Being it’s the middle of March and supposedly when fishermen take a break between fishing seasons, the Newport Fishermen’s Wives conducted Saturday another Blessing of the Fleet and Memorial Service in Newport for those seeking the comfort and blessing of the Almighty as their family members set sail again upon the seas for fish, as well as comforting those families who have lost loved ones on those same high seas over the past year.
After the 8:30am service at the Fishermen’s Memorial in Government Park, the Wives launched their regular fare of friendly competition for prize money for displaying skills that produce success in the fishing industry; getting into an “at sea” survival suit and swimming to a rescue raft and showing off their deck hand skills at preparing crab pots, mending nets, handling heavy cables and couplings, tying knots, shoveling ice, tossing life preservers and coiling large line. Here’s how the survival suit competition went…
In first place was Coast Guard “A” Team at 44.28 seconds, with the fastest individual time of 36.45 seconds by Coast Guardsman Jesse Tye. In second place was Coast Guard “B” Team at one minute, 7.7 seconds. In third place was Coast Guard “C” Team at one minute 20.37 seconds, and in fourth place, surprisingly close to the “C” Team, was the Loyalty Days Senior Court at one minute 22.94 seconds. Although one Court Team member didn’t complete the race, the race rules say a team is officially just three members, so it didn’t pull down the ladies’ score.
Later in the day the Highliner Competition took center stage with fishing vessel captains, young deck hands and Coast Guardsmen taking a shot at some prize money put up by Fishermen’s Wives. Here’s a condensed video version of how it played (and paid) out in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd at Port Dock 7. The competition involved stacking crab pots, net repair, cable connecting, knot tying, line coiling, ice shoveling, life ring throwing and just plain running:
The results showed that the the captains can certainly hold their own against their deck hands, as if they didn’t already know that. And they were paid accordingly. Among the top Captains, first place went to Captain Neil Taunton with a time of 4 minutes 36 seconds. Second place went to Captain Calvin Ashley with a time of 4 minutes 37 seconds and third place to Captain John Wagner at 5 minutes 19 seconds.
Among the Deck Hands, Todd Parrish showed everyone a thing-or-three about on-deck duties with the best winning time of 4 minutes one second. Second place went to Jason Smith at 4 minutes 43 seconds and third place went to Keaunu Zimick at 5 minutes 10 seconds. Among the Coast Guardsmen, it was Mike Scriver in first place at 5 minutes 35 seconds and Jesse Tye at 6 minutes 48 seconds. Tye earlier swept the Survival Suit event by a very wide margin.
Highliner competition was sparse this year compared to last due to several factors. Fishermen’s Wives say that mid-March is the closest that Newport gets to a “slack time” for fishermen so they would normally be able to participate in the games and in the Survival Suit competition. They said what jumbled everybody’s schedule was the very late start to the crab season and some of it is still going on. Some of the larger boats switched over to other fish and are still at sea like the F/V Excalibur and the F/V Winona J. Both are crewed with many regular Highline Competition participants. But this time it meant that some handsome prize money went rather quickly to those who signed up on what was an unusually short list of contestants. But in the commercial fishing industry, if those crewmen are doing fine out there with good catches, they won’t lose much sleep over it.
And finally, the Blessing of the Fleet that ran for over an hour at 1pm Saturday. These shots captures courtesy of Bay 839 that has a superb vantage point. The Coast Guard, as usual, provided the floating platform to administer prayers and safe sailing to all those captains and crews that circled through the procession near the Yaquina Bay Bridge. It’s an ancient Sicilian tradition that seeks God’s grace and mercy on those who sail upon the sea for their livelihoods and that prays a safe return for mariners back to port and to the loving arms of their families.