The message that permeated on every vessel that took part in the first Montauk Blessing of the Fleet post COVID was that it was in fact a blessing it was happening at all. A year ago, the whole country was locking down, so many traditional East End events were canceled, and there was no annual Blessing of the Fleet in Montauk.
The annual Montauk Blessing of the Fleet is a unit celebratory day in which the commercial fishermen are blessed by representatives of the various faiths and has long been a special day and a Montauk Harbor spectacle. On a Sunday afternoon [June 13] that all weather forecasters predicted at least cloud coverage and cold weather, turned into a warm, sunny and under totally blue skies. No doubt God himself must have intervened. Like so many other times in a seamen’s life, they knew the higher power intervened. There were huge smiles on every face on every boat.
After the actual prayers of the blessings were read and then taps was played in memory for those who remain interned permanently at sea, the fog horns and bells on all the boats reached a crescendo that was a moment no one who witnessed it will forget.
On the Anna Mary, the boat of Anthony Sosinski and John “Johnny Loads” Aldridge, family and friends celebrated with cold beverages, pasta salads, chips and dips, and an assortment of tasty home baked cookies. Sosinski displayed his talent of navigating the boat throughout the 75 or so commercial boats of all sizes that paraded from in the Harbor out to the Block Island Sound. Aldridge and his family and friends know what it is to feel God’s mercy. Eight years ago, “Johnny Loads” fell overboard only to be recused the next day by a Coast Guard helicopter as almost every commercial Montauk fishing craft was out there searching for him. It was his guile, his quick thinking and his rubber boots, along with God’s good graces, that brought “Johnny Loads” back to the “Anna Mary” – as in the now well-known Nancy Atlas song. The book about the harrowing event, A Speck in the Sea, is a great read and soon to be a Netflix movie.
Two mast super sailboat “Binzayard” was also taking in the party at sea. This millionaire’s toy was a huge contrast to the well used, hard working commercial vessels in the Blessing. The US Coast Guard as well as East Hampton Marine Patrol were positioned to both insure safety and to also enjoy the unique feeling of those who make a living at sea. In the end, as the boats circled and familiar lifetime friends waved from the bridges of their boats surrounded by their sons, wives and daughters, it became apparent that the darkness of the pandemic was behind them and that a strong, productive 2021 season of safe fishing was now again blessed.
It is said that Montauk is changing and that big money is gentrifying it. However, down at the commercial dock, the more things change in the surrounding new large Montauk homes, the more things remain the same out at sea where the fish are harvested and the men who do the harvesting sometimes are at God’s mercy. Hopefully he will bless their true grit with his kindness when the going gets tough again in 2021.