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Closing Out a Dismal Season

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 22 Jul 2011 11:59am | comments
Pelicans stand behind oil boom this summer on West Ship Island.

Sunday marked the end of the 84th season for Ship Island Excursions once of the Coast’s most popular tourist destinations, but as MPB’s Phoebe Judge reports this season has been one of the toughest in their long history.

Captain Louis Skrmetta’s family has been running the ferry service out to Ship Island off of Mississippi’s coast for decades, and this year was supposed to be one of their best seasons yet,

“We had a wonderful spring, seventy percent increase in hits to our website, a lot of optimism. We had a great Easter weekend, a lot of folks rode the boats, and then April 20th everything stopped completely.”

April 20th was the day the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, leading to the largest oil spill in the nation’s history, and Ship Island excursions took a major hit. They had projected 50,000 passengers this season; the latest figures show only 15,000 passengers rode the ferry this year, a 75 percent drop. Captain Skrmetta says the only reason they were able to survive is because it is a family business,

“It was tough we had to cut back on salaries, and do away with a lot of things, but we were able to survive. Next year will be 85 years. It is an old family business and I guess that is why we have lasted so long.”

But even the end of the season brought some bad luck, last week two of the trips had to be cancelled because of high winds. Disappointing many visitors, like Wale Olarinde from the United Kingdom, who had hoped to take in the island one last time before the season closed,

“Certainly disappointed. We woke up early with the kids, we just wanted to go out there and see what it is like.”
Olarinde says he’s being hearing a lot about the Gulf Coast over the past few months, as news of the oil spill filled headlines even in the United Kingdom. Louis Skrmetta says he only can only hope that next season will be better, but he says he is still skeptical,

“I don’t know how long it is going to be before it is back to normal, but I don’t think it will ever be the same. I do think we have lost something with this disaster.”

But he says he is keeping his fingers crossed that by next season the perception the Mississippi Gulf Coast was covered in oil will be gone.

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Pelicans stand behind oil boom this summer on West Ship Island.


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