ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – The Rev. Jill Hubbard Smith, pastor of the Atlantic Highlands United Methodist Church, will join Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club chaplains Peter and Carol Andrews of Middletown for the Yacht Club’s annual Blessing of the Fleet.
The event will take place Saturday, June 4 and boaters as well as spectators are invited to join the Yacht Club and participate in the traditional ceremony.
“This is both a somber and joyous event,” said Rear Commodore Joseph Patsco. “ It is a ceremony that begins with a remembrance of all club members who passed during the year, the sounding of eight bells, then floating a wreath on the water together with blessings from the chaplains. The US Navy Hymn; “Eternal Father, Strong To Save” is played at this point in the ceremony , because it is a prayer for all those “in peril upon the sea.”
That part of the ceremony leads to the boats parade, the rear commodore said, with many displaying flags running fore and aft up the mast, and crew members participating in special garb as well. There is a formal salute, the sound of the cannon wishing safe passage to all and thus officially marking the beginning of another boating system.
All of this activity takes place at the Harbor Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. and all boats and boaters are invited to participate without a need to sign up in advance. “Spectators are always welcomed as well,” said Patsco.
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Following the waterside events and the gala parade of boats, Yacht Club members return to the Yacht Club at the Harbor to host a thank you reception for the dignitaries who attend, as well as to present prizes for the best dressed boat and crew in the parade.
Among the dignitaries invited to the ceremony, in addition to all the officers of the Yacht Club and past commodores and board members, are the Atlantic Highlands Mayor and Council, Police and Fire departments, the EMT unit and First Aid as well as commercial captains of the fishing, ferry, towing and charter vessels at the harbor. Also invited are other local club Commodores, the Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Highlands Harbor Commission. Officials from the US Navy, Coast Guard, US Power Squadrons, and NJ Police are also often included among the dignitaries who attend and participate in the ceremonies.
Saturday’s ceremonies will follow a ceremony which has been a tradition at the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club for decades, beginning in the 20th century. The custom has been observed in fishing and boating communities around the world, where bountiful harvests and the safety of the men at sea are always the focal site for both the somber and celebratory rituals.
Patsco expressed once again an invitation to for vessels and their crews to join the parade of boats, joining the procession and be blessed for the coming season. Boaters can assemble outside the east end of the breakwater at the harbor prior to the 1p.m. start of the program, and a launch boat will be there to direct traffic, space out the procession and relay boat names for the onshore reviewing party.
For more information on the Blessing of the Fleet and all other Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club activities, visit their Facebook site at www.facebook.com/AHyachtclub or online @www.AHYC.net.