Gulf Breeze Coastal Watch

Several weeks ago the City of Gulf Breeze took a series of proactive steps to help minimize damage to their shores from the oil.

The police department bought a boat and then found several qualified volunteers to run the boat on a 3 times daily oil watch.

My Dad is one of those volunteers.

Morning, noon and late afternoon they head out on two to three hour runs along the shoreline.

Their three main objectives are to check on the booms that have been placed along the shore, making sure they're still in place, spot and report any oil in the water, and to report any oiled wildlife they encounter.

I got to ride along with Dad and Retired Coast Guard Captain Bill Clark on Wednesday and was really impressed by the effort Gulf Breeze is making.

We left the dock a little before noon and cruised slowly out into Santa Rosa Sound.

Our first objective was to check the booms placed in front of Shoreline Park but before we reached the park we spotted a small oil patch about 200 yards offshore.

Dad radioed in to the Gulf Breeze Police dispatcher with the coordinates of the oil and was told that the Fire Department would respond shortly to skim it up.

Captain Clark deployed a boom filled with oil absorbent fiber which would help soak up the oil as well as mark the spot for the Fire Department boat.

As he was doing that we were approached by two men in a small fishing boat who wanted to report another patch of oil down by the Bob Sikes Bridge.

The Fire Department arrived while we were talking to the fishermen and began skimming the oil with a net. These guys spend their days responding to the locations given by the Coastal Watch boat and any citizen sightings that are called in.

With this patch being taken care of we rode on down to the bridge to check out the report from the fishermen.

Sure enough, another patch.

This location was called in and the Fire Department boat would be coming along soon to skim this as well.

After checking the booms along the south side of the City we rode around the point and out into Pensacola Bay.

A report of oil had been received near the Pensacola Bay Bridge so we were on our way to see if we could locate that.

But we ran into another patch out in the Bay. More booms were deployed and the location was called in.

We reached the bridge and found just a few small patches of oil that were too small to skim and thankfully no big patches were found.

On we rode, checking the double booms that have been placed at the entrance to Gulf Breeze's bayous. These bayous are important breeding grounds for numerous birds and wildlife and it's especially important to protect them.

As we checked the last of the booms a storm moved in, sending us back to the dock.

Our two hour boat ride allowed us to locate and mark several patches of oil for the Fire Department to skim as well as assuring us that, for now, the protective booms were secure.

Captain Clark summed up our trip by saying "At least we feel like we're doing something."

How right he is.

Kudos to the City of Gulf Breeze and to those who are helping with their effort.