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Gulf boating requires extra considerations
BILOXI – Recreational boating in the Gulf and along coastal waterways is becoming more of a challenge, especially during high-traffic weekends, as the oil spill expands to impact more than just fishing opportunities.
Dave Burrage, Extension professor at Mississippi State University’s Coastal Research and Extension Center, said there are no restrictions to prevent pleasure craft on the Gulf, but boaters need to use common sense.
“For people and the environment, the safest place right now for a boat is on the trailer,” Burrage said. “The inland waters will be more crowded as people avoid the Gulf. The sheer numbers will increase the risks, and safety should always be the priority on the water.”
Burrage said all fishing is closed in most of Mississippi’s waters, but pleasure boats can still go into the Gulf.
“The harbor booms that are in place to keep oil away from our beaches are not as effective as the high-seas booms that are used farther out,” he said. “It does not take much of a wave or wake from a boat for oil to pass over or under them.”
Burrage said cleaning boats exposed to oil presents a major challenge and is another good reason to avoid the Gulf.
LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium in Ocean Springs, has taken his boat into the Gulf to show media the conditions on the water.
“We were looking for oil, and we found it,” Swann said. “It has the consistency of chocolate syrup, and it really adheres to a fiberglass boat.”
To clean the oil from his boat, Swann first used a putty knife to scrape most of it off. Then it took several washings to finish the job.
“Most people will not encounter the oil at the same level,” he said. “If boaters see oil on the water, they should avoid it. They also should avoid approaching the booms.”
Recreational boaters can monitor websites, such as http://www.boatus.com, for the most recent recommendations. Follow the links to oil spill resources.