Written by D.F. Karppi Friday, 29 June 2012 00:00
The Oyster Bay Sail & Power Squadron (OBSPS) held their 25th Annual Blessing of the Fleet as part of this year’s Bay Day held by the WaterFront Center on June 3. It was the 12th Bay Day: begun by Friends of the Bay; they were joined by the WaterFront Center (WFC) in hosting the early events. The WFC then took it over for several years and, for the past two years, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce has joined them in producing a varied land and sea experience for residents and visitors.
The Blessing of the Fleet was an independent event for many years but recently it has been run in conjunction with Bay Day at the Jakobson Pier. Over 50 boats participated in the event and size and power was no problem. “Any type of boat may participate - power, sail, recreational or commercial - even kayaks, canoes and shells - as long as the boat is able to safely navigate the parade route. The route is designed to accommodate the draft of most boats, but all skippers remain responsible for their own safe navigation,” explained Larry Weiss, OBSPS past commander.
An old and revered tradition throughout the world, the Blessing of the Fleet has been passed down from generation to generation and dates back to biblical times, he said. “The Blessing of the Fleet traditionally calls on divine providence to safeguard ships and crews from the danger of the seas. The ceremony seeks to ensure the safety of boats as they travel to and from the harbor, and to ensure that fishermen return safely and have a bountiful catch,” added Mr. Weiss.
“Most importantly, this is the time for boaters of every kind to come together to celebrate what we all enjoy so much - safe and courteous boating on the waters of Oyster Bay and Long Island Sound.”
Organized by the OBSPS, every boat owner in the harbor (and neighboring harbors) was invited to take part and onlookers were encouraged to come out and enjoy the parade.
Members of the clergy from the Oyster Bay/Bayville community who officiated, included Father Kevin Smith of St. Dominics’s Church, Rabbi Alan Dicken (filling in for Rabbi Marvin Demant of the Oyster Bay Jewish Center), Minister Jules Barker of Mount Olive Baptist Church, Rev. Jeffrey Prey of the First Presbyterian Church and Father Peter Casparian of Christ Church, offered blessings and prayers for each passing boat.
The parade of boats assembled shortly after noon in Oyster Bay’s West Harbor (paddle boats assembled on the west side of Jakobson Pier). At 12:45 p.m. the Oyster Bay Bay Constable lead off the parade. The boats fell in line and headed south toward Beekman Beach, and made a neat turn east toward Jakobson’s Pier.
It is not always easy to maneuver sailboats – they need the blessing of the wind, too – therefore, sailboats were asked to come in under power.
The members of the clergy were waiting for them at the end of the Jakobson Pier. After being blessed, the boats headed north back toward West Harbor. All the skippers monitored VHF Channel 9 for instructions from Mr. Weiss on the way back.
After the parade, there was anchorage and launch service available for boats at Beekman Beach so that the sailors could take part in the Bay Day events.
OBSPS is a unit of the United States Power Squadrons, “America’s Boating Club,” the world’s largest nonprofit educational boating organization – over 40,000 members dedicated to community service, boater education, and enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of fellow members, and honored by three U.S. presidents for its civic contributions.
Mr. Weiss added, “We highly recommend that people take the OBSPS course, even it they have taken it before. There is always something new to learn, “he said. The classes are free and there is only a minimal charge for the course materials. If you would like to sign up, just call 622-1356, or contact Mr. Weiss at 932-6061.