Boats Line Up For Blessing - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

05/04/03

Boats Line Up For Blessing

The boats are blessed and the shrimpers are ready for a safe season and bountiful harvest. Sunday, the Mississippi Gulf Coast celebrated its oldest festival--the 75th Annual Blessing of the Fleet in Biloxi. More than two dozen boats lined up in the Gulf Sunday for Biloxi's Annual Blessing of the Fleet, a tradition everyone on the shoreline seemed to know about.

"Oh, it's about the fact that the shrimpers are going out and they want a bountiful crop, and that they want it to be blessed by God, so they get together for a good crop for the year," said Joe Tatum, who traveled from Hattiesburg to catch the event.

"We just get together to party," said Shane McQueen. "Like I say, it's for the boats to get blessed for the beginning of the season...to have a good season."

A wreath fell from a helicopter...into the sound in memory of all the fishermen who have lost their lives at sea.

The lives of coast fishermen are living proof that the Gulf can be a dangerous place to work.

"We were going out one evening. A squall came out. It got real dark. The turbulence of the wind, you could hardly tell what way it was blowing. It was kind of like a downdraft. It didn't last but a few minutes, but it kind of threw my hatch cover up in the air and jerked everything around on the boat." Ronald Baker survived that water spout, and has had other close calls during his 23 years of shrimping in the Mississippi Sound," said Ronald Baker, who's been shrimping in Mississippi waters for 23 years.

Despite the dangers, Baker couldn't imagine anything else he would rather do.

"It's relaxing to me, when I get away from the dock and get out there by myself it's a different world. It's just relaxing," Baker said. "You lay back. I can't wait to get out. Sometimes it's kind of hairy at first, you know, when the weather's bad, but after you get out there, it settles down. It's a different ballgame all together."

The Blessing of the Fleet is a day of family fun, a celebration of the fisherman's life and work, and a livelihood Ronald Baker hopes to pass down for generations to come.

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