In a moving ceremony, the Mariners who travel the Great Lakes were remembered and recognized at the 28th Annual Mariners’ Service & Blessing of the Great Lakes Fleet on Sunday, February 9th (2020) in Owen Sound at St. George’s Anglican Church.
Many Mariner officers attended the service from as far away as Ohio and Detroit and included readings by several mariner ships captains, including Captain Seann O’Donoughue. O’Donoughue is a graduate of the Georgian College Marine Program in Owen Sound who has gone on to become a Great Lakes Captain.
Members of the International Shipmasters’ Association (ISMA) A Cappella Concert chorus joined in singing a moving rendition of Stan Rogers 1981 song the Northwest Passage.
The church was decorated in Mariner flags from companies whose sailors who have kept the ships sailing and, who today, keep them moving. The Pilot Flag hangs in honour recognizing that it is the ship’s Pilot who decides on a safe docking.
The homily delivered by Rev. Graham Bland drew comparisons between the ships that sail the Great Lakes and those who sailed during ancient Biblical times. Drawing from Aristotle, he quoted, “There are three sorts of people: those who are alive, those who are dead and those who are at sea.” He alluded however to the quote as a metaphor for those who may be emotionally ‘adrift’.
Among the dignitaries who attended were Owen Sound Deputy Mayor Brian O’Leary, MPP Bruce-Grey Owen Sound Bill Walker and MP Grey Bruce Alex Ruff.
O’Leary said that the Marine program at Georgian College in Owen Sound was “… very important to the community.”
MPP Walker emphasized that the marine history of the area was extremely important and that through the Georgian College program that history would continue for generations. “Those who keep the ships going distribute and move goods, resources and people throughout the world. It’s also about your families who give you the home anchors that you need.”
MP Alex Ruff, an avid SCUBA diver, said that the Mariners aboard the ships are essential to the lifeblood of the country’s economy in keeping the goods moving and “… its your families who make it possible for you to go to ‘sea’.”
Reverend Charles (Chuck) Beaton and former seaman Scott McDowall were also in the congregation. McDowall worked aboard Great Lake freighters and Beaton’s father was a long-time Great Lakes Captain with the Canada Steamship Line. “This service means a lot to me as I always feel close to my father here,” says Beaton.