Algoma Blessing of the Fleet ‘went over very well’
ALGOMA – Two years ago to the day of June 22, Algoma Marina was aglow — not from one of its spectacular morning sunrises, but from a raging fire engulfing four fishing boats in the middle of the night.
It could have been much worse for the boat owners whose vessels are slipped tightly together. First mates were preparing for launches way before daybreak. Fortunately, no lives were lost that evening.
Spearheaded by Troy Mattson, co-owner of Kinn’s Sport Fishing, a safe boating-themed Blessing of the Fleet ceremony was held June 22 at nearby Sunrise Cove Marina. Boats in Mattson's charter fishing business suffered damages and losses in the fire, and he organized the event with sincere gratefulness to Algoma Fire & Rescue for its work limiting the damages
It’s been a generation since Algoma paid homage to commercial and pleasure boaters in its village of 3,000 people at the mouth of the Ahnapee River with the time-honored blessing.
Once the idea of the Blessing of the Fleet was launched just a few months ago, the outpouring of people willing to help surprised Mattson.
“With all the help, it kind of had legs its own,’’ Mattson said. “Sunrise Cove Marina worked their tails off to pull this together, too.’’
There were about 300 people soaking in the sights and sounds of the ceremony that lasted more than 30 minutes at water’s edge.
Guided by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, 32 boats exited the river into Lake Michigan, where the bright red Algoma Pierhead Light has been standing for more than 100 years. It is said the blessing, with Mediterranean origins, is centuries older than the lighthouse.
As the boats formed, Algoma Fire & Rescue pumped a water cannon hose, sending a stream of water arcing across the breakwater just shy of the lighthouse. The salute is a sign of respect, honor and gratitude.
Once beyond the lighthouse, the boats formed a large circle the size of a football field and continued in a circular motion three or four times. The circle represents solidarity.
Rev. Christopher Jackson of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Rankin gave the blessing aboard the boat Obsession IV. He read, in part “Bless these boats, their equipment and all who serve on them, and who would use them. Protect them from dangers of wind and rain, and the perils of the deep. Bring us all to the harbor of light and peace, may the saving power of our God protect us all.’’
After the blessing, the entourage headed back into the river under the water cannon salute, the droplets from the spray creating a rainbow.
Prior to the blessing, Algoma Mayor Wayne Schmidt gave a special boat safety proclamation and a presentation of a Wisconsin Assembly citation signed by Gov. Scott Walker was presented by Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay. It recognized the blessing, honoring the bravery and courage of U.S. Coast Guard, Algoma Fire & Rescue and the coming together of Algoma residents after the devastating marina fire.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary offered boat safety checks during the event. A fund-raising trout boil benefiting Algoma Fire & Rescue was served while the Charlie Bucket Band provided live music.
“To be honest, I’m still taking it all in’’ Mattson said a few days after the event. “Other than a few tweaks, it went over very well. It was an awesome sight. A really neat night. The community coming together was the best part.’’
In case you’re wondering, it seems the event will be back in 2019. The Algoma Chamber of Commerce, Sunrise Cove and Mattson have already met to organize next year’s blessing.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Algoma Blessing of the Fleet 'went over very well'