Despite particularly brisk winds and cooler weather, the sailing was smooth during Boca Ciega Yacht Club’s annual blessing of the fleet on Sunday, March 21. The club hosts the annual non-denominational event on Williams Pier in Gulfport, to ensure safe journeys on water for each blessed vessel.
Guy O’Connor organizes the blessing of the fleet.
“It’s just something we do every year,” he said. “People like to keep their boats blessed and it’s kind of fun to get on the water.”
More than 40 boats lined up in front of Williams Pier at 10 a.m. BCYC member Joye Swisher began the ceremony with an invocation to the boats and conducted the blessings.
“Bless the skippers and the crew of [boat name]. Along with all that sail out with them, may they experience fair winds, favorable seas and enjoy a safe journey home,” Swisher said into a walkie talkie that was transmitted to channel 72.
O’Connor said that the club also arranges dry dock blessings for boats that are “on the hard,” or out of the water.
While blessings are non-denominational, boater can request a specific blessing to match their beliefs.
“It’s an honor to do it and to be a part of it,” Swisher said. “Yacht clubs all over the world do a blessing of the fleet and it’s usually at the beginning of spring.”
COVID lended to a bit of a debate over how to promote this year’s blessing.
“Once you’re on your boat, everybody is separated by their boat in the water between. So it’s an extremely socially distanced event,” Jonathan Cornwell, secretary and PR chair for BCYC, said. “We were mainly concerned about the manpower this year – of organizing it as an open, public event.”
According to O’Connor turnout this year was a little less than previous years.
“2020 was a hell of a year,” Cornwell said. “So we kind of feel like the blessings are extra special this year because hopefully it all means that we’re finding our way back to normal.”