Off the Hook: 64th Annual Blessing of the Fleet May 13

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By Cali Hlavac, To Do in Destin

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. It has become one that many locals and visitors look forward to attending this time of year, as we kick off our summer season.

The Blessing of the Fleet is an annual tradition honoring the men and women who utilize the resources of the sea as a means of survival. As a centuries-old ritual, these types of fleet blessings are common in ports in other countries.

Fleet blessings worldwide have long been established as a time of prayer and faith—a tradition where locals and churches come together to pray over each fleet vessel, the captains and crew members, and their families for safe passages, bountiful catches and prosperity.

Locally, on Ascension Day each year, local pastors gather behind Brotula’s on the Harbor to bless commercial 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—a tradition that 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. The fleet has continued to grow and now the Destin Harbor is recognized as home to the largest fishing fleet, perhaps, in the country.

The Blessing of the Fleet began in May 1957 with about 20 boats and has since grown to some years over 150 boats. Numbers like this make it the largest Blessing of the Fleet in the country. Commercial boats line up in a parade like fashion and take turns stopping in front of the barge where Destin’s pastors call them up by name to be blessed and prayed over. Any boat or captain that makes their living on the water is encouraged to participate, and will be welcomed. Here we are reminded of the significant role fishermen and their families, both past and present, have played in building and strengthening our Destin community.

Over the years, it’s easy to see Destin’s fleet has been prosperous and protected. It seems God continues to watch over and bless the fishermen of Destin’s Harbor.

Ascension Day this year falls on May 13, 2021, and the “blessings” will begin at 4 p.m. on the docks behind Brotula’s Restaurant with a Captains’ Worship and Prayer Service. Following the service, local clergy will process to the dock to bless those vessels which have pre-registered.

A community fish fry will follow the Blessing around 5:30 p.m. at Brotulas. The public is encouraged to join in and support the local sponsors who make the Blessing of the Fleet possible, including Aerial Seafood and Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer.

All commercial fishing, safety and recreational vessels that make their living on the sea are invited to participate. Boats can pre-register their vessel, by emailing their vessel and contact information to immanuel@iacdestin.org or by calling the church at 850-837-6324. The Blessing of the Fleet is open to the public to watch.