The current U.S./Canada border closure for non-essential travel has provided a whole new meaning to driving your business away for Mark Pondelick.
In this instance, it’s more like sail your business away.
As the owner of Westwind Marine, located in the Point Roberts Marina, Pondelick estimates he has delivered more than 50 boats back to their owners in Canada since early June when the paper work was completed to be given essential worker status.
“It was around early June when we figured out what we needed to do. There is usually some repair work involved as well and we take them to White Rock or Steveston,” explained Pondelick. “We’re not the only ones doing it. There are a couple of other businesses as well.”
Pondelick said about 30 smaller boats have also been returned by trailer through the land crossing. Some camper trailers as well.
Deliveries are the only part of Westland Marine’s operations that have been brisk this summer. The marina has been eerily quiet since the border closure, resulting in a steep decline in business for Westwind’s usual maintenance work and its chandlery that sells marine and fishing supplies.
“Normally we have 12 to 13 people working in the summer and this year it’s been three or four,” he said. “There are no Canadians down here working on their boats or buying things. We maybe get one or two people in the store a day. My wife, who has been doing the accounting, is pretty much looking after it now.”
Pondelick estimates around 125 to 150 Canadian-owned boats remain at the marina. Owners can pay for them to be regularly checked and maintained. With winter weather looming, additional work will be required if the border doesn’t re-open anytime soon.
“The biggest issue for some people is just finding moorage (in Lower Mainland) and then the cost,” added Pondelick. “With winter, you need to set up all the heaters and dryers. Then there is the rain too.”
Among Pondelick’s customers is Beach Grove resident Ted Wilson. He was in the process of fixing an issue with the ignition switch on his sailboat back in March when the border was closed.
“The switch went when we were getting everything ready for the year. I know how to still start it and run it out there successfully but no one else does,” said Wilson. “I’m very frustrated and concerned. I have talked to my insurance company because when a boat is laid up like that they want to make sure it’s getting regular maintenance or they won’t cover you for certain issues that come up.
“I have a complete cover I put over the boat in the winter time to protect it. I can’t get that on. I also take the sails off and put them under. There are all these things to do.”