Pensacola Bay sees boating lifestyle suffer in face of oil spill

As Pensacola Bay loses its sailors one by one, Rick Zern reluctantly helps them go.

``We've probably decommissioned 15 or 20 boats so far,'' said Zern, a lifelong sailor and part-time rigger. He has been busy lowering masts for people determined to move their boats away from the massive oil plume spreading across the Gulf Coast.

``Two weeks ago, we shipped two boats to California,'' Zern said. ``We've got another boat going to a lake in Tennessee.''

While shrimpers and charter captains watch their livelihoods wither away during the oil crisis, Gulf residents who spend leisure time on the water also face a lifestyle under siege. Booms block popular harbors and inlets, marine dealers warn submerged oil can ruin motors and more weekend sailors and anglers are deciding the navigational headaches aren't worth pursuing even their favorite pastimes.

``Our local business has stopped,'' said Hunter Riddle, owner of a Pensacola sail loft called Schurr Sails. ``People are canceling orders.''

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