Annual blessing of the fleet performed for Fort Myers Beach shrimpers, boats

The blessing of the fleet is a decades-old tradition performed in hopes of ensuring our shrimpers on the Gulf return home safely with plenty of pink gold with them — shrimp.

We witnessed the annual blessing of the shrimping fleet on Fort Myers Beach Sunday, a ritual to spread good omen upon people who work one of the most dangerous jobs.

“This is not a job to play with,” fisherman Shaun Hunt said.

Hunt explained dangerous equipment, life-threatening storms and an increasingly cut-throat business makes for a dangerous profession.

Rev. Dr. John Adler bestowed the blessing upon the Fort Myers Beach shrimpers and their boats this weekend. Every prayer for the Fort Myers Beach shrimp boat fleet makes the crew members feel safer.

“I love it,” Hunt said. “These boats do need some blessings. It’s not at the table, but they do bring in the food.”

That’s food Jens Hansen loves and a sacrifice Hansen wants to honor.

“They’re just hardworking men,” Hansen said. “And they’re out there for 30, 40 days at a time, working all night and sleeping just a little bit during the day, away from their families for that period of time.”

Those are years that Charles Shaw has spent on boats leaving Estero Island.

“Since 1985,” Shaw said. “There’s a certain thrill to it. When you get on a good boat with a good captain and good weather.”

The shrimpers hoped the day’s blessing would provide them with continued optimal weather conditions.

“To see the boats, and I like to walk the docks and look at the condition of the boats and talk to the men and experience a little of what they are,” Hansen said.

The crews also hope they net more shrimp, since it’s been a tough go recently. And they hope more shrimp means more plentiful years for a linchpin industry on the Gulf and success for all of its workers.

“Right now, the amount of shrimp being caught are less and less because they’re moving farther offshore,” Shaw.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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