A large boat waving two American flags takes part in the annual boat blessing.

Boats large and small made their way to Whale Harbor Channel on the oceanside for the annual Blessing of the Fleet on the morning of New Year’s Day. Starting the parade was Capt. Skip Bradeen. Boats monitored channel 79 as they approached the bridge to receive a blessing by local clergy, including Pastor Emeritus Tony Hammon of Island Community Church, Pastor Phil Underwood of Bluewater in the Keys, Pastor Marlin Simon of Spirit & Truth Ministries, and Pastor Kerry Foote of Burton Memorial United Methodist Church. The annual tradition that goes back decades was put together by the Islamorada Charter Boat Association.

Photos by David Gross. 

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).