US Navy Vessels, Coalition Ships Depart Norfolk

US Navy Vessels, Coalition Ships Depart Norfolk

Operation Sail (OpSail) 2012 in Norfolk, Va. came to a close June 12 as U.S. Navy vessels and coalition ships departed for their next port of call in Baltimore, where they will participate in Bicentennial of the War of 1812 commemoration taking place there June 11-19.

Retired Rev. David LaSalle offered a centuries-old Blessing of the Fleet to safeguard ships and crews as they returned to sea.

“The blessing of the fleet is a very ancient ceremony,” LaSalle said. “In the Roman days they carried their gods on board. When we became Christians, it translated into a Christian service.”

From June 1-12, the Port of Virginia hosted OpSail 2012 and the Commemoration of the War of 1812 and the Star Spangled Banner. In attendance were tall ships and navy and military warships representing many countries from around the world. The 12-day celebration was held in conjunction with Norfolk’s annual Harborfest and hosted events all around the Hampton Roads area.

“All of the sailors were just so interesting and their countries were so diverse,” said Barbara DeFelice who was visiting the area from Pittsburgh. “It was just so worthwhile. I’m so glad we came.”

As the ships departed, LaSalle blessed each one by name.

“Protect them from the perils of the deep,” LaSalle prayed. “May they have fair winds and following seas as they leave our port of Norfolk, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

LaSalle then ceremoniously sprinkled holy water with a cedar branch for the ships.

“The blessing is to remind us to keep our seafarers protected,” said LaSalle. “Cedars are very strong trees that have to be able to survive in a very hostile climate, so it’s a symbol of strength, and the holy water is a symbol of God’s blessing upon all humankind.”

Spectators watched as the ships departed one by one and turned north toward their next destination in Baltimore.

Naval Today Staff, June 13, 2012; Image: US Navy