Choir, priest, squirt guns bless Tofino fleet at dock side ceremony
Tofino: A reverend relayed prayers over a radio transmission and a choir sang hymns from the dock in the pelting rain as crews and vessels waited to be blessed in a West Coast ceremony of hope, safety, survival and renewal. The annual blessing of the boats ceremony in Tofino, British Columbia, was conducted Monday as the tourism-dependent community struggles to recover from the deaths of six people when a whale-watching vessel sank last October. An investigation is still underway to determine why the Leviathan II went down near Tofino with more than two dozen people on board, but those at the ceremony were ready to move ahead after a winter of deep reflection. “It’s been a tough winter knowing what happened with the Leviathan,’’ said Rev. Will Ferrey after presiding over the blessing ceremony. “It was good to have some time as a community to stop and reflect and think about what happened and the very real dangers of what happened here. I think we are ready to move on and see what the next season brings.’’ Ferrey stood at the dock’s edge and delivered a series of prayers dedicated to those who live, serve and thrive on the sea. Lined up in the harbour were whale watching and fishing boats, water taxis, kayaks and coast guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans vessels. “Today, we gather to bless these ships and these boats and those who work on them to protect our country, to protect our citizens, to provide food from these waters and those who use these waters for recreation, sightseeing, transport and family outings,’’ Ferrey said. “Bless these boats, their equipment, and all who will use it,’’ he prayed. “Protect them from the dangers of wind and rain and all the perils of the deep.’’ The boat blessing ceremony included several lighthearted moments, especially when the boats passed by the dock to be “blessed’’ with water sprayed from a ceremonial squirt gun. The ceremony is part of the Tofino area’s 30th annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival marking the yearly return of up to 20,000 migrating grey whales. Mayor Josie Osborne said heavy hearts remain in the community because of the Leviathan sinking, but the coming of spring and the arrival of the whale festival signals a new start for the area.