Blessing of the Fleet remembers those lost at sea

Published on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 by Jan Hrutfiord

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The Blessing of the Fleet is a special ceremony, one that is important to local fishers and their families as well as the neighboring communities. The Blaine ceremony is held the first Sunday in May; this year it’s on May 1 at 1:30 p.m. at Blaine Harbor.

Commercial fishing boats are found in many harbors in the bays and inlets along the Washington State coastline, but only two of these harbors have had a consistent Blessing of the Fleet ceremony.

Seattle has held a ceremony at the Ballard docks for more than 90 years, while Blaine has had its ceremony for 30 years. Both ceremonies are officially recognized by the Washington State Senate; a resolution is written and passed by the senate each year specifically for Blaine and Seattle ports.

Blaine fishers are recognized as being an integral part of our community, bringing in jobs and creating a lifestyle for more than 100 years.

As the commercial fishing boats are being readied for the spring and summer season in Alaska and along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, we recognize and bless the boats, the crews and their safety for the coming fishing year.
We also recognize those who have been lost at sea.

A plaque bears the names, dates and boats that were lost dating back to 1902 at the Blaine Seafarers’ Memorial. We remember the local fishers and commercial fleet workers who have died in the past year with flowers on a wreath that will be taken out to sea on the Plover after the ceremony.

The Plover is a part of the local fishing community, as it was built to haul workers from the Blaine dock to the Alaska Packers cannery on Semiahmoo Spit.

Those workers helped can the salmon caught in traps off Point Roberts and Birch Point, which were assembled every year for the salmon catch and then removed at the end of each season.

The traps were banned in 1934, when the salmon were caught by cannery boats and local fishing boats and then hauled to APA on tenders. Tenders still work out of Blaine Harbor and buy fish off the boats on the fishing grounds, which enables the local fishers to continue fishing without having to go in to unload.

Other workers who were and still are important to the commercial fleet include the fish house workers who unload and prepare fish for shipping or for local markets, the shipyard and its workers who repair boats when needed and who also built many of the boats in years past, the harbormasters and their crew who maintain the docks and keep a safe place for the boats to come in, and those you find working in the harbor. We recognize and appreciate all these workers who help maintain our local fishing community.

Participating in the ceremony are representatives from our Blaine fishing fleet, port commissioner Jim Jorgenson, State Senators Dennis Erikson and Kevin Ranker and Blaine Mayor Bonnie Onyon, the Blaine High School music department band members under band director Bob Gray and Blaine Sea Scouts doing the flag ceremony.

Everyone is invited to attend. The May 1st ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Blaine Harbor Boating Center Conference Room (Harbormaster’s Office) at 235 Marine Drive. The fishers’ families will provide refreshments after the ceremony.