By WARREN DILLAWAY - firstname.lastname@example.org
Safety on the water was the over arching theme of the 64th Annual Blessing of the Fleet Saturday evening in Ashtabula Harbor.
“Give us safety from the perils of the seas ... and when the journey of this life has ended may we anchor (with God),” said Ashtabula Yacht Club Commodore Tamara Turner while reciting a portion of the Shipmaster’s Prayer.
Ashtabula City Manager James Timonere welcomed more than 50 people to the event at the public dock area adjacent to the historic Ashtabula Lift Bridge. Flags from two color guards waved in the wind as participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
He reminded the crowd that the ceremony was started by immigrants who built the city of Ashtabula.
“This river of many fish is an important asset to our community,” Timonere said. He said it is only fitting that the community gather to ask God’s blessing on the river that is used by so many for so many different reasons.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Steve Hall reminded those in attendance of the importance of life jackets and the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol.
Bob Frisbie, of the Ashtabula Marine Museum, read from the book of Genesis detailing portions of the Creation.
The Rev. Raymond Thomas, of Our Lady of Peace Parish, asked for God’s blessing on the boating season. He also thanked God for the lake and the harbor. “Fill us with a spirit of awe,” Thomas said.
“Your spirit hovered over the sea and you called forth every creature ... Bless the boats and all who will use them for commerce or pleasure,” he said.
The Mother of Sorrows Men’s Choir performed several selections under the direction of Andrea Tredent.
The traditional “Casting of the wreath on the water” was accomplished by Rae Ann Benedict who tossed the wreath several feet into the Ashtabula River. The wreath is cast in memory of all those who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes and for the members of the United States Armed Forces who have died at seas, ceremony organizers said.
The ceremony was completed with the singing of the Navy Hymn. Blessing of the Fleet committee members and Thomas bordered a boat to bless boats along the Ashtabula River.
The boat was escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel.