Boaters ready for the new season

The Rev. Ingrid Schalk, pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, blesses the boat ‘High C’s’ Saturday during the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony at the Yacht Club.

Rays of sunshine glistened Saturday morning on Tellico Lake as boaters lined up to receive blessings and prayers in the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony at the Yacht Club.

Organizers of the ceremony were pleased with the warm, sunny weather.

“After this last week with all the rain and everything, we were kind of worried we wouldn’t be able to do it this weekend,” Casey Kelly, Tellico Village Cruising Club commander, said. “Fortunately, the sun is shining bright out here, and the weather feels so much nicer. It was definitely the perfect day to do this.”

For more than two decades, the Tellico Village Cruising Club has organized the ceremony as a way to kick off the spring and summer boating seasons on Tellico Lake.

“I know that we’ve been doing this for probably close to 15 to 20 years now,” Kelly said. “Around here, I think it’s a unique thing because we actually do it. There’s nothing really like this on other lakes in this area. ... It’s just a way for us to let people know that the Cruising Club is here, and we want to be very open to the whole lake. This isn’t just Tellico Village, but we have members from anywhere on Tellico Lake as long as they have a boat docked here or whatever.”

More than 20 boats lined up at 9:30 a.m. to slowly pass by the Yacht Club docks where each boat was blessed with holy water by the Rev. Ingrid Schalk, pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church. This was the first time Schalk has performed the ceremony.

“Anyway that I can be out in the community is a blessing for all of us,” Schalk said. “I’m not just a pastor to the people of my congregation at Shepherd of the Lake, but I consider myself a pastor to everyone in this community. All of these different clubs and organizations in Tellico Village bring all kinds of people together for various reasons, and I love to be a part of that.

“This is my first time ever doing this event and I’m so thankful for such a beautiful day,” Schalk added. “It was also great just seeing the excitement of the folks involved with this. It’s the very beginning of the season, and you can tell people are just ready to get out on the water and have fun.”

The Blessing of the Fleet ceremony dates back many centuries in Mediterranean and Greek fishing communities. The practice originated under Catholicism but eventually branched out to all Christian communities as a ceremony to bless fishermen and boaters for a bountiful and safe season on the water.

“It’s all about showing the Lord’s blessing, especially on such a beautiful lake,” Schalk said. “We celebrate God’s creation out here in this beautiful place. For these boaters, they get to go out and enjoy that on the water. From the spritz of the water to the waves, there’s just a blessing that comes from water. Water is symbolic in baptism, renewal, giving life and growth. It’s making all those connections and people see that. As I bless them and closed with the sign of the cross, they were crossing themselves as well. That’s probably the part I was surprised and happy to see.”

One of the Cruising Club’s main objectives with the ceremony is to emphasize the importance of safety. Boaters were given the opportunity to receive free safety inspections from the Tellico Boaters Assistance Response Team.

“We are very much involved and concerned with boating safety out here,” Kelly said. “We are always promoting classes through the Auxiliary, T-BART and the Power Squadron every month. We have a whole section on our website about safety. We’re a social organization, but we want to ensure that all of our members and everyone else on the lake remains safe.”

For more information about the club, visit www.tellico cruisingclub.com.

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