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Boats get holy help at sea

The Rev. Bob Whelan blesses boaters at the Bayside Marina. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

Blessed is the fleet.

In what has become a neighborhood tradition, dozens of boat owners braved the rising mercury and took to their crafts at the Bayside Marina Saturday for the annual blessing of the fleet.

With temperatures inching toward the 100-degree mark, the Rev. Bob Whelan, pastor at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Bayside, stood on the dock as a procession of boaters sailed by and accepted the priest’s blessing for a safe season on the sea.

“Safe journey,” Whelan said with each fling of holy water at the water vessels, their captains and precious human cargo.

Joining Whelan for the blessing were state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), city Parks administrator Janice Melnick and Marty Munch, president of the marina.

“This tradition is not just a tradition here, this goes back through the history of boating,” said Munch, a Bayside native who operates the marina with partners Navin Boodrahan and Christopher Castellano. “We’re looking for a safe season and hope that everyone enjoys themselves on the water.”

Though the roar of traffic on the nearby Cross Island Parkway was barely audible on the seaside dock, those in attendance could not help but marvel that such a maritime feature could exist so close to the bustle of the city.

Avella said in all the years he has been a part of the blessing, he still feels a sense of pride in standing out by the water in Bayside.

“It gives me immense pride in my district,” he said. “This is a suburb in the city of New York, but I’ll guarantee most people might not know neighborhoods like this exist.”

Janice Melnick said the blessing is a great way to start the season and few waterside spots in Queens are as picturesque as the Bayside Marina.

“We could all use the extra blessing,” she said. “Northeast Queens has to be the best place in New York City to live and play. You are close to the city and have all the benefits of the city, but you also have the water, parks and trails. It’s country in the city.”

Besides sailing and fishing, some Baysiders simply like to enjoy the views.

“I just come to sit out here. It’s like a tradition for me,” said Doreen Nussbaum, who lives just on the other side of the parkway. “I walk over that foot bridge and it’s another world. It’s a fantastic escape.”

The Bayside Marina, at 28 Cross Island Pkwy, opened for the season May 1 and will remain open through Oct. 31. It offers boat, rod, dock and mooring rentals and kayak storage and features events throughout the summer.

On July 5, park rangers from Fort Totten will provide fishing lessons for people of all ages at the pier. The rangers will provide rods, equipment and bait for free.

“This is a place that everyone can enjoy,” said Munch. “The marina is a hidden entity that sometimes is overlooked. It’s relaxing, peaceful and it’s right in our own backyard.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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