Destin tradition celebrates 60 years

Pam Griffin
Procession from church to docks, around 1970. [SPECIAL TO THE LOG]

The Blessing of the Fleet is an annual tradition honoring the men and women who use the sea as a means of survival. This centuries-old ritual is commonplace among ports all over the world.

Destin’s annual Blessing of the Fleet began on Ascension Day, May 15, 1958, when The Rev. William P. Erwin, ordained in 1957 as vicar of St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea, held the first.

Erwin said, in information from that time, “Our purpose in blessing the boats was that (1) the boats, as tools by which the people work for their living and serve others, may be consecrated as worthy objects used according to God’s will; (2) that the Lord will bless the labors of those who work the boats and prosper them; and (3) that God will keep in safety all who come aboard.”

The day began with Eucharist at 5 a.m., so captains could attend before going to their boats. An afternoon service was attended by the wives and congregation. The group would then process down to the docks where each boat was boarded and blessed, and a small cross was nailed up in the wheel house.

After the blessing a free fish fry was held for all during the early years, even though there were eventually thousands in attendance. The church congregation looked at it as the feeding of the 5,000 by breaking loaves and dividing the fish.

The Blessing of the Fleet is more than just a tradition to the captains. With Destin’s past, present and future tied to the sea, it is a t time to gather and ask for God’s blessing over the vessels, captains and crews who make their living from the sea.

This Destin tradition, Blessing of the Fleet, was created 60 years ago to ask God's blessing over each boat in the fishing fleet. It has now expanded to prayers for any vessel, captain and crew who make their living from the sea.

Times have changed over 60 years, and the quiet little village and its fisherman now include a high-rise community, a number one tourist destination. The prayers at the Blessing are also said for all those who board these boats for fishing and/or fun.

The 60th Blessing of the Fleet will begin with a service at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 25, at Destin Fishing Fleet Marina behind Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer. The blessing will be at 5 p.m. with a fish fry at 5:30 p.m.

How to Bless a Boat

“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 the helm. So prosper her voyages that an honest living 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.