Locals gather for annual Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival
By RANDI ROSSMANN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
While some fishermen decorated their boats Sunday morning and paraded in the blessing of the fleet event in Bodega Bay, others went
Sunday was the first time in years that fishermen were faced with such a conflict: to parade or to take advantage of the first day of salmon season.
It was no small decision since this is the first time in years North Coast fishermen haven’t had severely restricted or canceled salmon fishing seasons due to depleted stocks.
In the last few years the fleet parade and blessing have been bittersweet. In 2006, some fishermen protested that year’s deep season cutbacks by draping their boats in black flags.
That wasn’t the case Sunday morning. The parade was a colorful, upbeat event as about 15 boats, mostly fishing boats, motored out to the mouth of the bay.
There they gathered for the annual blessing to keep the fishermen safe and give them a good season.
But it was one of the smaller parades in recent years, which some attributed to opening day of the fishing season.
Longtime fisherman Lorne Edwards decided to parade Sunday, not fish.
He decorated his boat, Outsider, and joined the bay line-up with a party of family and friends.
“We’re going to go have some fun. We’re not making it about work,” said Edwards.
Just before the parade, last-minute preparation on the Dena was still underway, including the filling of biodegradable water balloons.
Robin White said Dena Captain Mark Gentry could have gone fishing. But he told friends and family who typically join him each year that he didn’t want them to miss out on the annual event.
“We told him, ‘You don’t have to do this,’” White said, as they all knew he had a chance to fish and make money.
But on Sunday the Dena was set for fun. “It’s all about spirit,” said Dena crewman Kelly Draper.
The blessing is part of the two-day Fisherman’s Festival in Bodega Bay, which celebrates the coastal community and the fishing industry that has been such an integral piece of its history. The event also raises money for Bodega Bay nonprofit agencies.
Sunday’s festivities had ultimate weather conditions — low 70s, a cloudless sky and just enough breeze to hoist kites into the air.
Three friends who typically attend the first day of the festival came on Sunday this year to see the fleet parade. Wearing shorts and hats, they set up chairs in a prime, sunny location on the end of a dock to watch the boats go by.
“They sailed out in a line, and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful sight,” said Terry Ritts of Benicia.
Friend Robin Moore of Martinez said the passing boats, flying colorful flags, gave a sense of pride.
“It was invigorating to see something about the fishing industry,” Moore said.
“We go to the store and buy the fish, and we don’t think of the whole thing involved,” said Ritts’ husband, Craig Ritts. “It makes it all real.”