While COVID-19 has left many business owners in uncharted waters, Philip Cragg, a businessman and dual citizen, has stayed afloat by reconnecting Canadians with boats that were moored in the U.S. when the border closed.
Born and raised in Vancouver, but now living in Point Roberts, Wash., the president of Richmond’s Pacific Coast Yacht Sales found a new revenue stream almost immediately after the Canada-U.S. border was closed to non-essential travel last March.
His business deemed essential, Cragg has spent the last six months reconnecting Canadians and Americans with their sailboats and yachts that were moored south of the 49th parallel.
“Today I’m doing a new 30-footer, brand new boat for an American customer that came from Vancouver. I’m just in the process of clearing customs right now,” Cragg told Peace Arch News over the phone Monday morning.
“I’m going to take the boat to Blaine, and then I’m going to turn around and bring a big sailboat back for a Canadian customer.”
He said there are a limited number of places in Canada that Cragg can bring a vessel, due to Canada Border Services Agency requirements. Most yachts and sailboats heading north from Blaine, he said, are taken to the White Rock Pier to be turned over to their owner.
On a typical delivery day, Cragg said he drives to Blaine, bringing a bicycle. After sailing his client’s boat to the White Rock Pier, he meets customs agents for an inspection and to receive a clean bill of health. After returning the vessel to its owner, Cragg hops on his bicycle and rides it back to Blaine to pick up his vehicle.
“So I’ve gotten a ton of exercise this summer,” Cragg said.
Cragg said there are quite a number of Canadians and Americans who remain separated from their vessels due to the border closure.
Prior to the pandemic, Canadians would head south every two weeks to check on and maintain their boats, he said. Months without routine maintenance can cause a whole host of problems, which inevitably end up being costly.
“Like a car… If you don’t run it on a regular basis, they won’t start. Things seize up and they fall apart,” Cragg said.
“When you leave a boat sitting in salt water especially, you get an amazing amount of growth occurring, especially if it’s stagnant. So you get barnacles and weeds and mussels growing on your boat if it just sits there and doesn’t get moved.”
About 160 boats have so far been safely delivered, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, he noted.
“Have I had problems? Absolutely. Have boats broken down on me? For sure they have,” he said, adding that he’s also a skilled marine mechanic.
“I had a $3 million yacht break down and it took me five hours to get it running again. That’s a good example of an exceptionally well-maintained boat and it still had a problem.”
A highlight of this new revenue stream, Cragg added, has been seeing people’s reaction when they are reunited with their vessel.
“People have been more than grateful.”