Click Icon For Printable Copy

BOTF History.pdf

St. Lucie River Blessing of the Fleet and Marine Parade, Inc.

The blessing of the fleet is a time-honored tradition that goes back many centuries into the murky sea of legend and tradition. Some legends have the origins going back to early Greek fishermen. One story has it that the tradition of asking clergy to bless boats and their crews began in Sicily after some fishermen were saved from certain death in a storm. According to the legend, they had lost their way in a thick fog when they suddenly saw a glimmering light in the distance. Following the light, they were able to make their way back to shore. There, they discovered that the light came from a medallion of the Madonna del Lume (Mother of Light) set in a grotto high on a cliff. Whatever the origin, many fishing and boating communities throughout the world have been blessing their fleets for centuries. In Florida, the first blessing was probably held in St. Augustine, then home to a large shrimping industry employing Italian and Sicilian Immigrants. Our Blessing was founded by Donald "Mac" Mclean, who had participated in Blessings and Coast Guard appreciation days in San Francisco. When he was in California, the blessing was a significant event with Coast Guard and Navy Ships participating, including having the clergy perform their blessing from a Navy destroyer. When he moved to Stuart he was surprised to find we had no blessing, especially considering the importance of boating from both a commercial and pleasure standpoint. Through Mac's efforts, the St. Lucie River Blessing of the Fleet was first held on our river almost 43 years ago, on November 13 and 14, 1971, in conjunction with Coast Guard Appreciation Day and the Coast Guard's Merit Awards dinner. The official review boat was the Coast Guard cutter "Point Barnes", an 82-foot patrol boat stationed in Miami. The first blessing was sponsored by Anchorage Yacht Club, with Cocoanut Point Yacht Club and Saints & Sinners Yacht Club as co-sponsors. The original Blessing was held in the main river east of the Roosevelt Bridge, with the Coast Guard review boat anchored east of marker 22. Since that time it has migrated to the North Fork, back to the main river, down below the Evans Crary Bridge, and has settled in the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. Back in the early days of our Blessing, when Stuart was still a small, sleepy community, the D.O.T.would close the southbound span of the Roosevelt Bridge to traffic and allow spectators to view the Blessing from the bridge. From the beginning, the parade was held with a decorating theme such as patriotism, circus world, nursery rhymes, cartoon characters, Walt Disney, etc. The tradition evolved to simply "dressing" the boats in 1991. In each of the years up through 1995, judges on the review boat awarded prizes to the best decorated or best-dressed boats. Prizes were also awarded to the organizations with the most boats, the highest percentage of participation, and the most decorated or dressed boats. In 1996 the Blessing further evolved into a simple parade and blessing, with the dressing of ships optional and no judging or awarding of trophies.

The "St Lucie River Blessing of the Fleet and Marine Parade, Inc." treasures our historic connection with Ralph and Francis Langford Evinrude. After the early years, when the review boats were supplied by the Coast Guard, members of the boating community have donated the use of their yachts as review boats. For many of those years, the "Chanticleer", owned by Mr. and Mrs. Evinrude, served as an outstanding review boat. The most treasured award, given to the organization with the best overall fleet, was the Ralph Evinrude Memorial Trophy. The Evinrude Trophy is now held by the organization hosting the committee planning the Blessing and is passed each year to the next year's host. In 2010 the parade was led by a beautiful replica Viking ship from the Sons of Norway-Gulfstream Lodge. Tom Evinrude was a member of the Viking crew.

The organization that oversees the Blessing and keeps the tradition alive is known as the "St. Lucie River Blessing of the Fleet and Marine Parade, Inc." Incorporated by the State of Florida in 1985, the organization is run by volunteer members from several local yacht clubs in the community. The board of directors consists of representatives from the involved yacht clubs and organizations, and officers are chosen from the Board. {This year (2019) the organizations involved are: Circle Bay Yacht Club, Cocoanut Point Yacht Club, Harbour Ridge Yacht Club, Meridian Marina, Palm Cove Yacht Club, St. Lucie river Sailing Club, Yacht & Country Club, Stuart Corinthian Yacht Club, Tarpon Bay Yacht Club, and Windjammer Yacht Club. The St. Lucie River Power Squadron and the Stuart Coast Guard Auxiliary provide crucial support during the staging and the parade.}