The fishing trawlers that line up the Fisherman’s Wharf at the Sydney Fish Markets transport me to Italy. Bright azure boats with Italian flag trimmings contrast with the white under a hot blue sky. In my mind, I am back in Sicily, in the coastal town of Mazara del Vallo, camera in hand, capturing the sights of the fishing harbour.
The Blessing of the Fleet is about to commence, a ritual to give the local fleet a safe and bountiful year of fishing. This tradition has not been held in ten years and forms part of For the Love of Seafood festivities of the Crave Sydney Food Festival.
The sound of live trumpets brings me back from my reverie and I follow the procession with the statue of Santa Maria di Porto Salvo led by Father Antonio. Prayers and blessings in Italian and English echo through the various fish shops in the retail arcade with onlookers following in their footsteps.
The statue of the Madonna eventually makes it was onto the wharf and with much fanfare, it is loaded onto the fishing trawler, Francesca, followed by the official party and their families. Much to our delight, we are invited to board the boat for its 40 minute journey around Blackwattle Bay where the priest blesses the passing boats with prayers and holy water.
Once the blessing of the fleet is complete, the boat returns to dock and the statue of the Madonna is carried back to shore. The festivities begin with entertainment by a brass band, face painting, spaghetti eating contest and Italian folk dancing. The food event kicks off at the Foodies’ Oasis with cooking demonstrations under a marquee.
Photos of the Blessing of the Fleet
Bondi Brass Band in the retail arcade
Statue of Santa Maria di Porto Salvo carried in the arcade
The procession moves outside
Fishermen carrying the statue
The procession reaches Fisherman’s Wharf
Italian Television presenter and official party
Loading the statue onto the ‘Francesca’
Madonna on board ‘Francesca’ with Father Antonio awaiting the arrival of the boat
Madonna and child close up
Blessing aboard the ‘Francesca’
Blessing of the ‘Arakiwa’ with holy water
Blessing of the Argonaut II
Local Fishing Fleet with the Bagnato Family
Associazione Bagnara Calabra
Madonna statue returns to dry land
Madonna and ANZAC bridge
The Blessing of the Fleet took place on Saturday October 23.
Other Crave Sydney 2010 events on Gourmantic:
Australian Cheese Showcase 2010: The Rocks Market
Cocktail of the Month at La Scala on Jersey
Night Noodle Markets
Summer Hill Grand Food Bazaar
Cocktail of the Month at Monkey Magic
Monkey Magic Sugar Hit: Black Sesame Crème Caramel
Slideshow/Photographs of the Night Noodle Markets
Sydney Food and Wine Fair
Porchetta, Birra and Tarantella: Norton Street Italian Festa
Crave Sydney Food Festival Website