up or renewal requires some close attention as you input the boat/account details and and transcribe tracking numbers, etc.

We video-chatted first with an outdated decal, were instructed to renew the decal, and then had a quick video chat once the renewal was finished. And now, if this boat were to cross the border more this year, it would be even easier. Smooth sailing, all things considered!

Here’s the procedure when visiting a US customs dock (only if the CBP ROAM APP is not an option):

  2. The skipper should bring the Customs Worksheet, charter agreement and all passports to the customs office. Leave the ship’s papers on board. Make sure you have the number from the Customs User Fee decal as well as your Canadian Customs clearance number entered on the worksheet. The Customs User Fee decal number tells Customs that we have already paid the entry fee for you (decal number on worksheet, actual decal attached to aft side of binnacle on sailboats, or by boarding gate or door on powerboats).
  3. After clearing, log your US clearance number on the bottom of the Customs Worksheet.