On August 9, Canada reopened its border to fully vaccinated American citizens. While many Americans were happy about the decision, it was those who own cottages in Canada that seemed most appreciative.
“We were absolutely elated. I mean, it was just a huge sense of relief, like a weight was lifted off of our shoulders,” says Andy Mullen, who lives in Radnor, Penn., but owns a cottage on Stave Island, near Ontario’s Gananoque. “We just couldn’t wait to get all of our documents in order and get a clear understanding of what the requirements were in order to come over.”
Mullen and his family decided to travel by boat, crossing into Ontario from New York State. As part of the border crossing, the family was required to have been vaccinated 14 days prior to entry, receive a negative PCR COVID test, and complete the ArriveCan app, which collects mandatory travel information from people entering Canada.
The entry process still has some glitches, Mullen says. When entering Ontario, the ArriveCan app led the family to the wrong marine entry point. “In the past, there were more [entry] options. But with the new regulations, they really reduced it to just a few that were a boat’s drives from our cottage, and that wasn’t updated on the app,” he says. “But we ultimately made it, and the border patrol people were by the book, but very friendly, polite, and welcoming.”
Sisters Tracey Kershaw and Terry Kimlick, who are based in Michigan but share a cottage in Rondeau Provincial Park that’s been in the family since 1947, also made the trek—separately—across the border. Kershaw says that timing their COVID tests took some maneuvering.
To cross the border, Americans are required to show a negative test that has been taken in the last 72 hours. But it takes, on average, 48 hours to get the test results. So, when family members pulled up to the Ambassador Bridge to cross from Detroit to Windsor last Friday, they were cutting the 72 hours close. And traffic at the border was taking longer than usual with officers spending approximately 10 minutes on each vehicle, due to the reopening, Kershaw says.
“There’s a little bit of a balancing act between having a test and getting the test results,” she adds. “We completely understand the protocols, but it’s a process that we’re all figuring out.”
Despite the hiccups along the way, all three American cottagers made it into Canada. For the Mullen family, it had been nearly two years since they were last at their cottage, but thanks to a cottage swap they did with a retired Canadian coast guard, the interior of the cottage was pristine. “He had done little maintenance items that he could, and it was a real renewal of confidence in mankind,” Mullen says.
The cottage exterior did require some work, though. The family is in the process of cutting back two-years-worth of tree and brush growth, while also cleaning gutters and removing moss from the roof. But Mullen says being back at the cottage is well worth it, especially after the reception they received from their Canadian neighbours.
“Our Canadian friends, who are 80 years old, met us at the dock when we arrived and loaned us a car so we could get into town,” Mullen says. “Our neighbour next door invited us over for dinner and welcomed us back with grilled lobster and lamb shanks. It was a real homecoming.”
Kimlick and Kershaw had a similar experience arriving at their cottage. “Just being able to go up there and unlock the doors and take the shutters off the cottage and be there felt like we were returning home,” Kimlick says. “As we drove up, about 50 of the cottagers up there—who are Canadian—had put signs on their front lawns that said, ‘Welcome back, we missed you’, and had a Canadian flag and American one. It was amazing.”
The Rondeau family cottage did have a few maintenance issues: two burst shower fixtures and some trouble with carpenter bees and carpenter ants. But Kershaw says, “Remarkably, we fixed it with a smile on our faces because we could be there.”
The cottagers realize that the border reopening could be temporary as the number of Delta variant cases in both the U.S. and Canada continue to rise, so they’re determined to make the most out of the time they have. “We close before the freeze sets in, so we’ll use the heck out of [the cottage] through Labour Day,” Kershaw says.
Kimlick adds that she’s just grateful to be back, “It’s a privilege that we have this place up here.”