Small numbers at Biloxi's Blessing of the Fleet

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - As vessels in full regalia floated by in the Biloxi Channel Sunday afternoon, spectators lined the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, and camped out along the shore of Deer Island.

"This is the first time in a long time that I've been out here, just to see what it was going to be like. How many boats that would be out here," said Biloxi native Darlane Lamey.

Nearly 60 boats were asking for God's protection and Blessing on the water as a part of the annual Blessing of the Fleet.  Over the years, boaters have hoped the tradition would help their harvest and keep them safe from Mother Nature. However, it seems boaters also need help from shrinking numbers.

The shrimp industry has seen some ups and downs over the past year with the oil spill, and now an early start to the shrimp season. That was reflected in number of boats at the blessing. Of the boats participating, only 19 were industry boats.

"The boat that passed through with all the people on it; it use to be years ago, it use to be bumper to bumper with that many on each boat. Crowded," said Lamey.

However residents still treasure this age old tradition that celebrates the industry at the heart of their city.

Yuka Bullard recently moved to Biloxi from Okinawa, and attended the blessing for the first time.

"It was very interesting. I just checked the Internet for the history of the blessing of the fleet, and just read it and it was very interesting," said Bullard.

The blessing is the grand finale of four days worth of festivals and celebration, and hopefully just the beginning of a blessed shrimp season.

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