Ferry service increased for isolated Point Roberts

Credit: Open Street Map

The Port of Bellingham is increasing temporary ferry service to the isolated enclave of Point Roberts, Washington.

That community was largely cut off from the U.S. mainland when Canada and the U.S. closed their land border this spring to nonessential crossings to control the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Northwest News Network.

Beginning last week, the Port of Bellingham chartered a commercial eco-tour boat to offer once per week passenger-only service connecting Point Roberts to the border town of Blaine. Demand for seats from people marooned on the peninsula has far outstripped supply, said port executive director Rob Fix.

“We’ve done two sailings now for the past two Tuesdays and they were both full,” Fix said in an interview. “We had about 500 inquiries that were interested in those sailings over those two weeks.”

Those five hundred people were competing for 40 reserved seats available each week. So now, Fix said the port will sponsor twice per week service using a tour boat that is roughly twice as big. Space is still limited, so reservations are required on the Tuesday and Friday service schedule.

Fix said riders are using the service to accomplish all kinds of errands from doctor’s visits to Costco runs, plus eating out at restaurants.

The port is footing the full cost of the ferry of $3,500 per day by not charging fares. Fix said no decisions have been made for how long to operate the maritime escape route for Point Roberts residents.

“It is not financially feasible to do this long term,” Fix said. “It was not in our outlook at all for the year, but we see the need so we’re going to fill it.”

“The border needs to open back up,” he concluded.

Border crossing restrictions went into effect on March 21 and have been extended monthly. The prevalence of COVID-19 infections is far higher in the U.S. than in Canada.