On Sunday morning, the scene at Shem Creek was unusually festive. Familiar shrimping boats like Wayne Magwood’s Winds of Fortune and Tommy Edwards’ Mrs. Judy Too were festooned in colorful flags as they readied themselves for the 25th Annual Blessing of the Fleet.
Meanwhile over at the Mt. Pleasant Waterfront Park, thousands of people were gathering on the pier for the town’s day-long celebration, which included live music, lots of food, and the 1 p.m. blessing of the fleet, which marks the beginning of the fishing season.
On board Captain Mark Marhefka’s fishing boat, the Amy Marie of Abundant Seafood, were family and friends, including chefs like John Ondo of Lana Restaurant and Jill Mathias of Carolina’s.
Marhefka and Matt Wrann had just put a fresh coat of paint on the boat, and his wife Kerry had made a delicious grouper salad (think tuna salad but with their own freshly caught fish), and everyone else brought a dish or two to share, which means there was a pretty amazing spread.
The kids roamed the boat and sat up top on the wheelhouse, until the Department of Natural Resources pulled alongside and told the captain everyone had to get down. Apparently, the policing was much more strict this year, according to the Marhefkas. One shrimp boat had to turn back to Shem Creek because they had too many passengers.
After a pleasant cruise of the harbor (the Amy Marie tops out at 7 knots), Marhefka got in the boat parade line and was blessed by the priest, which ended with a rousing cheer from the gathered crowds, both in the water and on the shore. After the blessing, the boats cruised back to Shem Creek where kids frolicked in the water and both dolphin and manatee were spotted. A fitting end to a magical day, which was marred only by the poorly done T-shirt design by Guy Harvey, who chose to depict a spot tail bass (or drum) and a spotted sea trout, two species that are sport fish and have not been open to commercial fishermen for decades.