The annual Blessing of the Fleet is a Coastal Empire tradition. For 25 years, the Catholic Church has offered its blessing on the ships and boats of the Savannah Harbor.
On Friday, Bishop Kevin Boland from the Diocese of Savannah blessed the merchant ships and private boats. With a ride courtesy of the United States Coast Guard, the Bishop made his way up and down the harbor to pray for the safety of those on the water.
"We've always looked on the seafarer as someone very special," explains Bishop Boland. "The blessing is primarily for the people who are on the ships, because they spend months and months at sea and they often have difficult home lives, and we want the seafarer to be able to travel safely and come home safely."
The blessing is important to Joe Maggionni, a tug boat captain who spends half of his life on the water. "It's a dangerous job and a lot of us don't get enough religion anyway, so if they bless us, that's fine. That's great. We need the help."
The Savannah Port chaplain, Reverend Xavier Kumbalaparampil, says the blessing is available to everyone. "We ask those who believe in God to ask for God's blessing," he says, "because Jesus told us, 'ask and you will receive.'"
The Blessing of the Fleet was started for commercial boats; however, recreational boats are now also included. Frank Gill was pleased to learn his boat was blessed by Bishop Boland. "It can't hurt," he says, "because we always want everything we can as far as safety goes for the boats, so the blessing is really good."
If you missed the Blessing of the Fleet, you can still have your boat blessed at Hogan's Marina at 36 Wilmington Island Road on Sunday, June 30 at 1pm.