Several local pastors, including Fr. Michael Boyle of St. Michael’s Cathedral of Sitka, Rev. Julie Platon of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and Rev. Sandra Hammett of United Methodist Church, brought flowers to the water in memory of those lost. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Sitka held its Blessing of the Fleet last Sunday (4-10-16). As the fishing community gears up for another busy season on the water, the annual ceremony bids safe passage to departing vessels and remembers those lost at sea.

The blessing came days after a local kayaker, Jesse Mills, went missing and the Coast Guard called off the search. His wife, Amy Fyrdundel and daughter Violet were present, surrounded by friends who laid flowers as a bell tolled in his memory.

Downloadable audio.

John Stein: Quite a number of folks have gathered for the Blessing of the Fleet. And we have assembled representatives from most every church in the community who will lead us in remembering and respecting the folks who have lost their lives over the years working on the sea.

Mary Todd Anderson, President of Southeast Alaska Women in Fisheries (SEAWIF): I just think people really feel a power greater than this world and they like to feel that their boats are blessed, their gear is blessed, and they’re blessed. Each day is a special gift of life and I think it’s just a reminder to take it easy. Grab an extra life jacket. Just be careful out on the boats. And make sure you show your appreciation for everybody you love every day.


Sitkans gather at Crescent Harbor Shelter on a warm day in April for the annual Blessing of the Fleet. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Pastor Sandra Rudd, Sitka Lutheran Church: So we’ll ask you to come forward at the reading of the names to place flowers in the baskets. [The baskets will] be there with us during the blessing ceremony. hen we’ll take them down to the boat and disperse them on the sea.

(Reading of names as bell tolls)


As local pastors read names of the deceased, Sitkans placed flowers in a basket at Crescent Harbor. The flowers were dispersed at sea. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Anne Lankenau: I went up and there was the bucket with all the different colored flowers. I’m kind of a fan of yellow – yellow daisies. I just picked up a cluster of yellow daisies and gently put it into the basket next to it. And in my mind I just said a little prayer for all those people who don’t have someone here to remember them.

(Reading of names as bell tolls)

Lankenau: I’ve come here before when someone I knew died months ago and they didn’t die on the water, but I was just thinking of the families.

Anderson: We’ve been asked by Amy, who is here and whose husband is lost at sea…that’s the word she wants to use. And it helps her today. We love you Amy. We’re here for you, okay?

Anderson: Amy really wanted her husband’s name mentioned today and she wanted the word “lost at sea” and for us to be there for her. Just the pain…I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. But that a lot of us have gone through things where we lost someone. We’re a team in Sitka. People are so friendly, so kind so giving here.

Pastors (all): God bless all the boats in all the harbors of Sitka.

Crowd (all): Graciously behold your servants, that all perils being done away they may by favorable course come a fair haven. And their work being done, they return to their homes in safety. Amen.

(Amazing Grace music)

Friends of Jesse Mills began this collection page in Chico, California. 

Slideshow: Blessing of the Fleet 2016