The weather was clear and kind to the 25 vessels that participated in this year’s Blessing of the Fleet on Saturday evening, which is an integral part of Hatteras village’s annual Day at the Docks Festival.
Though this year’s Day at the Docks was scaled down to just a handful of small events due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the Blessing of the Fleet, (which traditionally closes the festival), still attracted a solid crowd to the docks of Hatteras village.
The first parade of boats and the ensuing Blessing of the Fleet was also held on a similarly calm Saturday evening on September 18, 2004. Orchestrated a year after Hurricane Isabel devastated Hatteras, cutting a new inlet that separated the village from the rest of the island, the original event was held as a celebration of the spirit of the villagers, and their efforts to recover after the historic storm.
This first Blessing of the Fleet was so well received that the celebration was expanded the following year to include the Day at the Docks festival – an event that has become a September tradition for Hatteras village in the 17 years that followed.
Day at the Docks has been canceled or edited for four consecutive years, due to Hurricane Florence in 2018, Hurricane Dorian in 2019, and most recently, the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. But the Blessing of the Fleet, (which also had a hiatus in 2020), continues to draw a loyal group of charter boats, commercial fishing vessels, and representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard year after year.
The parade of boats was led by Ernie Foster into the harbor just as the sun began to set, where the vessels paused in boat slips bordering the Breakwater and Village Marinas for the community blessing and prayer.
Pastor Toni Wood of the United Methodist churches in Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras, payed tribute to the local watermen who work on the waters every day. After a lovely rendition of the hymn “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me,” Pastor Wood read off the names of the friends and loved ones who has passed away over the past two years. Those names included Wayne Basnett, Ervin O’Neal, Victor Ballance, Carl Clever, Billy Midgett, Ricky Scarborough, Paul Foster, Ikey O’Neal, Brock Tillett, Lonnie Willis, and Bob Eakes.
After the hymn and a prayer on the docks, the vessels made a slow cruise out to the open waters bordering Hatteras, where family members of the watermen who had recently passed laid a wreath into the calm waters just outside Hatteras village. The weather cooperated beautifully throughout the procession, with clear skies and a light breeze that made the trek an easy endeavor.
Though Day at the Docks was a modest affair in 2021, the large turnout for the Blessing of the Fleet demonstrated that the spirit of the festival remains strong, as a celebration of local watermen and Hatteras village’s inherent life on the water.