May 282018

Fishing and tour boats form a circle off Depoe Bay. Coast Guard helo in the middle of the circle.
Patty Kuhn Photos

Coast Guard helo drops flowered wreath into the ocean in remembrance of all those lost at sea.

Boats cast wreaths over the side in honor of those lost at sea – a ritual for Depoe Bay on Memorial Day for nearly 75 years.

On Memorial Day, each year since 1945, Depoe Bay has hosted the FLEET OF FLOWERS. This colorful ceremony is recognized as one of the most impressive observances held in the United States. The event was initiated to honor the memories of two fishermen, Roy Bower and John Chambers, who died at sea in an attempt to aid another fisherman.

Each Memorial Day, thousands of visitors come to Depoe Bay to join with residents in mourning the death of loved ones; especially those who lost their lives at sea, or who were buried at sea. A fleet of fishing and whale watching tour boats, loaded with flowers and wreaths, sail single-file out to a spot just off shore and form a giant circle. A Coast Guard rescue helicopter hovers in the middle of the circle. Slowly, a Coast Guardsman is lowered to the ocean’s surface and drops a flowered wreath into the water in memory of Mr. Bower and Mr. Chambers and others who have lost their lives at sea. For others, it’s remembering a loved one that has passed on.

After the dropping of the wreath, the boats in the circle toss many wreaths into the ocean in remembrance of those departed.

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