Boats head north to Canada

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Boat owners are pulling their boats out of Point Roberts, keeping Westwind Marine busy right now, but concerned about the future as the marina empties.

“It will have a major effect on our business,” said Westwind Marine owner Mark Pondelick.

When the U.S. and Canadian governments announced another extension to the border closure on June 16, Canadian boat owners who have been mooring their boats in Point Roberts ran out of patience. “The phone’s been ringing off the hook in the last week,” Pondelick said on June 23.

While many calls during April and May from Canadians with boats in the marina had been to check on a boat or haul it out for seasonal maintenance, Pondelick said more and more wanted their boats taken across the border for them. He estimates 40 to 50 boats have come out of the water and left by truck so far in June.

Westwind Marine is able to deliver boats on which it does repair work to Canada, meeting boat owners in Steveston, B.C. “We’ve taken at least a dozen in June,” Pondelick said. They also haul out and block larger boats to be picked up by Cardinal Boat Movers of Delta. Two other smaller Canadian boat moving companies are also picking up boats from Point Roberts, he said.

BidBuy Importers, based in Blaine, said they were seeing a growing demand from Canadians to get boats and more out of Point Roberts. “We’ve got 20 or 30 we are moving or driving out in the next few days,” owner Whitney McElroy said on June 23, including trailers, boats, recreational vehicles and personal effects from cabins and storage units.

The company prepares a commercial entry to get the goods across the border and meets owners across the border. “A lot of Canadians store their stuff in Point Roberts and Blaine and now they want it,” McElroy said. “It’s summer and they want to use their things and they don’t see the border restrictions getting lifted soon.”

Zihao Ding, acting manager at the Point Roberts Marina Resort, said they were anticipating at least a 20 percent drop in revenue either from boats pulling out of the marina or tenants who were unable to pay due to the economic downturn. “If the border re-opens, we are confident people will come back,” Zihao said. In the meantime, he said, they were working with minimal staff, focusing on upgrades to infrastructure and taking the time to restructure management.

“How long the border stays closed will have a profound impact on our business,” Zihoa acknowledged. “This is a difficult time for all of Point Roberts.”

Point Roberts is not alone in seeing boats move north into B.C. Both the Semiahmoo and Blaine marinas are experiencing the same issue as owners are unwilling to lose a boating season.

However, getting moorage in lower mainland marinas with good access to the salt chuck is almost impossible to find. Boaters have been forced to look as far afield as Sydney on Vancouver Island.

In other marina business, general manager Theresa Coe has resigned.

“I am leaving the marina for new horizons,” Coe wrote in an email to tenants. “I am still in the area and look forward to crossing paths in the future.”

Zihao Ding will take over as acting manager, “temporarily filling the gap,” he said while marina ownership looks for a replacement for Coe.

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