Charter boat owners struggle through oil spill

Destin, FL - (WALB) Charter boat captains who aren't hired to BP must still try to make a living taking fishermen into the Gulf.

But with huge areas closed to fishing and tourism down, there aren't a lot of fishermen around these days.

Fishing is Kirk Reynolds life and livelihood. He's been a charter boat captain in Destin for 26 years, but he's never seen a summer like this. "I've been on boats all my life. One of the few left that's still fishing for a living."

He still has fairly steady work, only because about 60 of the 70 boat captains here now work full time with BP. "I'd say fair at best," he said.

Tony Davis is one of them. "For me it's been great. It certainly takes away a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry."

He oversees ten boats that patrol these waters every day looking for oil. That work replaces the charter customers he lost in droves after the oil disaster started. "I think I had 23 or 24 days booked in May. Then all the sudden I lost 16 or 17 days that quick."

Charter Boat Association President Scott Robson recently got hired by BP too. "It gives you something to do to go out there and help clean up and feel like you're doing something for your community instead of just sitting around here."

He's now trying to secure that work for other boat captains including Kirk Reynolds who sent his paperwork to BP almost two months ago but hasn't heard anything. "I'm hoping that comes through right now," he said.

He needs the steady paycheck now to support his five kids. He knows with or without it... his very way of life could be in jeopardy.

"Undoubtedly, this is going to affect the Gulf of Mexico for generations," Reynolds said.

And that will affect generations of people so connected to and dependent on these Gulf waters.

We have heard some complaints about the vessels of opportunity program. It ramped up so quickly, it was disorganized at first.

Some boat captains claim they're not being paid on time, and some say too many boat owners who don't depend on their vessels for a living are in the program, while struggling captains like Kirk Reynolds still aren't.