As one of Destin’s long-standing traditions, the Blessing of the Fleet brings out locals and tourists each year for a ceremony unlike any other on the Destin Harbor. However, amidst all the uncertainty surrounding our reopening agenda, this year’s tradition will look a bit different.
On Ascension Day every year, local pastors gather behind Brotula’s on the Harbor to bless charter fishing boats, boat captains, crews and passengers for a safe and bountiful busy season. Many captains attribute the success of their season not to luck, but to these blessings. This tradition has held for many years, even as Destin evolved from a small fishing community to the World’s Luckiest Little Fishing Village it is today.
From only a handful of small boats, the fleet has grown and prospered into the largest fishing fleet in North America. The Blessing of the Fleet was begun by St. Andrews Episcopal Church in 1958 with around 12 boats and has since grown to over 150 boats in 2019. Numbers like this make it the largest Blessing of the Fleet in the country, with families making it tradition and participating every year. Boats line up in a parade like fashion, being called up by name to be blessed. Any vessel and its crew who make their living on the sea are encouraged to participate, and will be welcomed on the water. The impact has been far reaching.
This year, however, as we practice social distancing and avoid gathering in large groups, some changes have to be implemented. The usual church service, where fisherman and their families would have gathered giving thanks and asking for safety, protection and prayers prior to the blessing, has been canceled. The fish fry that happens in conjunction with the Blessing of the Fleet has also been canceled and participants are encouraged to dine at local operating restaurants.
Ascension Day this year falls on May 21, 2020 and the Blessing of the Fleet is open to the public to watch. The blessings will begin at 4 p.m. on the docks behind Brotula’s Restaurant. Commercial boats are encouraged to register their vessel prior to the event, by emailing their information to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the church at 850-837-6324.
For more on the history of the Blessing, see last year’s Destin Life article here: http://mydestinlife.com/off-the-hook-its-almost-time-for-the-blessing-of-the-fleet/.