ASHTABULA — The weather cooperated for a sunny Blessing of the Fleet on Sunday.

A pavilion was set up in the grass next to the public dock on Sunday, and attendees filled the chairs inside of it before the ceremony started at noon. Even more attendees stood along sidewalks and fences, quietly watching the 69th Annual Blessing of the Fleet.

Reverend Michael Meranda, of Messiah Lutheran Church, gave the benediction, and was the emcee for the event. Meranda has given the benediction for the blessing of the fleet for the last three years, he said. “Whenever you have the opportunity to gather with people in public around a major event for our community, that’s always rewarding,” Meranda said. “It’s a real blessing for me.”

“Today we gather to bless boats of all shapes and sizes, and all purposes,” Meranda said.

Meranda read a passage from Saint Mark, about Jesus walking across the sea of Galilee.

Meranda prayed for crews of ships on the lake this year. “Make their ways safe and their homecomings joyful,” he said. He also prayed for the ships themselves. 

Sarah Oberstar, a student at Baldwin Wallace University, played “Taps” as members of the Ashtabula Sea Scouts laid a memorial wreath in the river.

Then, Meranda prayed for those who died at sea.

For the benediction, Meranda read from the United States Navy’s 2019 Memorial Blessing of the Fleet. “May the Lord fill our sails with fair wind, support our hulls in inviting seas, guide our hands upon the tiller toward pleasant places, and bring us home, O Lord, to a safe and loving harbor,” Meranda said.

Members of the Knights of Columbus served as color guard for the event.

Among those present at the event was Ashtabula City Council President John Roskovics, who gave a brief speech.

“No other port in the Great Lakes can claim the colorful history of Ashtabula,” Roskovics said. He praised the combination of commercial, industrial, and recreational activity in the port.

“You can sit in one of our world class restaurants and watch a boat unloading stones, pulled right up to the lift bridge, and then a few minutes later you can watch the kayakers rowing past,” Roskovics said.

Christine Seuffert, president of the Lift Bridge Association, welcomed visitors to Bridge Street, and summer in Ashtabula. “It will be a busy, and active summer,” Seuffert said. “Welcome to Bridge Street. Stay with us as long as you like.”

Music for the event was provided by Julianne Sheldon, a student at St. John High School, and Daniel Sheldon, a 2019 graduate of St. John High School.

Seuffert was pleased with how the event went. “I’m very happy with the turnout we had today,” Seuffert said. When asked if she had any plans for next year, Seuffert said “this or better.”