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Fisherman's Festival offers hope for a safe season

  • Boats parade by the Fisherman Festival out of Bodega Harbor for the Blessing of the Fleet Sunday, April 27, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

A fair amount of partying goes on each year during Fisherman's Festival weekend, a community-wide celebration that welcomes thousands of visitors.

They partake of live music, beer and wine, and whimsical events like bathtub races, a pet parade and a wooden-boat challenge.

But at the heart of this festive annual occasion is a solemn rite that many in the fishing community say gives meaning to the town's festive traditions. Out past the protection of the jetty, where the waves rise and the horizon beckons, the fleet is blessed.

Fisherman's Festival

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"It's our little town's big weekend," Sophie Powers said Sunday as her family's sport fishing boat, the New Sea Angler, prepared to lead a procession of local fishing vessels through the harbor.

The parading watercraft were bedecked with colorful banners and loaded with family members and friends. Passengers aboard two boats lobbed water balloons at each other as about 30 vessels converged from various marinas and headed out toward sea.

The blessing is a ritual acknowledging the inherent risks of an occupation at sea, an opportunity to seek comfort and safety on the eve of the important commercial salmon season, whether because of a belief in a higher power or mere superstition, local fishermen said.

Aboard his boat, the Regina Marie, Aaron Weinzinger said he came in from fishing crab to make sure he would not miss the blessing, much as he has in years past. He has made the trek from waters near Eureka or Fort Bragg, at least once with a full load of crab on board.

"It's very serious for me," he said. "When you're 200 miles out there in the ocean, your God-fearing feelings come out."

Matt Anello, a deck-hand on the Molly, said he made sure the captain, who recently acquired the boat, planned to take her out for the blessing.

"It's our safe passage to go fishing," said his friend Sean Amoroso, who works aboard the fishing vessel Outsider.


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