The Newport Fishermen’s Wives will once again be sponsoring an event that has become a strong tradition in Newport’s fishing community called the Blessing of the Fleet.
The Blessing of the Fleet is a community ceremony honoring local fishermen and their families. It is open to any and all who wish to ask blessings on their fishing vessel, charter vessel, pleasure craft or research vessel.
The Blessing of the Fleet began as an old world, Sicilian custom emphasizing faith and perseverance — qualities that have long fueled those who go to sea to earn their living. Since the 1950s, Newport’s Blessing of the Fleet has continued the custom of asking for prayers for protection at sea, bountiful catches and peace of mind for the families at home.
This year’s blessing will be on Sunday, May 5, in conjunction with Newport Loyalty Day & Sea Fair Festival.
The Newport Fishermen’s Wives are focusing this year’s events on the importance of safety. Fishing is the most dangerous occupation in the United States. The fisherman safety and survival training is essential to ensure fishermen can respond to emergencies while at sea and save lives.
The survival/immersion suit races highlight the importance of training on vessels. The annual races will be at 9 a.m. on Sunday on the Newport Bayfront. Teams of three don survival suits while being timed. They enter the bay and swim out to a raft anchored about 50 feet from the dock. Participants include local commercial fisherman, active Coast Guard, and Loyalty Day princesses. For people interested in putting together a team, entry forms are available at England Marine and Schiewe Marine on the Bayfront.
The boat parade for the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony gets underway at 10:30 a.m. from the area near the Port of Newport International Terminal. The Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter (if available) and the motor lifeboats of Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay signal the start of the parade. All vessels will follow the lead vessel of their fishery, or category, from the international terminal heading west, turning just in front of the bridge before heading east to pass in front of the coast guard motor lifeboat, were local ministers will bless each vessel. Also on board the local Coast Guard vessels will be the Newport Loyalty Day Court. People can listen to the blessing as it is broadcast live on radio station KNPT 1310 AM. Vessel registration forms are also located at England Marine and Schiewe Marine.
A barbecue lunch hosted by the Newport Fishermen’s Wives at 1 p.m. in Englund Marine’s parking lot. Also during that time, and annual Highliner Competition will be held. Fishermen and others are invited to compete in a race involving fishing-related tasks, such as crab pot stacking, net mending, coiling and knot tying, among other things.
The activities will conclude at 4 p.m. with a memorial service at the Fishermen’s Memorial Sanctuary at Yaquina Bay State Park. This service is meant to offer support and encouragement to the families and community while remembering Lincoln County fishermen lost at sea.