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Central Oregon Coast's Emotional Blessing of the Fleet Returns May 7

Published 04/25/23 at 6:32 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Central Oregon Coast's Emotional Blessing of the Fleet Returns May 7

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(Newport, Oregon) – The beauty and the grace of it all is enough to be moving, but its deeper meaning of honoring those lost at sea underneath and the more prominent message of keeping current mariners safe can easily bring one to tears. Newport's Blessing of the Fleet, a tradition that goes back centuries in the Old World, has been going here on the central Oregon coast since the '50s. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Newport's Blessing of the Fleet returns on Sunday, May 7, with different events over the course of the day. Put on every year by the Newport Fisherman's Wives, it's a community-wide event honoring local fishermen and their families. It is open to all who wish to ask for blessings of any fishing vessel, as well as rigs used for charters, pleasure craft or research ships.

The original version of the Blessing of the Fleet traditions took place in Sicily centuries ago, emphasizing perseverance, faith and other fierce and rugged qualities possessed by those who went to sea for a living. When some Oregon coast towns adopted this custom in mid-century, they again asked for prayers of protection for those at sea, and for bountiful trips out there as well as peace of mind for their families awaiting them in port.


“We are excited to announce that we will be returning to a full day of events - including survival suit races and the Highliners competition that we haven't been able to provide in several years,” said a spokesman for Fisherman's Wives.

These unique races begin the day, starting at 9 a.m. Teams will compete in a difficult race using the survival suits that are crucial to fishermen along the Oregon coast. They protect the user in case they are immersed in the freezing waters of this region. The races happen between Port Dock 1 and Port Dock 5 in Newport's Bayfront area.

At 11 a.m., the Boat Procession and the Bless the Fleet events place in Newport's Yaquina Bay, which can be viewed from most areas of the Bayfront. If available, the US Coast Guard's Search & Rescue helicopter along with motor lifeboats from Station Yaquina Bay will start things off with a signal, and away they go. From there, vessels get behind the lead ship from the International Terminal heading west, turning just in front of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Then, all head east to pass in front of the the USCG lifeboat, where local ministers bless each of the vessels.


Following this, attentions turn to eating with the annual barbecue starting right after the blessing ends. The exact location is still to be announced, the group said.

“We will be serving food and giving out our 2023 Blessing of the Fleet sponsor t-shirts,” said a spokesman. “We look forward to taking this time to re-engage with our community and give thanks for all of the support we have gotten throughout the years.”

The lunch and the t-shirt will be free, and the grub is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Food will be served until it's gone, which the group says may be happening sooner and sooner each year as the event grows in scale each time.

At 4 p.m. comes the memorial service for all those lost at sea, happening at the Fishermen’s Memorial Sanctuary at Yaquina Bay State Park.

“This service is meant to offer support and encouragement to the families and community while remembering Lincoln County fishermen lost at sea,” the group said. “Please contact us if you know of a local fisherman that lost his life while at sea for our list of names on our granite memorial, or if you know of a fisherman that passed away this year, we will include their name in our memorial hand out and list them during the prayer.”

Contacts are at the Newport Fisherman's Wives website.

The group is also asking for donations to help keep these events and others like them going. You can send your donation to NFW's, PO Box 971, Newport, OR 97365. Or at https://www.newportfishermenswives.com/

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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