Harkers Island , NC Community Leaders
2003 Blessing of the Fleet
Never has it been more difficult for Carteret County’s fishing community to come together for the annual Blessing of the Fleet. And never has it been more important. On the heels of Hurricane Isabel, many commercial fishing families in the down east and South River communities find themselves in one of the most devastating situations of their lives. The lucky ones have lost items in their sheds and garages – the unlucky have lost everything – homes, furnishings, cars, pets. But amidst the worst storm devastation these seasoned Carteret Countians have known, there is a sense of community and love of the water that continues to hold them together, forming a kinship far deeper than blood.
On Sunday, Oct. 5, as part of the 17th annual N.C. Seafood Festival, fishing families will come together to bless the vessels that represent their livelihood while also remembering fishermen of the past. Among them, as he has been since the beginning, will be Harkers Island’s Elbert Gaskill, whose wife Sandra is co-chair of event with Janice Smith, owner of Luther Smith and Sons Seafood and widow of the late Billy Smith.
His face and hands are weathered from extended exposure
to the elements and his face is lined by the hard life of the water, but
Mr. Gaskill’s eyes hold a warmth and kindness that could only come
from a gentle soul.
For the first 11 years of their marriage, the couple fished
together in order to build a home and prepare for the family. Once their
two boys were born, Mrs. Gaskill had her own full-time job and Mr. Gaskill
used hired help.
Next Sunday, Mr. Gaskill will take his place in the line-up during the Blessing of the Fleet and release a wreath in honor and memory of fishermen. His list of remembrances include his father, Ivey M. Gaskill, Stacy W. “Papa” Davis, Howard Gaskill, Manley Creston Gaskill, David “Buddy” Gaskill, Allen Guthrie, Claude Brown, Guyon Lewis, Harry M. Lewis, Clinton T. Lewis, Telford Rose, Walter Nelson, “Billy” Howard Gaskill Jr., Randy W. Rose and Creston “Snowball” Gaskill. “This is important,” Mr. Gaskill said boarding the Miss Sandy V. “It’s important to remember.”
Definitely one of the most touching moments of the N.C.
Seafood Festival, the Blessing is sponsored by the Carteret County Fishermen’s
Association, Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative and 107.3 The Talk Station
to commemorate the fishing industry. The program offers everyone a chance
to remember Carteret County commercial fishermen who have died while also
honoring those who continue to make fishing their livelihood.
The commercial fishing industry has long been an important
aspect of the Carteret County economy and culture. But still many residents
have limited understanding of fishing families and their way of life.
In that respect, the annual event also plays an integral part in introducing
the public to the commercial fishing industry.
Announcements will list the name of the vessel, its captain and the names of those it wishes to remember. Each boat has the option of throwing a wreath into the water and the final boat will deposit a large wreath for all other fishermen who have lost their lives. Leading the boat processional, as he’s done many times before, will be Marshall “Skeeter”' Saunders, captain of the William H. Smith, a trawler owned by Luther Smith and Sons, Beaufort. Bringing up the tail will be the Gregory Poole from Beaufort Fisheries with Capt. Bobby “Bob-O” Martin Jr. at the helm.
Written by Amanda Dagnino for the Careret County News-Times
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