JEFFERSON – The US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 67 in conjunction with the Lake Hopatcong Sail & Power Squadron hosted the fifth annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony Saturday, June 28.
Father Vidal Gonzales, Jr., left, pastor at Saint Jude Parish in Hopatcong, leads the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony at Lakeland Marine Base in Nolan's Point.
Close to two dozen boats participated in the event. Father Vidal Gonzales, Jr., from Saint Jude Parish in Hopatcong, read prayers as boats gathered in the water at the docks at Lakeland Marine Base in Nolan’s Point (Alice’s Restaurant and the Lake Hopatcong Golf Club docks).
For the blessings, boats, including Jefferson Twp. Fire Department’s Defender and Miss Lotta, the new dinner boat on the lake, lined up bow to stern and slowly made their way past Father Gonzales who was standing on the edge of a dock. As each boat passed he made the sign of the cross while reciting a prayer. Then using an aspergillum, he flicked holy water toward each vessel.
Ned Scheck and Anna McGeehan from Chatham came by with their dog Logan standing proudly on the stern of their boat.
“This is fantastic,” said Scheck. “This is the first time we’ve been blessed by a priest on a lake,” said McGeehan, who said they will definitely “come back next year.”
“We’ve tripled the number of boats over last year,” said Larry Orleans, a member of USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 67.
According to Joe Gibbons, Lake Hopatcong Sail & Power Squadron commander, a blessing ceremony has taken place on Lake Hopatcong each year since 1966, when the group initiated the first one. In 2010 they “let it go,” said Gibbons. The same year Flotilla 67 made the decision to hold their own ceremony, not knowing the Squadron had been holding one or that they stopped.
“Now we work together,” said Lorraine Cannata, Flotilla commander. The two organizations have been jointly holding the event for the past three years.
“It’s wonderful to see the people on Lake Hopatcong joining in on this time-honored annual blessing of the fleet,” said Cannata.