The Blessing of the Fleet began as an old world Sicilian custom emphasizing faith and perseverance – qualities that have long fueled those who go to sea to earn their living. Since the 1950′s Newport’s Blessing of the Fleet has continued the custom of asking for prayers for protection at sea, bountiful catches, and peace of mind for the families at home. Participating ministers are members of the local churches.
The third Saturday in March is chosen because it falls at a time when many Newport fishermen are in port gearing up-coming seasons; Chinook salmon or the Oregon pink shrimp season. Dungeness crab season continues through August, although many of the crabbers will have put away their gear and will be readying for other fisheries.
The day’s events begin with a Memorial Service 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. Participants are encouraged to bring a flower to add to a communal bouquet in remembrance of their friend or loved one.
Survival Suit Races
Although they make a fun and exciting competition, the underlying goal of the Survival Suit Races is promoting safety at sea. Teams of three compete against other in a dramatic race against time to don survival suits, enter the bay and swim out to a raft anchored about 50 feet from the dock. Once there, they have to pull themselves up into the raft to stop the clock.
This is an event where participants are encouraged to help each other so that all make it safely to the raft. This fun competition is designed to provide fishermen and anyone who goes to sea with intimate awareness of their survival equipment. The emphasis is on being prepared and knowing your equipment in case it is ever needed at sea. Teams are made up of fishermen, family members, US Coast Guard personnel, and community members like the Newport Loyalty Days and Sea Fair Festival Court. The competition can be fierce and a lot of fun for all vying for best individual and team times. Prizes are awarded to the winners but bragging rights are just as important.
Who is the strongest and fastest? Who will have the skill and stamina to be called the Highliner? The best of the best is decided at the Annual Highliner Competition, an exciting addition to the annual Blessing of the Fleet presented by the Newport Fishermen’s Wives. In this event, we invite Fishermen (and others!) to compete in a race involving fishing related tasks such as crab pot stacking, net mending, coiling, knot tying, and more. Show off your skills and race to become Newport’s Highliner with a chance to win $500.
Parade and Blessing
The Blessing is open to any and all who wish to ask blessings on their fishing vessel, charter vessel, pleasure craft, or research vessel. The parade gets underway at 12:45 PM from the area near the Port’s international terminal. The USCG Search & Rescue Helicopter (if available) and the motor lifeboats of Station Yaquina Bay signal the start of the parade. All vessels follow the lead vessel of their fishery or category from the international terminal heading West, turning just in front of the bridge before heading East to pass in front of the motor lifeboat Victory. Onboard the Victory, local ministers will ask blessings as each vessel passes in front of them.
Anyone wishing to participate can pick up a vessel registration form at Schiewe Marine or Englund Marine Supply stores on Newport’s bayfront. All registrations need to be returned to Schiewe’s or Englund’s by 11:00 AM on the morning of the event.