Tag Archives: gulf oil spill

One Year After Oil Spill, Conflicting Views on the State of the Gulf

gulf rainbowIt’s been just over a year since the world watched in horror as millions of gallons of oil bloomed in the Gulf of Mexico, the result of a catastrophic explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and since then the fast-moving waters of the news cycle have swept those images far away from the national consciousness. However, for anyone who lives, works or enjoys the splendors of the Gulf, one question looms: Has anything been learned?

At the six month anniversary of the disaster, we at the American Sailing Association wrote an update on the clean up effort. How far have we come since then? Well, a lot of clean up has been done. We know the sailing is as good as ever, and ASA schools operating on the Gulf Coast are open for business. Tourists and outdoors enthusiasts (including lots of sailors!) are returning to the area in droves, which is great for everyone concerned. But what about the ecosystem as a whole? And are we protected against another such event?

The Twitter feed of BP (the company largely held responsible for the spill) would have you believe that things are heading in the right direction. The feed is relentlessly positive (a gushing well of positivity?), posting regular updates such as:

  • “See the signs of wildlife at #Gulf Shores Public Beach, #Alabama today”
  • “#BP is reviewing how they reward employees to reinforce “safety first” behaviors”
  • “Frank Patti Jr., who’s been fishing in Pensacola, FL for decades, is calling local shrimp safe”

Certainly, some real progress has been made, and BP’s money has made a difference. However, not everyone is buying into BP’s rosy view of the future. Bestselling author and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen recently published a scathing editorial, asserting that, “The beaches have been cleaned, but miles of once-fertile marshlands in Louisiana remain goopy and barren. Elsewhere, the shrimp and fish are rebounding, but samples show elevated levels of petroleum-based hydrocarbons. Nobody is sure how much of the BP oil remains suspended in the dark depths, or the long-term effects on marine life.”
sunset
Hiaasen goes on to argue that “little has changed. Another major blowout could occur in the Gulf today, with the same harrowing results. On that point, the experts agree.” He says that the government agency overseeing oil drilling, previously hopelessly corrupt, has been reformed and is now merely underfunded and inexperienced. Finally, he describes the U.S. Congress as “disinterested.”

On this last point he is supported by a New York Times op-ed reporting that “Congress is pushing in exactly the wrong direction…to accelerate the granting of drilling permits in the gulf…” It’s not all doom and gloom, though, according to the Grey Lady: “Congress aside, there has been a surprising amount of progress, thanks largely to the hard work of thousands of people and the extraordinary resilience of nature. More than 99 percent of the gulf has been reopened to fishing, jobs are returning, and the Interior Department has tightened oversight. Yet without Congress’s help progress will slow and many crucial tasks will remain undone.”

A Fox News report quotes “oil industry insiders” as saying, “We have the technology to drill safe.” Further reading of the article reveals that what they mean by “safe” is the ability to better kill a well after there has been a leak or accident of some kind, not the ability to avoid accidents altogether. The Fox report also quotes anti-drilling organizations arguing that, “It’s not a matter of if there’s another accident, it’s a matter of when.”
turtle
Who do we believe, and where does the truth lie? It’s hard to say. There seems to be a dearth of independent analysis–most of the “experts” seem to have an agenda, such as those working for the oil industry, where there is an obvious financial incentive to declare the disaster over and future drilling safe.

This issue is especially concerning for our many fine sailing schools who rely on the Gulf for their livelihood, and who are open for business. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

2010: The Year in American Sailing

2010 has been a year of drama on the high seas, and one of change and excitement for ASA. Here’s a rundown of some of the big news from the past year:

TOP SAILING STORY OF THE YEAR: Abby Sunderland

Wild Eyes adrift
Photo courtesy of Australian Search & Rescue, via http://soloround.blogspot.com
Nothing else in the maritime world even came close to equaling the notoriety (and controversy) of this 16-year-old Californian sailor’s odyssey. Sunderland departed from ASA’s home port of Marina Del Rey, CA in January, attempting to become the youngest solo circumnavigator ever (a record previously held by her older brother Zac). She successfully rounded Cape Horn, but on June 10, in the stormy Indian Ocean, she lost radio contact, and shortly afterward activated her emergency beacons. It was widely feared that she was lost at sea. However, she was found alive and well by a search & rescue aircraft and retrieved by a French fishing vessel on June 12. The event sparked a massive debate in the media and among sailors about the wisdom of this, and other, similar, world record attempts, as well as who should be responsible for the cost of the rescue, estimated to be between $200,000 and $300,000. Sunderland has been criticized as reckless by some, and praised for her courage and fortitude by others.

For her part, Sunderland is undeterred and has stated her desire to attempt another circumnavigation in the near future. She also has a book about her experiences due out in 2011, and apparently there is a documentary in the works (just announced today). (ASA’s Meghan Cleary covered the incident as it happened here and here.)

OTHER NOTABLE STORIES: The Gulf Oil Spill, Laura Dekker embarking on circumnavigation at age 14, Jessica Watson completing solo circumnavigation at age 16.

BIGGEST NEWS FOR ASA MEMBERS: Sailing Made Easy and ASA Social Media
sailing made easy
In March, ASA released Sailing Made Easy, the official textbook for ASA 101, the Basic Keelboating course. A great deal of effort and expertise went into creating this book, a full-color introduction to the essential skills and lifestyle of sailing. It’s an indispensable manual for new sailors and a handy reference even for experienced salts, featuring beautiful photography from Bob Grieser and edited by sailing legend Peter Isler. Heck, it even has waterproof covers. (Available through our store.)

2010 also saw the emergence of ASA’s Social Media Gateway. Meghan Cleary was brought on as our first Social Media Coordinator and got us off the ground. In October Meghan moved on to become ASA’s writer-at-large and, more importantly, to cruise the tropics in her 35′ cutter Velella. I (Ben Miller) replaced her and it’s been a blast getting to know ASA members and immersing myself in the sailing lifestyle (even if most of that immersion has taken place in an office). My New Year’s Resolution? To get out on the water with ASA! (You can find my “Introduction” post here.)

NOT TO MENTION: The launch of the ASA iPhone App, flotillas to a number of alluring locales, and our ever-increasing membership, to whom we want to say a huge THANK YOU!

WHAT DOES 2011 HAVE IN STORE?

Short answer: Who knows?
sailing away
ASA certainly has a number of exciting projects in the works, including the continued expansion of our Local Sailing Clubs, more fantastic flotillas, and other things I’m not even at liberty to talk about yet! My personal goal is to get as many people as possible press-ganged into our scurrilous crew on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to reading this blog.

However, as all sailors know, the true adventure often lies in the things you can’t plan. So here’s to 2011 and the mysteries it may hold. We’re crowding sail toward the horizon, and very glad you’re with us.