Greg Dougherty holds his hands out to be photographed when he arrived in Savannah after rowing his canoe from Miami, Florida on his way to New York City. Photograph by Michael J. Johnson.
Greg Dougherty holds his hands out to be photographed when he arrived in Savannah after rowing his canoe from Miami, Florida on his way to New York City. Photograph by Michael J. Johnson.

Intrepid member of Our Lady's Blue Army rowing a canoe on a 1,400 mile nautical pilgrimage draws attention to Centennial of Fatima apparition and message of peace

Originally Appeared in : 9716-8/3/17

Savannah--Rowing an 18-foot-long open canoe solo along the Intercoastal Waterway from Miami, Florida to New York, New York Greg Dougherty hopes to draw attention to the Centennial of the Marian apparitions at Fatima. His 1,400-mile nautical pilgrimage began June 13.

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The craft named the Santa Maria de Fatima packed with bags of food, clothes, emergency gear and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima looks both cramped and small for such a long voyage.


Dougherty spoke with the Southern Cross on the 47th day of his pilgrimage at Thunderbolt Marina in Thunderbolt. 


Dougherty is president of the Our Ladies Blue Army in the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky. The lay group’s purpose is to promote the message of Fatima and to encourage the faithful to pray the rosary every day as Our Lady requested.


Dougherty’s canoe outfitted with tandem sliding seats enables him to use his legs and arms as he repeatedly pulls on the oars throughout the day. His planned crewmate for the journey, Gerald Sargent, a member of the British Royal Marines, was called back to active duty leaving Dougherty on his own.


Rowing on his own, “is exhausting” said Dougherty, “and that is a good thing.” At night he sleeps in the forward section of the two man canoe.


The monotony of rowing is all day has become an opportunity for prayer and meditation. “When I'm alone out there I'm praying,” said Dougherty, “I say the rosary. I pray the whole time, especially in severe weather.”


Speaking of a thunderstorm that came through just south of Savanah Dougherty said, “All I could do is to position the boat and aim the bow into the wind. My oars became an anchor, and I just wouldn't let the storm move me, and so I just held my own until it passed. It's like treading water. Once the storm passed, there was still another storm moving in. So I found my way into some marsh grass and let that storm pass over.”


Dougherty quickly points out the purpose of his pilgrimage is to spread awareness of Fatima. He says, “I don’t want anyone to heap more onto this trip than what it is – just a way to lead people to Christ through his Mother’s message.”


In calmer weather, his small craft attracts attention both on the water and when he pulls into a marina to have a hamburger and restock his supplies. Mark Bouy, a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Savannah met Dougherty at a Marina in Saint Augustine, Florida and offered Dougherty a room, a shower, and good food when he dropped anchor in Savannah.


 “I've met so many who have fallen away from the church,” he said.  “What's encouraged me on this trip is the curiosity of our Protestant brothers and sisters. I think the ocean or the rowing intrigues them. Often they'll ask me what Fatima is and I'll explain that just as the Lord sent his angels and prophets, in 1917, he sent his Mother to deliver what is known as God's peace plan for the world. And don't you know the majority of hearts have been opened to that message. Lives have been touched, so this has been a beautiful journey so far.”


After spending three restful days with Bouy, his host, Dougherty returned to his boat on August 1. He departed Thunderbolt on an outgoing tide pulling his craft towards his next port of call – Hilton Head. 


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