Local business owner runs Captains for Clean Water Florida Skiff Challenge
Jessica Potts has had a hand in her family’s business, TowBoatU.S., since she graduated college. Captains for Clean Water was getting organized around that same time period and a love for the water urged the family to get involved by partnering and supporting this non-profit organization.
“Captains for Clean Water was formed by two captains in 2016,” said Potts. “They created this non-profit to basically educate people, making them aware of the problem and to empower people to speak for the community and talk to elected officials.”
Potts was asked to run the Florida Skiff Challenge Event, which was held April 8-11, for the organization. The challenge is explained on its website captainsforcleanwater.org.
“What began as a head-to-head battle for bragging rights has evolved into a daring feat to help shine a spotlight on Florida’s water crisis by those who’ve been directly affected by it — boat manufacturers. This year, five boat companies will put their 18-foot skiffs and best teams to the ultimate endurance test, circumnavigating the 1,300 mile Florida peninsula in nearshore waters from state line to state line.
“Each four-man team includes two skiff operators and two land-based support crew. Teams are equipped with extensive safety gear and navigation aids and pre-plot their own pit stops for fuel, food, repairs and rest. Boats are powered by up to a 70-horsepower outboard motor and may carry up to 22 gallons of fuel at a time.
“These teams are uniting for a common cause. It’s not just about the businesses and ecosystems that rely on clean water, but about protecting the boating, fishing, and outdoor lifestyle that we enjoy with our families.
“Follow the 2021 Skiff Challenge and learn how you can help protect and restore Florida’s water quality for future generations.
“The race started literally on the Florida/Alabama line at a place called Flora-Bama,” said Potts. “Then they traveled south, all the way around Key West and back up to finish in Fernandina Beach. It’s about 1,300 miles and takes roughly 44-52 hours and the teams and their chase crews don’t sleep the entire time. They left Thursday morning and the first time came in Saturday around 8 .am.”
Potts said it’s not only business owners and boat manufacturers, but that everyone has an opportunity to get involved with Captains for Clean Water. It’s her hope that as a local business owner, her partnering with this organization will raise awareness of the necessity for change in water quality standards, especially here in Florida, where water is a way of life for so many.
“I’m a seventh generation Florida native,” said Potts. “Water plays a huge part in my family and my ancestry. I’ve always been on or around the water. When you consider the tourism alone, water is a really big deal. To hear that we’re having issues with our water is devastating.”
Potts went on to explain that the 2018 red tide largely affected the family business because it kept so many people off the water. It affected a great deal of those who need the water for their livelihood, she says, such as, the island’s commercial fishermen, charter captains and guides — all of whom depend on clean water to feed their family and pay their bills.
“If something happens with a toxic algae bloom or red tide — these guys can’t go to work,” said Potts. “It’s a big deal. It affects all of Florida, but it affects us here locally even more because we are an island, and so much of our economy is based on the water. The water affects everyone in our community.”
If you’d like to be involved or want to find out more about the Captains for Clean Water organization, check out its website at captainsforcleanwater.org