Port Dover’s annual Blessing of Nets service Saturday at Riverfront Park

Earl Hartlen took this photograph and writes “there’s an old expression, ‘There are two types of fisherman — those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish.’ The latter are making a living at it and it’s a hard, sometimes very dangerous, occupation. Wishing every single fisherman a safe return to port with the catch they so respectively deserve.”

THIS Saturday afternoon, May 13, at 2 p.m., Port Dover’s annual Blessing of the Nets takes place.
This service continues an annual tradition seeking divine intervention for the fishermen’s safety on the water. The service this year will follow last year’s plan of holding it in the pavilion at Riverfront Park beside Port Dover Harbour Museum.
The service will be conducted by Rev. Jeff Smith of Grace United Church starting at 2:00 p.m. with the Port Dover Community Choir participating. Those attending should bring a chair.
In years past, the service was held most frequently in St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
Commercial fishing out of Port Dover harbour is underway for 2017 and with that an industry continues that dates back to the mid-1800s.
The people of Port Dover have been attending this annual service of Blessing the Nets in the hopes of a bountiful harvest from the lake and year of safety for all those who venture out on the lake.
Commercial fishing was the backbone of the local economy for many decades as Lake Erie provided a good standard of living for fishermen’s families.
Lake Erie can be moody and the shallowest of the Great Lakes can be whipped into a frenzy with little warning and conditions on the lake can change from favourable to unfavourable quickly. Working on the lake has lead to the death of 28 local fishermen.
All 28 fishermen’s names are recorded in perpetuity on the bronze and concrete Port Dover Fishermen’s Memorial at Port Dover harbourfront.
Individual concrete tablets of the face of the memorial record three occasions when fishermen’s lives were lost at this time of year. In all three springtime tragedies more than one man died.
The story of the sinking of the fishing tug ‘Captain K’ is tragic as three local fishermen died on March 18, 1991 in a terrible incident with a Canada Coast Guard vessel.
Then on April 25, 1974 the Port Dover fishing tug Aletha B operated by two brothers sank while running for the safety of Port Dover harbour. A violent early spring storm. with high winds and freezing temperatures, caused the loaded boat to capsize.
It was April 30, 1943 when three Port Dover fishermen lost their lives aboard the tug ‘Marjon’ moored at Port Burwell when it exploded while being refueled with gasoline.
Port Dover’s Fishermen’s  Memorial monument was officially dedicated at a ceremony on Sunday, May 21, 2000. It was estimated over 1000 people were in attendance for that occasion to remember family members, friends and fishermen generally who had lost their lives while fishing out of Port Dover harbour. The ceremony was filled with emotion as a bell tolled 28 times … once for each fisherman as his named was recalled.
The memorial was spearheaded by the Eastern Lake Erie Fishermen’s Association but the project’s design, financing and construction was headed by committee co-chairpersons Dorothy Hoskins and Rosemary Murphy. For their work on this successful undertaking the two women were jointly named Port Dover Citizens of the Year 2001.
Many dignitaries spoke during the program, but, it seems to me now, that Regional Chairman John Harrison summed up everyone’s feeling when he stated “Lake Erie can go from benign and smiling to threatening and dangerous. I hope we never have to add another name to this monument.”


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