TREMONT, Maine — Counting only the living, there were approximately 50 people who gathered Saturday afternoon at the town dock to witness the blessing of the local fishing fleet.
But if you include the names and souls of those who are memorialized by a monument overlooking Bass Harbor, then nearly 200 people were at the event in spirit, if not more.
Besides the blessing of the fleet, there also was a rededication Saturday of the monument, which was erected in 2001 in honor of local residents who have perished at sea. Their names are not on the monument, but have been compiled and were printed in a ceremony program handed out to attendees. The names of local residents who have died at sea range from Samuel Moore, who the program notes died before 1790, to Lawrence Robbins, Norman Closson III and Benjamin Day, all of whom died in 1991.
In all, more than 150 Tremont residents have succumbed to the waves in the past 200-plus years, according to ceremony organizers. The official list is continually updated, not because of new deaths but because of new discoveries in the historical record.
“We are continually updating this sea memorial,” the Rev. Wayne Buchanan, pastor of Tremont Congregational Church, said during the ceremony.
Buchanan said the past year has been difficult economically for fishermen, especially those who had been used to abundant lobster catches and steadily increasing lobster prices. But fishing has more difficulties than just earning a living, he suggested.
“The last couple of years have been a challenge to us,” Buchanan said. “Jesus is concerned about our safety as well as our catch. That is why I am especially glad to see the Coast Guard is here today.”
A handful of Coast Guard members attended Saturday’s dockside ceremony and then piloted a Coast Guard vessel stationed in Southwest Harbor past a barge in the harbor from which Buchanan and the Rev. Samuel Leonardi, who also is affiliated with Tremont Congregational Church, blessed the passing boats.
David Schlaefer, the local harbormaster, said people have fished out of Bass Harbor for as long as there have been local residents.
“There’s been hundreds of people who have inhabited this harbor for hundreds of years,” he said during the ceremony. “Hopefully, there’ll be hundreds more.”
The ceremony was held under a small tent to escape the afternoon drizzle, but the precipitation was not enough to keep witnesses off the deck of the open barge during the subsequent blessing.
Wid Minctons, a local marine contractor who donated the use of his barge for the blessing of the fleet, said Saturday after the ceremony that the blessing was the first such event in Tremont in recent memory. He said more people and boats — eight vessels, by his count — participated in the event than were expected.
“We’d like to try to make it an annual event now,” he said.
Minctons said he and other residents decided to put it together as a way to commemorate a local tradition and to express gratitude for and to honor their predecessors.
“It was to thank the sea for providing a living,” Minctons said. “Hopefully, everyone comes back this year. We don’t want to lose anybody