ROUSES POINT — Justin Roberge had his fingers crossed this week.
“I was really hoping the border would reopen. I am very disappointed.”
The Canadian, 46, lives and works in Montreal, but owns and operates seasonal, francophone marina Rouses Point Yacht Club.
The small boat basin, big enough for 30 vessels, sits just south of the border on Lake Street in the Village of Rouses Point.
“Ninety-five percent, if not 100%, of our clients are Canadian,” Roberge told the Press-Republican Wednesday. “Business-wise it’s terrible, because there is zero income.”
The marina generally anchors between 25 and 27 boats each summer, leaving three or so slips open for the occasional visitor.
With Can-Am border restrictions on nonessential travel trapping the marina’s owners, Roberge and his father, Yvan, as well as its boaters, up north last summer, Rouses Point Yacht Club was shuttered.
Restrictions have continued much of this fair-weather season, too, with Canadian leaders just this week announcing doors would open to fully vaccinated Americans come Monday, Aug. 9.
But the U.S. did not reciprocate.
American leaders instead announced Wednesday, the day current border restrictions were set to expire, another 30-day extension, stopping Canadians from crossing into the U.S. via the land border through Saturday, Aug. 21.
“We were hoping that Americans would allow Canadians with their two shots to (go) into the U.S.,” Roberge said. “We’re a bit surprised because, from a Canadian perspective, we always saw that in the U.S. approach with COVID was — there were less restrictions than there were in Canada. Much less.
“We always thought that the border was closed between the two countries, because Canada mostly. . . now, with Canada opening the border before the U.S., it sounds like a contradiction.”
Roberge last visited his Rouses Point business in October 2019 and, until last week, his father had not been since January 2020.
“Last year, his sailboat stayed out of the water for the whole summer,” Roberge said of Yvan, “but this year it was too much for him.”
Yvan and wife, Gaetane, Roberge’s mother, traveled by plane, the transportation method still allowed by the U.S., to Plattsburgh last Wednesday.
The pair, who are both vaccinated, started sailing 36 years ago when their son was 10 years old.
Roberge called it a “passion” of theirs and said, for that reason, they were willing to pay $400 Canadian apiece to take a short flight on a 9-passenger, private plane across border lines. They also paid for COVID tests, for a 30-mile taxi ride to Rouses Point and to ship their car to the United States.
“It’s a bit expensive,” Roberge said. “Quite a bit, in fact.”
Yvan and Gaetane were met with a wholesome surprise when they arrived back in Rouses Point.
“Our neighbor put balloons on the fence and two huge signs in French, can you believe it? They said, ‘Welcome back. We missed you,’” Roberge said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. That shows just how nice the people are in Rouses Point.”
His parents had noticed changes in how often masks were worn on the U.S. side of the border.
“They tell me, staying there, it’s like there is no COVID. There are no masks and if you wear a mask, you’re the stranger,” he said. “They’re pretty happy to be there now, however, it looks like Lake Champlain, out on the lake, it seems to be pretty empty.”
In fact, since Roberge’s parents arrived in Rouses Point last week, their boat was the only one to hit Lake Champlain from the yacht club.
“It’s the only boat there.”
With news that the U.S. would not reopen the border to Canadians, Roberge himself was still stuck in Montreal carrying out his day job.
“Me, I am lucky, because my boat was stored in Canada before the COVID started, so I can use my boat here in Canada. We’re disappointed, but, at the same time, it’s policy and there are all sorts of motivations behind this decision.
“What can we do?”
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