Skip to main content

From Bad to Worse

The Gulf Oil Spill has gone from bad to worse. Since BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank on April 22, killing 11 workers, it has been spewing a torrent of oil into the Gulf of Mexico—roughly 70,000 barrels, or 3 million gallons, each day. A method known as “top kill,” the most recent attempt to siphon the spill, was deemed a failure, leaving BP and government officials

The Gulf Oil Spill has gone from bad to worse. Since BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank on April 22, killing 11 workers, it has been spewing a torrent of oil into the Gulf of Mexico—roughly 70,000 barrels, or 3 million gallons, each day. A method known as “top kill,” the most recent attempt to siphon the spill, was deemed a failure, leaving BP and government officials scrambling for answers. Meanwhile, Gulf-area sailors and residents watch in horror as oil laps up on their shores, fouling marinas and devastating wildlife.

At this point, BP is no longer discussing a cap on the leak – it merely hopes to contain it. The best-case scenario involves a relief well implemented in August, but even if BP were to contain the leak today, Gulf residents, governmental agencies, fisherman, environmentalists and sailors face an oil-spill disaster larger than any in our history. The damage has surpassed that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the end is nowhere in sight.

Among other things, the oil slick is now making its way into the Loop Current, a system that circulates warm water from the Caribbean, around the Gulf, down and around Florida and up the Eastern Seaboard. If oil enters the Current under the right conditions, it could mean an entire East Coast splashed with petroleum. Then there’s a possibility of a hurricane churning things up, an occurrence that NOAA says has a 40 percent chance of happening in the course of the upcoming hurricane season.

By the time BP attempted to implement the “top kill” solution, the situation was critical. Louisiana declared itself in a state of emergency as oil-soaked brown pelicans washed ashore and commercial fishing halted. Governor Bobby Jindal called on the federal government to pressure BP to find a solution. Since then, the President has formed a commission to investigate the explosion’s cause and to ensure that a disaster of this caliber never occurs again.

What does this calamity mean for thousands of sailors who keep their boats in these Gulf waters? It means a direct threat to the keystone of our lifestyle – the sea. It means tar balls washed up on docks and decks. It means a shock to a fragile ecosystem with which we sail in harmony. It means the boaters and sailors along the Gulf Coast will think twice before keeping their hulls in toxic water this summer. It means miles of oil booms lining the channels to and from coastal marinas while the charter and commercial fishing industries bite their nails. It means trouble.

What can be done? First and foremost, the pressure is on BP, the EPA and various state and federal governmental agencies to contain the leak. Already, BP has taken responsibility, and will honor any verifiable claim for damages caused by the spill. (If contaminated waters reach your boat, check out this listof helpful tips from Interlux and Awlgrip.) For sailors, we can volunteerwith shore cleanup, get behind organizations that protect the Gulf's water, stay educated about news in the Gulfand support other sailorslooking out for the sea.

For Gulf-area residents, visit these links to discover where you can volunteer: Louisiana, Alabama, Florida

We can also look at this tragedy as a wake-up call to reevaluate our energy sources. With 35,000 miles of oil pipeline stretching across the Gulf, a repeat explosion is a possibility.

Luckily, our sport is based on a sustainable source of energy. For centuries, sailors have utilized power from the wind and the sun, and advances in marine technology are making it increasingly easier to be green with electric engines, LED lighting and more.

We have yet to learn how this story ends, but one thing is for certain: "drill, baby, drill" just took on a whole new meaning for Gulf Coast sailors.

Related

_DSC8952-2048

Sailing Scholarship for Teenage Girls

The Women’s Sailing Foundation is offering the Sue Corl Youth Sailing Scholarship to one teenage girl, aged 14-19 years old, who wants to expand her sailing experience and needs financial assistance in order to do so. Established in 2015, the scholarship allows the recipient to ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-26-at-9.50.45-AM

Celestial Navigation Part 4

In episode four of The Nav Station’s Celestial Navigation series, learn how to calculate your assumed position and the local hour angle using your Greenwich hour angle and dead reckoning position. Using examples in the western and eastern hemispheres, Andy Howe discusses why the ...read more

AdobeStock_15671180

Orca Encounters in Spain

The waters off the Atlantic coast of the southern Iberian Peninsula can be tough enough as it is, but in recent months resident pods of orcas have created a whole new kind of challenge, ramming boats and chewing off rudders. Though initially confined to smaller vessels, larger ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

Video: Celestial Navigation Pt3

. In episode three of the Practical Celestial Navigation course, Andy Howe examines the theory behind celestial navigation, the celestial triangle and the celestial sphere, and why it is important to have a basic understanding of each. Topics introduced include zenith position, ...read more

01-LEAD-6.-After-2-years-ashore,-Nada-headsto-the-water-(3)

Sailing in the Time of Covid

In mid-August 2019, my wife, Terrie, and I laid up our Malö 46, Nada, in Falmouth, England, and flew home to Maine. We booked flights back to the UK for May 2020, anticipating a summer of cruising the Atlantic coasts of France and Spain. Then Covid struck. Remember that first ...read more

Ulysse Nardin promo photo

The Ocean Race Names Official Timekeeper

With just under one year before the start of The 2022-23 Ocean Race, Swiss watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin has been named the official timekeeper of the race. The Ocean Race, formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race and before that the Whitbread Round the World Race, announced ...read more

Arthur Daniel_RORC Maserati - RORC Transatlantic 2022 - Jan 15th -Social Media-4

Fast Finishes for the RORC Leaders

Over the weekend, the first finishers of the 2022 RORC Transat made landfall in Grenada, led by Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati, which was awarded line honors with a corrected time of six days, 18 hours and 51 minutes. Maserati finished ahead of Peter Cunningham’s MOD70 ...read more

Background-02

Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw ...read more