Nelson's Blessing of the Fleet was a poignant moment for former commercial fisherman Adrian Douglass, who was resecued at sea after suffering a head injury.
He was among the big crowd which lined the waterfront on Saturday for the 15th annual blessing which marks the start of the commercial fishing season.
"It touched me very deeply for where I've been and who I am," he said.
"Other than having just been to sea I was also injured at sea and it only by the grace of god that I am here to tell the story so as you can imagine I have a strong connection to what is going on."
It was difficult to talk about the incident, but his experience brought a lot of meaning to the day, he said.
Nelson dignitaries at the event at the Sunderland Memorial Pier included Nelson mayor Rachel Reese, Nelson MP Nick Smith, Labour list MP Maryan Street, and honorary naval officer commander Cathy Knight.
MC Al Columbus guided the event which began with kaumatua Archdeacon Andy Joseph opening the service in karakia and waiata. Clergymen Bishop Richard Ellena, Reverend Jeff Cotton and Father David Gruscol led the crowd in prayers, a poem reading, and blessings.
Nelson resident Nan Ward threw a commemorative wreath into the seas in remembrance of her two uncles who were lost, as Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes.
The Nelson Brass Band, the Nelson Male Voice Choir, and children from the Nelson Christian Academy performed from the waterfront with the academy leading the crowd in singing the national anthem.
Marion Boodee and Glenda Jennens from Stoke came along for the first time as their husbands were in the brass band. They thought the event was a good chance to reflect on the past and tied in nicely with the start of the commercial fishing season.
Dianne and Ivan Palmer made a day of it coming in from Motueka especially. "It was just something we wanted to do. I thought the ceremony was wonderful. We'll come again," they said.
Seafarers Memorial Trust spokesman and the day's organiser,Mike Smith, was stoked with the whole event.
"Today went exceptionally well. It went smoothly we had a new MC he did his job brilliantly, even the wind dropped and we had a great crowd," he said.
The ceremony was followed by a fish market with fresh supplies deftly filleted before customers, while demonstrations from the coastguard took place in front of the pier, and the crowd enjoyed their fresh fish and chips cooked by Nelson Rotarians.
- The Nelson Mail
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