Blessing Of The Fleet 2015




The dynamics of the Blessing of the Fleet has changed since its inception in 1946. Most of the large shrimp boats have moved and many of the “working boats” of St Augustine are now tour boats and government agency boats that patrol  the waterway. Even so, time has not changed the significance of this event and to those who joined in.

This Catholic tradition started centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities. The blessing of the boat from a priest was meant to ensure a safe and bountiful fishing season. With the heart of the Catholic Church being in St Augustine, and St Augustine’s relationship to the ocean, there is no question why this spiritual event has taken place every Psalm Sunday after mass for the past 70 years.

Blessing of the fleet I 2015 (105)

A boat is blessed by the Bishop.

The Bishop, with his entourage, departs the Cathedral after the eleven-o-clock mass and heads toward the city marina. The procession is led by the Knights of Columbus dressed in all their finery, Catholic priests and laity from the church as well as St Augustine’s “Royal Family.” Once on the pier, the Bishop says a special prayer and the boats travel in front of the Bishop as he blesses each boat with a sprinkle of Holy Water.

This year’s event was nothing more than spectacular. With close to two-hundred boats in the procession, the bay front was full of activity.  Organizing and controlling that many boats is a challenge and it takes all government agencies working together to make sure it is safe and orderly.  Lead by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Agency, five other law enforcement agencies with boats including: St Johns County Sheriff Department, St Augustine Police Department, The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Augxillary and St Johns County Fire and Rescue Department  were there to assist in controlling the boat traffic and addressing any issues that may come up on the water

Blessing wreath

The anchor wreath is laid in the water to remember those we have lost at sea.

Lt. Steve Zukowsky, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife made sure that all the law enforcement and boats assisting were blessed. “We are not going to miss this.” Zukowsky said during the briefing. “Make sure we get behind the last boat in the procession and St Augustine Police Department will take the wreath and drop it in the channel.” the Lieutenant instructed. The law enforcement boats dispersed to their assigned spots on the water, from the 312 bridge to the inlet and boats of all sorts took their space in line along the Inner Coastal ready for their blessing.

After the Bishop took his place on the podium and the Royal Family, the heritage ambassadors of St Augustine, stood in honor on the dock, the procession began. With the majestic El Galeón in the background, the larger boats went first. Fishing boats, The Schooner Freedom, Black Raven followed by recreational boats and even a skiff or two. The boats, decorated in flags and psalms passed the dock. Many skippers stood at attention, removing their hats in respect as they approached the Bishop. Some people on the boats bowed their head and made the sign of the cross as the Holy water was sprinkled.

When the procession was over the law enforcement boats followed behind for their special blessing. As the last boat approached the dock they pulled aside and received the flower anchor from Joseph Riley Solana, the new boy-king, Juan Carlos. As the police officer respectfully took the flower anchor the police boat traveled to the middle of the channel. The wreath was laid upon the water in memory of the local fishermen and those who perished at sea.


A Blessing For Boats

“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 her helm. So prosper her voyages that an honest living may 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. Amen