blessing of the fleet destin, fl

Destin’s summer deep sea fishing season is just around the corner. It’s a time when the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding shores come to life with nonstop adventure and excitement. As captains and crew members gear up for the unknown encounters of daily deep sea fishing trips, anticipation of the annual fleet blessings draws locals and visitors to the Destin Harbor. Destin’s Annual Blessing of the Fleet displays the tradition, heritage, and culture of the coastal community by observing a time of prayer and celebration of those who make up the largest fishing fleet in the state of Florida.

Destin’s 60th Annual Blessing of the Fleet

  • Date: May 25, 2017
  • Location: 210 HWY 98 East, Destin, Florida, 32541 (Behind Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer)
  • 4:00 pm: Blessing of the Fleet Ascension Day services
  • 5:00 pm: Fleet Blessing
  • 5:30 pm: Annual Blessing Fish Fry

What is the Blessing of the Fleet?

The Blessing of the Fleet is an annual tradition honoring the men and women who utilize the resources of the sea as a means of survival. As a centuries-old ritual, fleet blessings are commonplace among ports located all over the world.

With strong roots in the Catholic Church, fleet blessings have long been established as a time of prayer and faith. This ocean to ocean tradition marks a time when locals and churches come together to pray over each fleet vessel, the captains and crew members, and their families for safe passages, bountiful catches, and prosperity.

In addition to services and ceremonial prayers, fallen fishermen and local legends are remembered as tribute of their contributions to the coastal communities.

How did Destin’s Blessing of the Fleet begin?

blessing of the fleet history

Destin, Florida 13th Annual Blessing of the Fleet 1970 Image Source: State Archives of Florida/Veselka.

Destin’s Annual Blessing of the Fleet has a history dating back to May 30, 1957, when fishermen congregated at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church for communion and services conducted by founder, Reverend William Irwin.

The blessing ceremony followed the service as church members and fishermen prayed over each vessel. Back then, there were just over twenty boats, and the town was considered a small fishing community.

Those fishermen and their families built what we know today as one of America’s favorite beach and deep sea fishing destinations. The fleet has continued to grow in number, and the Destin Harbor is now recognized as home to the largest fishing fleet in the state.

Destin’s Unique History

Though Destin’s Blessing of the Fleet as an annual tradition began in 1957, the significance of prayers over the fishermen and their families is unique to those who know the story of Destin’s beginnings.

Destin was first discovered as a fishing haven by Leonard Destin in the 1830s. On his fishing voyage from New London, Connecticut, Leonard’s father and brother were lost at sea in a tragic accident close to Cape Canaveral. As Leonard continued through the Gulf of Mexico, and into the waters just below the Destin coastline, he knew that he’d found something spectacular. After Leonard settled along the shore, word soon traveled of the magnificent blessings found in the waters nearby.

Today, the blessings of the past seem to shine brighter than ever. Destin’s fleet has proved prosperous and protected from the dangerous elements of hurricanes and oil spills that have affected other coastal communities. Locals stand by their beliefs that God continues to watch over and bless the fishermen of Destin’s Harbor, just as he watched over and blessed Leonard Destin during his voyage and discovery of Destin, Florida.

The Atmosphere

Though times have changed from the early years of Destin’s introduction as a quiet fishing village, the Blessing of the Fleet takes locals and visitors back to a time when life-lines were dependent upon tight fishing lines. We are reminded of the significant role that fishermen played in building our beloved Destin community.

Though many visitors travel to Destin to witness the beautiful white sand and emerald waters of the Gulf Coast, Destin as a vacation destination would not be the same as we know it without the work of fishermen and their families, of both past and present.

Today the atmosphere during the Blessing of the Fleet transcends changes to the modern landscaping of Destin. As high-rise condominiums and tourist attractions fade away during the Blessing of the Fleet event, boats decorated with flags and bunting line up along the Destin Harbor, awaiting their chance for mass prayers extended to the vessel, the captain and crew members, and their families. The prayers also extend to all who climb aboard each vessel for deep sea fishing and recreation.

These fishermen and their families capture the same hard-working spirit of those who came before them. Thousands travel to Destin each year to witness the miraculous experience of one of the oldest traditions along the Emerald Coast. All visitors are invited to join the events surrounding Destin’s Blessing of the Fleet, as an experience unlike any other found among coastal traditions.

Week of Blessings 2015 from Coastline Calvary Chapel on Vimeo.

From the Blessing of the Fleet to the Week of Blessings

As Destin continues to maintain a prosperous reputation, the seeds of early fleet blessings have sprouted across the entire community. What began as the Blessings of the Fleet has led to an entire week of blessings for local families, emergency personnel, pastors, marketplace, and the youth.

During the annual Week of Blessings, churches from various denominations join together in prayer. Unification of Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, Church of Christ, and Non-Denominational congregations are joined together to represent the Church of Destin. Through testimony and faith, prayer is strengthened, and lives are changed during the week surrounding Destin’s annual Blessing of the Fleet.

blessing of the fleet destin

Destin’s Blessing of the Fleet. Image Source: Immanuel Anglican Church

The 60th Annual Blessing of the Fleet

The year 2017 marks Destin’s 60th Annual Blessing of the Fleet. All services and ceremonies for the 60th Annual Blessing of the Fleet will be held in front of the Fisherman’s Co-op, which is directly under the back side of Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer. The address for Brotula’s is 210 HWY 98 East, Destin, Florida, 32541. Once you pull into the parking lot of Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer, take a right, then an immediate left. Follow the driveway down to the dock to find parking.

Locals and visitors are invited to attend the Blessing of the Fleet Ascension Day services at 4:00 pm, where local pastors, captains, and crew members will share testimonies and prayers for all attending the gathering.

Following the service, Destin’s fleet will line up along the Destin Harbor, and beginning at 5:00 pm, they will take turns stopping in front of the barge where Destin’s pastors pray over each vessel. Whether you hang out along the dock, enjoy a blessed dolphin cruise, or dine at one of the many harbor view restaurants, you’re sure to get a great seat to witness the blessing ceremony.

The traditional Blessing Fish Fry has been a part of the Blessing of the Fleet since its start in 1957. Following the blessing ceremony of the boats, the Blessing Fish Fry will be prepared behind Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer at 5:30 pm.

If you can’t make the 60th Annual Blessing of the Fleet Event, be sure watch the ceremony via AJ’s Harbor live Gulf Coast Beach Cams found here.


City of Destin

Emerald Coast Magazine Historicity by Christy Kearney March 2008

Emerald Coast Magazine Founding Paradise by Scott Holstein December 2010