SEATTLE - It’s been a very long time coming.
Starting Monday fully vaccinated Americans will be able to cross into Canada for non-essential travel.
Meanwhile, the US has delayed opening the border to Canadians until at least Aug. 21.
The border closure has been tough for separated loved ones and devastating to many businesses like the Victoria Clipper in Seattle.
Despite the border opening up next week, the Victoria Clipper will have to wait beyond Monday to cross into Canada. That’s because the rules are different for maritime travelers.
For Captain Jason Mihok, it’s 25 years on the water. But these times have proven it’s nothing like the past.
"Pale shadow of what we used to be," Mihok said.
Canada is Victoria Clipper’s lifeline, and ever since the border closure, most of their fleet that normally transports more than 250,000 people has gone nowhere.
The fast-paced vessel is known for taking passengers back and forth from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia.
"It was brutal, yeah, you know first we didn’t know, it was going to be a few months then you get to be a year, then you get beyond that," Mihok said.
To put it simply, the 17-month border closure has been devastating.
"We went down from what would have been 200 employees in July of 2020 to 8 people," CEO David Gudgel said.
Those 8 people, including Gudgel, are doing things they’ve never had to do before.
On Thursday, we saw the CEO helping to cast off a boat. One of the only things operating right now is the Clipper’s whale watching tours.
"It’s been one of the most difficult times I’ve been here 7 years, CEO for part of that, it’s a real family atmosphere," Gudgel said.
When Gudgel first heard that the border was reopening he says it was elation.
"We went from elation to deflation that’s the best way to put it," Gudgel said.
But he soon learned that the marine border was still being discussed and a specific date for reopening is still in limbo.
"There are different protocols for marine borders than there are for land," Gudgel said.
The CEO says he’s lobbied Canada customs for a quick resolution. By the end of August, he hopes the Victoria Clipper will once again be able to cross into Canada. Future passengers say they can’t wait.
"I’ve never been to Vancouver or Victoria so I hope to visit as soon as we get a chance," Seattle resident Aleksandra Singer said.
For captain Mihok, it’s a voyage he’s made too many times to count. But the very long hiatus has given him a new appreciation for his job.
"We miss our Canadian friends and colleagues, we are looking forward to getting back up there," Mihok said.
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