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Blessing puts focus on fishermen

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Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 11:30 am

MOREHEAD CITY — Over 300 people turned out along the waterfront Sunday morning at the N.C. Port to honor the lives of commercial fishermen past and present with the 17th annual Blessing of the Fleet.

It was all part of the 28th annual N.C. Seafood Festival, a three-day event downtown.

With the sun high and a cool wind coming off the water, the crowd celebrated the heritage and livelihood of many commercial fishing families.

Following a musical prelude by pianist Tracey Merkley and presentation of the colors by the Havelock High School ROTC, festival chairman Patrick Conneely led those gathered in the Pledge of Allegiance and offered the welcome.

County Commission Chairman Jonathan Robinson offered words of appreciation, telling those gathered the Blessing of the Fleet would offer them a glimpse into the community of commercial fishermen.

“We are celebrating these commercial fishermen, their struggles and their sacrifices,” he said. “They can’t legislate that away from us.”

Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico who also represents Carteret County, said the blessing was an important reminder of struggles and hardship.

“And, we don’t need to wait for the next festival to recognize the fishermen, their families and their history,” he said. “It (commercial fishing) can be dangerous and hard work. Thank God for this wonderful occasion.”

Following musical performances by Kara Smith and Clarice Arthur, a reading of “So God Made a Fisherman” by the Rev. Bill Hitchcock and Prayers of the People by Jess Hawkins, the Rev. Kerry Willis, son of commercial fisherman Billy Willis and wife Melba of Harkers Island, delivered the Blessing of the Fleet. He chose Luke 5:1 to remind those present of the losses and gains found in the struggles of commercial fisherman.

Rev. Willis said making a life from the sea was one fraught with burdens, blessings, bonanza and belief. There were years of great harvest and years of loss, but years of belief in God that the burdens would pass and the bonanza would come.

“Our savior has been blessing the fleet from the very beginning,” he said.

Following his message and prayer, nearly 50 fishing boats, small and large from Bogue, Davis, Harkers Island, Beaufort, New Bern, Swansboro, Marshallberg, South River, Englehardt, Sneads Ferry, Salter Path and Bettie motored past the port, each one dropping a wreath into the fast-moving waters in memory of fishermen everywhere. 

As the crowd came to their feet, the families of commercial fishermen Stacy McVae Davis, Grady George Davis, Ed Cannon and William Cannon gathered for the throwing of the wreath.

As the event concluded, families stood quietly on the bulkhead watching the boats pass while music was played in memory of the late Robert Morris of Atlantic and Beaufort.

Contact Helen Outland at 252-726-7081, ext. 211; email; or follow on Twitter@helenccnt.

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