Tracing their origins back centuries to Mediterranean fishing villages, annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies are based on a tradition meant to ensure a safe and bountiful season for the area’s commercial fishing community. Over time, however, they have morphed into community gatherings as much about food and festivities as they are about acts to provide sea captains and their crew with feelings of safety and serenity.
Brought to our Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island shores by immigrants who held strongly to their religious beliefs, most Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies today go well beyond the Catholic mass and blessing to include parades, pageantry, dancing, feasting and, in a few instances, road races.
Whether one takes stock in the value of divine providence or view the ceremony as another opportunity to court good fortune, most Blessing of the Fleet activities involve fun for the entire family and, in come cases, the ability to see grown men running along a greased pole (Gloucester, MA).
Here in Connecticut, the oldest Blessing of the Fleet ceremony is in Stonington, where this year’s events will mark the 63rd annual blessing. Of the Stonington observances, event co-chair Michael Crowley has said, “It’s so important to bless these boats and these fishermen, the ones that are still fishing, because the peril is still there.” Since records have been kept, it’s believed some 38 Stonington fishermen have perished at sea. In addition to the fleet blessing, most of the ceremonies also include an observation for those who have perished while working the waters so vital to these communities historic economic interests.
Owing to their religious heritage, it is common to hear biblical verses read at these ceremonies. Two of the most common are Psalm 104, versus 24-31 and Psalm 107, versus 23-32. An often-read prayer at many Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies is the following: “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”
Should you be a boat owner seeking every avenue of protection against misfortune or someone interested in an enjoyable summer afternoon outing, A Blessing of the Fleet ceremony should prove interesting and enjoyable. Here is some information about local Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies:
|Montauk, NY||June email@example.com||1 (631) 668-5503|
|Southport, CT||June 18||www.southportconservancy.org/blessing-of-the-fleet.html||1 (203) 255-2877|
|Milford, CT||June firstname.lastname@example.org||1 (203) 783-0060|
|City Island, NY||June 26||www.tinyurl.com/CityIslandBotF||1 (718) 652-3056|
|Stonington, CT||July email@example.com||1 (860) 535-1700|
|Narragansett, RI||July 30||www.narragansettlionsclub.com||1 (401) 783-7121|