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Preparing a Boat for Transport

Depending on where the boat is located, what size it is and what time of year it is, you may need to arrange for short term storage while you prepare everything else for its return journey.  If the boat is dry docked at a marina, or already in a slip in the water, this is as simple as contacting the marina to let them know you are the new owner and that you will be paying the storage costs from a certain date.  The marina will require your details such as name and home address for billing, or some may require pre-payment.  Some marinas charged a fix price for winter storage, which may include autumn haul-out and spring haul-in.  If the boat is located on private property, then you will need to negotiate storage with the owner as part of the purchase price.

Any boat will require a certain degree of preparation before it is moved from the US back to Canada and the steps required will depend on whether it will be returning via land or water.

Preparation for Returning by Land

Boats transported by land are subject to height restrictions, usually less than 13.5 feet, but this will depend on the trailer used and route taken.  This is particularly relevant for sailboats, but may also apply to power boats that have a high arch over the cockpit.  The disassembly process can be tricky for sailboats, and if you have never done it before, then it may be wise to hire somebody to help you.  In any case, you will probably need a crane to remove the mast.  These services are available from most large marinas and the final cost will depend on their labour rates and how long it takes them to get the job done.  Try to schedule this disassembly work to happen just before the boat will be transported as most marinas will charge you a fee if the mast, arch or whatever else has to be physically removed from the boat needs to be stored for longer than a day or two.

The best way to know exactly what has to be done is to have the transport company meet you at the boat location and do a quick evaluation.  If this is not possible, then you can take the measurements yourself and give them to the transporter.  Note the high points of the boat then measure horizontally from the bottom of the boat up to these points.  With these measurements and some exterior photos the transporter should be able to tell you what needs to be done before transport.  Boat transport companies will not typically do any of this preparation work for you - they expect the boat to be ready to be dropped on the trailer when they arrive so you will either have to do this yourself or hire somebody to do it for you.

For smaller boats, no disassembly should be required and you will likely be hauling it on your own.  If the boat comes with a trailer then ensure that you have the correct trailer hitch plugs and correct receiver for level height and a 2” ball, for example.  You should also ensure that the vehicle you are planning on using to haul the trailer is sufficiently large to handle the load.

Before any disassembly is done, it is important to extensively photograph any parts that will be removed as this will assist in reassembly.  For a sailboat, potential items are the bimini hardware, cockpit arch and hull attachments, the mast, spreaders, rigging, all electronic connections to the mast and arch, all lines, boom attachments, and anchor.  Besides still shots it's a good idea to take a video of these items in case you miss something in the photographs.  The last thing you want to do is end up with a pile of leftover lines, bolts, cotter pins and electrical wire after the boat is supposedly fully reassembled!

If you were involved in disassembling the boat then putting it back together should be relatively easy, especially with the help of the photographs and videos.  If you had this job done by somebody else, then it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you reassemble it.  If the boat is being shipped to a marina they may have staff that can do this for you...but not always.  Discuss this with the marina manager at your final destination beforehand to ensure the required resources will be available.

The reassembly can usually be done on the water, but you may want to block up the boat if you need to do any work on the underside of the boat, such as applying fresh bottom paint or making any hull repairs.  You should decide this well in advance so that you can make the required preparations at the boat's final destination.  Don’t forget to put the plug in the boat before it hits the water!

Preparation for Returning By Water

This is usually the easier way for getting a boat back to Canada and will probably save you some money if you can find a boat in a location that allows this.  Unless the water route takes you through height restricted areas then no disassembly will be required.  What you must do, though, is take a full inventory of all safety equipment on the boat and all spare parts.  At the very least, you should have an engine parts kit for your particular engine, a full toolkit for any emergency repairs and a full set of safety equipment.  Please see Appendix – Additional Resources for a link to the required safety equipment for different types of vessels in Canada.

One requirement you must be aware of is that the US and Canada have different standards for lifejackets.  Flotation devices approved for use in Canada will have a label marked as approved by either Transport Canada or the Canadian Coast Guard and will be in both French and English.  If the boat you purchase comes with life jackets, check the label.  If they are not marked as approved for use in Canada then they will not satisfy the Canadian safety requirements while in Canadian waters.  If your vessel is stopped for inspection after you hit Canadian waters, and you have only US approved lifejackets, you can be charged and will have to pay a $200 fine.  Play it safe and take Canadian lifejackets along with you for the return trip.

If your return journey will be long, for example across one of the Great Lakes or up the US coast, you should take some time to get familiar with the boat controls and systems to ensure you will be comfortable with the boat.  For smaller boats this may be as simple as taking it out for half an hour to test the engines and get a feel for the handling.  For larger boats, you may want to take an entire weekend to sail it, sleep onboard and test all systems that you will depend on during the trip – in particular the navigational systems.  There is a steep learning curve for all new boats so it is best to do this learning before the pressure is on.




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