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Blessing of Nelson's Fishing Fleet

Note: Change of line up. Archdeacon Te Hawe Whakaruru is replaced by Canon Andrew Joseph.

Saturday 29 July, 12 - 2.30pm

This year's annual Blessing of Nelson's Fishing Fleet, set for Saturday July 29 is a threefold event - it also celebrates the centennial of the Cut and the 150th anniversary of the Mission to Seafarers.

The actual opening of the Cut took place on July 30th 1906, when the Union ferry Rotoiti was the first ship through, cutting ribbons stretched across the new harbour entrance as she went. Seafarers' Memorial Trust spokesman Mike Smith said the Blessing of the Fleet was a natural fit with the two anniversaries.

"Nelson was close to stagnation before the Cut was made, opening the harbour to become the busy modern port it is today, exporting timber and fruit as well as being Australasia's biggest fishing port."

Port Nelson Chief Executive Martin Byrne said the port company was pleased to offer additional support to the Blessing of the Fleet this year and would also be marking the milestone in a more permanent way.

"Later in the year we are installing an information panel at the recreational berth (near Olivia's restaurant) that will mark the centennial of the Cut, trace other significant milestones in port history and outline port operations today."

The Seafarers' Mission will have an information stand at the Blessing of the Fleet and their 150th will also be marked with a Sea Sunday Service at Nelson Cathedral at 10am on Sunday July 30th.

Mission manager Milo Coldren said the mission began in England in 1856 and was started in Nelson by Bishop Suter after his arrival here in 1867.

"Perhaps the 110 day journey on the Cissy in ferocious weather increased his compassion and understanding of seafarers," Milo says. "The work he began continues in the recently revamped mission building at the port, where today's crew come to use facilities such as internet and telephones."

The Blessing of the Fleet begins on Friday night with the release of smoke bombs and fishing flares from fishing boats on the Haven. This will be a spectacular display, viewable from the port hills or Wakefield Quay. The public is also welcome to watch the demonstration (at 7pm) from The Boathouse on Wakefield Quay.

On Saturday the Blessing will follow its traditional format, with the vessels assembling off shore from the Sunderland Marine Pier in Wakefield Quay, just before midday. The blessing ceremony will be taken by Archdeacon Te Hawa Whakaruru and Father Patrick Bridgman. The Royal New Zealand Navy and TS Talisman Sea Cadets are also taking part, and music will be provided by the Nelson Male Voice Choir, the Hira School choir, a lone piper and the Nelson City Brass Band. MC and auctioneer will be Kent Roberston from Radio Nelson's Classic Hits programme.

With the help of the Rotary Club of Nelson, the trust will be offering scallop and fish picnic lunches for a $2 donation per serving and barbecued mussels for $1 a serving.

"We will also be auctioning the Catch of the Day," Mr Smith said. "Fresh fish, mussels and crayfish unloaded at the Sunderland Marine Pier will go under the hammer shortly after the blessing ceremony, with proceeds going to the Seafarers Trust."

Other highlights will include the release of pigeons, rescue helicopters display and man overboard and the loud and colourful day-time mescalita fireworks display. Although the Blessing of the Fleet is a free community event, the public will be asked to make a small donation to the Seafarers Memorial Trust to be used in community projects.

A free service from Newman's Milestone Association clipper buses will run from Wakatu Square from 11.45am. If Saturday is wet the Blessing of the Fleet will be held on Sunday the 30th. Postponement will be broadcast on Radio Nelson.


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