Saturday will be it for the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit — at least for now.
“We’re going to close it down,” said Capt. Jim Westbrook, owner of the 100-feet red, white and blue boat that docks near AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. “I’m not going to wait until they come in here with guns and shut us down. I’m going to do it of my own free will.”
Westbrook said the boat, which can carry up to about 90 passengers, had already cut back to 50 passengers, but cutting back to 10 like the governor is asking just isn’t worth it.
“We just can’t do it,” he said.
In the meantime they are going to take “one last stab at the triggerfish” on Saturday and be back at the docks at 3 p.m. and shut it down.
Westbrook said they will revisit the issue every 15 days and when the “coast is clear” he said they will be back fishing everyday like “gangbusters.”
He has also told his 10 employees to go file for unemployment.
“The next 30 days are going to be trying times,” he said.
The party boats Swoop I and Swoop II had their last trip on Thursday.
“It has slowed down quite a bit,” said Dianne Holladay, who books the trips.
Both party boats can carry up to 40 passengers and on Thursday, one took out about 30.
Holladay said she had enough calls to make a trip for Friday, but management has decided that it would be too crowded on the boat to practice social distancing.
So for now, the Swoop party boats are not fishing until management makes a decision as to what to do next.
As for the Destiny and Destin Princess at Destin Fishing Fleet Marina, they were still running as of Wednesday, but at cutback capacity by 1/3 for passenger distance and safety.
They have also initiated hyper-cleaning measures on all surfaces and are keeping anglers six-feet from each other, according to Mary Anne Windes of Fishing Fleet Marina.
The captains bridge is locked so that the captain is separated from passengers, plus they are closely monitoring passengers and will report symptomatic anglers to the local health authorities, Windes said.
Plus the crew is following safety protocol like hand washing and no face touching.
“We’ve also given the crew the option of reporting for duty or staying home without repercussion,” Windes said.
Usually during this time of year, the Destiny and Destin Princess runs about two trips a day, but on Thursday, the boats sat at the docks.
“It looks like we will be scheduling some massive maintenance to keep the crew busy during this uncertain time,” Windes said.