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Blessing to feature decorated boats
Decorations say a lot about a special event or celebration.

That's why Mary Rocha of Brunswick and others decided this year to allow shrimp boat captains to decorate their vessels for the 75th Annual Brunswick Blessing of the Fleet, set for May 12, Mother's Day.

Any boats sporting decorations will have a chance to win a prize, including diesel fuel, blocks of ice, nets and cases of Coca-Cola.

"It's up to the individual owner how they want to decorate," said Rocha, a member of the Brunswick Blessing of the Fleet Committee.

Decorated boats will need to fly the American flag to qualify for a prize.

It's not required for a boat to be decorated to get blessed. The decorations are only for the festivities and competition.

This isn't the first time the blessing will feature a boat decoration competition. There used to be one every year.

It was suspended because of the economy.

"It's very expensive to decorate a boat, and fuel is expensive," said Rocha.

The last decorating competition was in 2010.

The fishing fleet will be blessed by the Rev. Gregory Hartmayer, bishop of the Diocese of Savannah; the Rev. Chuck Henkle, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church; and the Rev. Wilfred Logsdon. All will be aboard the Georgia Bulldog.

"We never know how many boats will be there," Rocha said. "It may be five or six, but we're hoping for 10."

Rocha has been a part of the blessing since the early 1980s. She remembers a time when the fishing fleet was much larger than it is today.

The rising cost of doing business, increasing government regulation and global competition have chased a lot of boat owners off the water.

"It's been sad to see the change over the years, but that's life," Rocha said.

Even if there aren't a lot of boats out there, Rocha and the other members have one goal in mind.

"The industry has not been doing well," Rocha said. "Our main focus is blessing the boats."

The Blessing of the Fleet is a Portuguese tradition celebrated every Mother's Day in honor of Our Lady of Fatima.

The annual Our Lady of Fatima procession around Hanover Square, just across from St. Francis Xavier Church, will follow the 11 a.m. church service May 12. The local chapter of the Knights of Columbus will lead the procession.

The procession is in honor of the appearance of Mary to three children near the town of Fatima in Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months beginning May 13, 1917.

The blessing ceremony can be viewed at 3 p.m. Sunday at Mary Ross Waterfront Park, at the corner of Bay and Gloucester streets.

* Reporter Martin Rand III covers local news. Contact him at mrand@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook, or at 265-8320, ext. 324.



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