Blessing of the Fleet

From Seafarers Trust

Each year, to signal the start of Nelson's main fishing season for hoki and scallops, a commemorative service is held at the Seafarers' Memorial on Sunderland Marine Pier and this is called "The Blessing of The Fleet".

A huge crowd of thousands of Nelsonians gathers at the site and the inner harbour is filled with fishing boats as church ministers provide prayers and lead the singing of psalms and hymns seeking God's beneficence and protection as the fishermen prepare for the season. This moving ceremony incorporates a minute's silence in memory of those who have lost their lives at sea, and helps to strenghten a brotherhood of the sea, between seafarers today and their forebears.

The service culminates with the collective blast of boat horns and festivities begin with the sail-past of the fleet and demonstrations of sea safety procedures, tug boat manoeuvres and all manner of fishing related activities designed to give the crowd some idea of the work of the fishermen.

The ceremony has now become a highlight of the Nelson cultural calendar and has been taken to heart by the population given Nelson's close association with the sea and the enjoyment that people get from water-based activities.

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