YSCLOSKEY, La.-- It is a longtime tradition in St. Bernard Parish: the "Annual Blessing of the Fleet." While it usually attracts a number of vessels to the waterways around Yscloskey and Delacroix, the oil spill put a damper on it this year.
"Give them your fullest blessings and continue to be with all of those who are working with this oil crisis, this spill, to clean it up and to preserve our land as best as possible and to restore us to our full livelihood," said Father John Arnone of St. Bernard Catholic Church, before he headed out on a boat for the blessing.
In its more than 60 years, the Blessing of the Fleet usually attracted between 150 to 200 vessels, which would parade down the parish's waterways.
"Normally, the blessing of the fleet is something we look forward to every year because it's a tradition that we bless what we have for the future," said Brad Robin of Robin Seafood. "It's what we do: catch the crop of the water. The lord gives us the crop and we do that."
Yet, for fishermen in St. Bernard, these are troubled times because of troubled waters. The oil spill helped create a different kind of blessing: instead of boats parading down Bayou La Loutre to a waiting priest for blessing, Father Arnone and local officials traveled to the vessels by boat.
"We changed the pattern a little bit and we're going to them this year, in the hopes that we keep this tradition alive and build on it again next year," said St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro.
"It ain't what it used to be," said crabber Garet Mones. "Most of the boats on the job right now. I guess they can't really take time out for the boat blessing."
Fishermen, shrimpers, crabbers and oystermen are now faced with the uncertainty of what the oil spill's legacy might do to their family's legacies.
"Can we pass this on? Will it be there to be passed on? Uncertain," said Robin, whose family has been in the fishing industry for more than 60 years. "This could be five years, it could 10 years, it could be eternity. We don't really know-- and I don't think nobody knows."
That feeling is shared by fishermen there, who hope the blessing provides them not only with protection, but with answers, too.