Donald Parton and companion Brandy Lembaugh were launching their boat from the Destin Marina boat slip, on their way to pick up a friend before heading out to Crab Island to do some fishing. It’s not too crowded this Tuesday afternoon, Parton remarked.
“On weekends, you can’t even get a boat in there,” he said.
Crab Island is a hotspot for Destin boaters and jet skiers in the spring and summer. But since the coronavirus shutdown, it’s been relatively quiet, until last weekend.
Lee McElmeel, manager of water sport rental company Xtreme H2O said that they sold out of rentals this past weekend. “It looked like a regular summer day this past Saturday,” he said. I think people are getting cabin fever from being in the house so late.”
“The beaches are closed and you can go to the island,” said Parton. “It’s the only place to go right now.”
McElmeel said that they are doing their best to abide by the FWC’s guidelines are enforced and that people know about them before heading out, but “there were some people, of course, just like anything else,” he said, “who push the limits in not listening and not abiding by them [the social distancing rules].”
The FWC set executive ordinances for boat traffic saying that boats must remain 50 feet apart and limits boat capacity to 10 people per vessel. It also does not allow water vessels to be anchored overnight.
McElmeel said that the local law enforcement come through Crab Island frequently to try and enforce social distancing.
Sergeant Brian Parkton with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said that the people in that area are really respectful of the FWC’s guidelines and value their health, so the Sheriff’s office doesn’t have to worry too much about enforcing the ordinances.
Parton remarked that the police seem pretty light-handed. “The police, and the Coast Guard and everything, doesn’t mind if you go to the island,” he said.