Posted in encouragement, theology

Falling overboard…will he remember me?

By Elizabeth Prata

I lived aboard a sailing yacht for two years and sailed up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Here is our boat.

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At anchor in the Chesapeake
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Upping anchor at dawn in a Georgia river

Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Many days, it was.

But the sea can a capricious enchantress, and sometimes it kicked up wildly.

Sailing south of the FL keys. HUGE wave, photo doesn’t do it justice.

If we made an overnight offshore passage, it meant that when one of us was at the wheel, the other was resting or sleeping below. We did not have an automatic pilot (a yacht’s gizmo for cruise control). One of us just stood there in two hour shifts, hands on the wheel at all times. If the wind changed, we left the wheel and went forward to deal with changing the sails to adjust.

That was the most dangerous thing we had to do in the whole cruise. Leaving the cockpit and walking forward, at night, alone, with one of us sleeping below. You could easily get knocked overboard and the boat would sail on without you. Cries for help would be meager and immediately drowned out by the swish of the boat, the knocking of the sails and lines and anchor chain, the waves lashing against the boat, and the wind. When there is a storm the last thing the place is, is quiet. A human voice cannot compete.

My fear of falling overboard was palpable and never left me. Just thinking for a moment of the stern of the yacht sailing on and me in the cold, cold water probably to die, was a specter in front of my eyes all the time.

The way that small boat sailors dealt with that was to install jack lines. These are:

a rope or wire strung from a ship’s bow to stern to which a safety harness can be clipped, allowing a crew member to move about the deck safely when there is risk of falling or being swept overboard. At sea, falling overboard is one of the leading causes of death in boating; fastening oneself to the ship with a safety harness reduces this risk.

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Source. Photo credit Frank van Mierlo

Many men in small yacht sailing avoid jack lines, something to do with machismo, I suppose. I’m glad my husband didn’t feel that way. He installed and actually used jack lines whenever we made an offshore passage. Insisted on it, actually.

I watched the PBS show Carrier, about sailors on a US Navy Carrier, and in one episode, a sailor fell off the ship. He was not found.

I often think about how hard it would be to spot a tiny dark head in the swishing ocean. What insignificance we would feel being a tiny bundle of flesh in the mighty and expansive sea.

God is like that ocean. Sometimes we might feel tiny and insignificant in the face of His majesty and power. He created the universe with a word, flooded the entire earth with His power, named all the billions of stars. Does He remember me, a small package of flesh yawping and lumbering about on the earth? Does He recall my name, see this forgiven sinner in the vast ocean of humanity?


Yes, He remembers you (and me). (See Genesis 21:14-17). There is no fear that one lone person will get lost in the shuffle. He formed our soul, wrote our names in His Book since before the foundation of the world, anticipated us through His sovereign plan, formed us in the womb, and guarded us until the appointed day of salvation. Then-

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30)

Moreover, his Son died for us, for each tiny bundle of flesh bouncing around in this world of sin and death and activity and humanity. Jesus died for us, each of us, the elect. We will not get lost in the shuffle. He will remember me.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.