Styron throws wreath

Bradley Styron of the Carteret County Fishermen’s Association throws out the first of many ceremonial wreaths into the water that has claimed and sustained lives along the Crystal Coast. (Dylan Ray photo)

Each October, as the N.C. Seafood Festival comes to a close, fishermen and their families are honored during the Blessing of the Fleet.

This year’s ceremony is at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at the N.C. State Port, 113 Arendell St., in Morehead City.

Fishermen spend long, hard days on the water providing a living for their families, and the ceremony draws attention to the work that these men and women provide for their community. 

“Every year we gather at the Blessing to honor the men and women who continue to work the water, along with their fathers and grandfathers who went before them,” said Jonathan Robinson, of Atlantic. He is a fisherman, county commissioner and member of the Carteret County Fishermen’s Association. “It is a very special time to those of us who are part of this industry. We hope that somehow this service will inspire the next generation to hold on to this way of life.

“It’s not easy now, and it never has been, but fishing is vital to our communities and our state to provider fresh seafood to consumers everywhere,” Mr. Robinson said. “Commercial fishing is an honorable occupation and worthy of our appreciation for their hard work and perseverance.”

The seafood industry has a major impact on North Carolina’s economy. Recognizing that importance, the N.C. Seafood Festival promotes the positive social and economic impact of the seafood industry.

Many families in the county are connected to commercial fishing, some coming from many generations of fishermen. 

Cayton Daniels, 20, of Cedar Island, is part of the next generation of Core Sound watermen.  

“I’m at least a sixth generation fishermen. My family has shrimped, pound netted, long-hauled, oystered, crabbed, gill netted for blue fish, sea mullet … anything and everything, that’s what we do,” he explained. 

Mr. Daniel’s love of the water began when he fished with his grandfather around the age of 6. 

The ceremony honoring the fishermen starts with a musical prelude by pianist Tracy Merkley, the presentation of colors by the Havelock High School ROTC and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Clark Jenkins, this year’s N.C. Seafood Festival Chairman. 

Mr. Robinson will give words of appreciation. Following the call to worship by Connie Mason and Deborah Booth, Rodney Kemp, of First United Methodist Church in Morehead City, will offer the invocation.

The Rev. Bill Hitchcock, of Refining Truth Ministries, will lead this year’s Blessing of the Fleet message and prayer. 

The event will also include a scripture reading by Charlie Tyler, the son of a commercial fisherman, music by the men’s choir of First Baptist Church in Davis and the reading of “The Net Menders Star” by Farrah Crumbacker Brooks, the daughter of a commercial net maker. 

After the Blessing of the Fleet message and prayer, families of fishermen will participate in the throwing of the wreath into the watermen for fishermen everywhere.

The families of Donovan Crumbacker, P.D. Mason, Joe Taylor, Leonard Goodwin, Gilbert Mathis, James Paul Lewis, Marlan Murphy, Paul Rose and Charlie Lee Wynn will be honored during this year’s ceremony.

The ceremony also includes a boat processional with memorials read by Jerry Schill, of the N.C. Fisheries Association and Sandra Gaskill with Carteret County Fisherman’s Association.

In conclusion, Ms. Merkley will perform a selection of “Hymns of the Sea” in memory of the late Robert Morris, pianist and composer, an Atlantic native who resided in Beaufort.

The recorded closing hymn, “Remember Me,” performed by the Menhaden Chantymen, will precede the blowing of the horn from the M/V Grace Moran, with Capt. Don Thomas, to signify the end of the service.

Parking is free at the port. The service is along the south-facing dock.

For those who are not able to make the ceremony, it will be aired on WTKF 107.3.

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