Blessing of the Fleet

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Blessing of the Fleet event logo
Blessing of the Fleet procession, Port Adelaide, South Australia, 2015

The Blessing of the Fleet is a tradition that began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities. The practice began predominantly Catholic, but is now practiced by all Christians is a blessing from the local priest and pastors that is meant to ensure a safe and bountiful season.

In most ports, the event was brought by immigrants who held strongly to their Christian 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 church service, Parades, Pageantry, Dancing, Feasting and Contests.

Australia[edit]

Most states of Australia have had ports and fishing community traditions of blessing the fleet [1][2][3][4]

United States[edit]

The tradition of the blessing of the fleet is spread along the eastern seaboard [5][6]

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.[7]

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 bless the boats which then turnaround and move down the Darien River and back into the Atlantic to begin the Spring shrimping season.[8]

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.[9][10][11] This event has also been commemorated in St. Augustine, Florida since 1946.[12]

McClellanville[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 McClellanville 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, which is quite picturesque. The remainder of the day is filled with family entertainment, children’s games and local seafood dishes, such as boiled and fried shrimp dinners, shrimp kabobs, frog more stew, clam chowder, fish stew, barbecue and more.[13]

Mount Pleasant[edit]

The annual Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival in Mount Pleasant, SC pays tribute to local shrimping and fishing industry, offering a boat parade, live music, craft show and lots of free activities with the picturesque Ravenel Bridge and Charleston Harbor for a backdrop! The festival is held on the last Sunday in April every year. Continuing the tradition begun by the Magwood family, local shrimpers who started the festival in 1988, every year the net proceeds from the festival have been donated to local nonprofit organizations.[14]

Portage des Sioux[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.[citation needed]

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.[15]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Port Fairy, Victoria 1940's "Blessing the Fleet.,.". Portland Guardian. Vic.: National Library of Australia. 14 November 1940. p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Queenscliff, Victoria 1950's "Fleet blessing tomorrow.". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 27 December 1952. p. 5. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Stanley, Tasmania 1950's "BLESSING THE FLEET.". The Advocate. Burnie, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 2 February 1954. p. 2. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Ulladulla, New South Wales McClelland, James; James McClelland Research (1984), A history of the mid south coast of N.S.W. : Milton-Ulladulla-Mollymook surrounding areas and the blessing of the fleet festival, James McClelland Research, ISBN 978-0-908492-38-1 
  5. ^ Wilkinson, Alec (1986-06-09), "The blessing of the fleet. (Provincetown)", The New Yorker, Condé Nast Publications, Inc, vol. 62, p. 88, ISSN 0028-792X 
  6. ^ Leighton, Clare (1954), Where land meets sea : the tide line of Cape Cod, Rinehart, retrieved 20 November 2012 
  7. ^ "Blessing of the Fleet | New Georgia Encyclopedia". Georgiaencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  8. ^ "blessingofthefleet". blessingofthefleet. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "24th Annual Blessing of the Fleet – Jacksonville, Florida". Coastal Companion. 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  11. ^ [2] Archived May 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ [3][dead link]
  13. ^ "Lowcountry Shrimp Festival in McClellanville, SC". lowcountryshrimpfestival.com. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  14. ^ "Mount Pleasant Tourism & Marketing, SC - Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival". www.comeonovermp.com. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  15. ^ "POWYC Home - Port of Washington Yacht Club". Powyc.org. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 

External links[edit]