2017-06-08 / Front Page

Blessing of the fleet slated for Saturday

With the Narragansett Bay boating season already having begun, the town’s clergymen will bring their holy water to the shore Saturday to wish skippers safe sailing.

The blessing of the fleet begins at 11 a.m. on the seaward end of the Conanicut Marine fuel dock. The pastors of all three churches, Episcopalian Kevin Lloyd, Baptist Kurt Satherlie and Catholic Steve Amaral, will be at East Ferry to offer prayers asking for God’s favor and protection. Boaters are invited to maneuver their vessels slowly by the pier so the clergy can offer their blessing. Dress ship is encouraged and boaters can tune to VHF Channel 71 for instructions.

Before last spring’s blessing, the ceremony was on a 38-year hiatus following the town’s tercentennial in 1978. Anthem Street resident Pam Carr, however, thought it made sense for an island community to bless its boats annually.

Carr, a Central Baptist parishioner who spearheaded the inaugural 2016 blessing, is organizing the ceremony for a second consecutive year with Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine. This will be the first year for Amaral, who became the priest at St. Mark following Ron Brassard’s retirement in February.

Like the maiden ceremony, Saturday’s blessing coincides with National Marina Day, a holiday observed across the United States to advocate boating and dockside activities in every corner of the country. In town, there will be a barbecue at 5 p.m. on the south basin dock near Spinnakers Cafe.

The blessing comes on the heels of the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual plea for safe boating. The weeklong awareness campaign dispatches crews throughout the Northeast to patrol and educate owners operating recreational paddlecraft, sailing vessels and motorboats. The Coast Guard was in Jamestown conducting free inspections to ensure boats were equipped with required safety tools, including life jackets, flares, batteries, radios and fire extinguishers.

“With all the rainy weather and the water temperatures across New England still 60 and below, now is the time to prepare for the nice summer weather,” said Walt Taylor, safety coordinator for the First Coast Guard District headquartered in Boston.

A federal report also was released last week that revealed boating fatalities nationwide increased 11.3 percent last year compared to 2015, from 626 to 701. In the Northeast, recreational boating deaths increased from 34 to 55, which is a 62 percent increase. Forty of the 55 victims drowned and 29 involved a paddlecraft. Nearly 72 percent of the bodies were not wearing a life jacket. Alcohol was the leading factor.

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