Blessing of the Fleet in the United States

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The Blessing of the Fleet is a tradition that began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities. The practice is predominantly Catholic and a blessing from the local priest was meant to ensure a safe and bountiful season.

In most United States ports, the event was brought by immigrants who held strongly to their Catholic religious beliefs. The events that are part of the ritual vary by community and range from a simple ceremony to a multi-day festival including a Catholic mass, Parades, Pageantry, Dancing, Feasting and Contests. The Blessing of the Fleet is held at coastal fishing communities throughout much of the world.

The two bible verses most used[citation needed] in Blessing of the Fleet are: Psalm 104, verses 24-31 & Psalm 107, verses 23-32. The actual blessing used at Destin, Florida, is as follows:

“Most gracious Lord, who numbered among your apostles the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John, we pray you to consecrate this boat to righteous work in your name. Guide the captain at her helm. So prosper her voyages that an honest living may be made. Watch over her passengers and crew and bring them to a safe return. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon this vessel and all who come aboard, this day and forever. Amen”

Portage des Sioux MO[edit]

The Blessing of the Fleet in Portage des Sioux Missouri has a 50+ year history and is held each year on the Third Saturday of July in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rivers.

Jacksonville[edit]

The celebration in Jacksonville, Florida is a simple ceremony that was first held in 1985. While it is held on Palm Sunday, and an Orthodox priest does the blessings, it is a fun, festive boat parade. Some of the participants go overboard with their decorations. Typically, more than 150 vessels participate in the Blessing, ranging from ships to kayaks.[1] [2] [3] This event has also been commemorated in St. Augustine, Florida since 1946.[4]

Darien[edit]

Darien, Georgia has held an annual blessing since 1968. The blessing is held on the Darien River on a Sunday afternoon each spring, but the date varies. It is scheduled to coincide with a falling tide because a rising tide could drive the boats into the bridge—a reminder that they are always at the mercy of the weather. The celebration in Darien begins early in the week with activities that include an evening prayer service, a fishermen's fish fry, and a three-day festival with arts & crafts, food vendors, lots of family and kid-oriented events, live entertainment and fireworks on Saturday night. Local clerics of various denominations stand ready on the Darien bridge to the bless the boats which then turnaround and move down the Darien River and back into the Atlantic to begin the Spring shrimping season. To learn more about Darien's annual blessing celebration look at www.blessingofthefleet.com.

Brunswick[edit]

Portuguese immigrants introduced the event to their new home in Brunswick, Georgia around the time of World War II, more than sixty years ago. The blessing is held on Mother's Day to honor Our Lady of Fatima, the patron saint of Portugal, and mothers in the parish. The event begins with a morning mass and the ceremonial "May crowning" of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, followed by a parishioners parade around Hanover Square, adjacent to the church. The procession is led by a Knights of Columbus honor guard and 8 men carrying the statue. The statue’s base is decorated with ferns and fresh red (for living mothers) and white (for deceased mothers) flowers. An anchor made of red and white flowers is also placed at the statue’s base. The celebration then moves to the waterfront, where shrimp trawlers, freshly painted and decorated, circle the waterfront. The "working" boats are usually matched by an equal number of recreational watercraft.

The priest from St. Francis and the Knights of Columbus honor guard board one of the boats and the priest sprinkles Holy water and blesses each boat as it passes by. During the procession the boats are judged on their decorations, with prizes awarded to the best. After the last boat has been blessed, the boats move up the East River to St. Simons Sound, where the flower anchor is laid upon the water in memory of the local fishermen who perished at sea. [5]

McClellanville,SC[edit]

McClellanville, SC has held The Lowcountry Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet annually since 1976. The event is held at the fishing community’s Municipal Landing on Jeremy Creek in McClellanville the first Saturday of May each year. The Blessing of the Fleet ceremony is an age old tradition in which boats parade past the dock where the local clergy pray for a safe and bountiful season. As the clergy give their blessing a beautiful Magnolia Wreath covered with Red Roses is tossed into the water in memory of and to honor our fishermen. This is typically the time of year the boats are preparing for the opening of the season and are freshly painted, cleaned up and looking their best. The boats decorate for the festival and are usually loaded with people who love to ride in the parade. It makes for a very picturesque parade. The remainder of the day is filled with family entertainment, children’s games and great local seafood, such as boiled and fried shrimp dinners, shrimp kabobs, frog more stew, clam chowder, fish stew, barbecue and more.

Mount Pleasant[edit]

The Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival began in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in 1987, with a goal to support the local shrimping industry and honor our shrimpers as a symbol of Mount Pleasant’s history. Now in its 23rd year, the event has evolved into one of the most highly anticipated events of the year for residents and seafood lovers. The event features not only an elaborate and lively shrimp boat parade and blessing of the shrimp fleet, but also offers various types of seafood for sale, as well as a major celebration featuring live music, an arts and crafts show, and family-friendly activities. With proceeds benefiting the South Carolina Shrimpers Association, the fun is all held in the spirit of sustaining the festival’s main goal: helping support the generations of local shrimpers who have come to rely on this industry for their livelihood. [6]

Held at Alhambra Hall from its inception through 2009, this event has been moved to its new location at the brand-new Memorial Waterfront Park for 2010.

Washington, D.C.[edit]

The Blessing of the Fleet in the nation's capital is one of the premier events of the region's boating season. Held in the Spring along Washington, D.C.'s Southwest Waterfront, it is hosted by the Port of Washington Yacht Club and supported by several yacht clubs and marinas in the area. 2011 marked the 36th year that the Blessing has taken place. With activity on land as well as on the water, the event is an exciting display of pageantry and seamanship that draws up to 100 boats each year.[7]

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