Blessing of the fleet ritual for beer glory
ON the water - or at least very close to it - is the place to be this Australia Day as the boating fraternity gathers at the Port Douglas Combined Club for its “ritual” blessing of the fleet and race around Low Isles.
Yachts, tinnies, outrigger canoes, commercial and recreational fishing vessels, reef boats and crafts of all sizes and descriptions will assemble in Dixon’s Inlet at 8am to be blessed by Father Paul Beasley before setting off in the annual Australia Day race.
The winner will emerge with a coveted “seat on the wall” to be mounted at the Combined Club alongside the names of the 48 previous boats and skippers to have won handicap honours over the long and colourful history of the race.
According to time-honoured tradition, the victorious skipper will be entitled to a “free pot of XXXX Gold” at the club every day for a year.
Combined Club acting manager Michelle Hopkins says the race tests the skill, experience and local knowledge of skippers who must battle against the clock and handicap times based on the average speed of their vessels. Vessels can nominate until 4pm Tuesday, with the race briefing to take place at 5pm.
Meanwhile, non-boaties will gather on the deck to enjoy the spectacle of the blessing which is based on a Greek Orthodox tradition of “throwing the cross” at the start of the fishing season.
Organiser Janet Goodall said blessing had developed over the past decade, with a few adaptations to suit local conditions.
“We couldn’t very well throw the cross into the water here among the crocs and things so we hose the fleet instead with a big fire hose,” she said.
“It’s a nice touch for the start of the fishing season, to let them know they’re appreciated. It’s not an easy lot to work at sea.”
The blessing is followed by morning tea at 9.30am and a fun-filled family day featuring music by resident larrikins Fashion Tips For Tractors, Aussie Day games, a Lions Club sausage sizzle and lots of prizes. All proceeds go directly to local projects in line with the club’s community charter.