Blessing of the Fleet: Not even weather can hold back 65-year-old tradition
134 vessels participated in the 65th annual event.
Neither wind or rain can stop tradition.
The 65th annual Blessing of the Fleet, originally scheduled for Thursday, was pushed to Friday with 134 vessels from charter boats to pontoon and pirate ships parading through Destin harbor for a chance to be blessed for the upcoming season.
The Blessing of the Fleet is held on Ascension Day each year, with a church service under a tent on the docks with testimonies and a short sermon followed by prayer for the captains and families before folks board their boats to be blessed.
Last year's event:Blessing of the Fleet a community tradition, for fishermen and clergy
“Obviously it's tradition,” said Capt. Travis Ream of the Kitchen Pass as he got his boat ready Friday afternoon.
“I participate every year. We need all the help we can get,” Ream said.
Capt. Tyler Brielmayer of the charter boat Nothin’ Matters came in from a fishing trip just in time Friday to be a part of the event.
“Got to get that boat blessed,” said Brielmayer, who noted he does it every year.
Capt. Chris Kirby of the charter boat Backlash said he’s been participating in the blessing for about 15 years.
“I definitely do it every year. ... It’s just something you got to do. It’s part of the whole experience. There’d be no reason not to. He’s good to us, so we’re good to him,” Kirby said.
For Capt. Harold Staples of the Al-Lin and one of the oldest working captains on the docks, Friday’s Blessing of the Fleet was his 49th.
“It’s a celebration of the Lord ascending into heaven 40 days after Easter. That’s why we celebrate it. That’s what it means to me,” Staples said.
“It’s very important. It’s a big part of our faith, and now we look forward to his return,” he added.
Before the captains, family and friends boarded their boats, a church service was held under the big tent behind Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer.
Father Caleb Miller of Immanuel Anglican Church of Destin welcomed guests and explained a bit of the history behind the Blessing of the Fleet on Ascension Day and how it has grown over the years.
The event started 65 years ago with about a dozen fishing boats asking for blessings for a safe and prosperous year in the small fishing village of Destin. And today, instead of just speaking a blessing over the fishermen, the local clergy now speak blessings over anyone who makes their living on and around the water —– including pirates.
Steve Wilson, former owner of the Southern Star Dolphin Cruise Boat and Buccaneer Pirate Ship, gave a testimony at the church service.
Wilson said God has always talked to him, and over the years he’s learned not to “limit” what God can do.
“We need to know how much we are loved by him and how important we are to him,” Wilson said told the more than 100 people gathered under the tent.
He told a story of how he had asked God for 40,000 guests on the Southern Star one year, which was a 75-passenger boat at the time, and when he tallied the numbers, he found 40,001.
“I heard God say don’t limit what I’m going to do for you. I’m here today to tell you, don’t limit what God is going to do for you,” Wilson said.
Miller then brought a short message about why Jesus is “worthy.” Jesus is worthy of our faith and obedience, hope and trust, and love and praise.
After the sermon, the clergy headed down to the barge at the end of the docks to then speak a blessing over the boats as they passed by.
While the boats were being blessed, others shared in a fish fry under the tent.
The blessing took a little more than two hours.