Posted in theology

Steady as a Rock at the Helm: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

Valley of Vision, “Voyage”



My little boat sails on a restless sea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
allow no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course,
let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
bring me to harbor with flying pennants,
hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.

I ask great things,
expect great things,
shall receive great things.

I venture on You wholly, fully,
my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense.

The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless,
but my helm is held steady,
Your Word secures safe passage,
Your grace wafts me onward,
my haven is guaranteed.

This day will bring me nearer home,
Grant me holy consistency in every transaction,
my peace flowing as a running tide,
my righteousness as every chasing wave.

Help me to live circumspectly,
with skill to convert every care into prayer,
Halo my path with gentleness and love,
smooth every asperity of temper;
let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief;
may I strive to bind up every wound,
and pour oil on all troubled waters.

May the world this day be happier and better because I live.
Let my mast before me be the Savior’s cross,
and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.

Help me, protect me in the moving sea
until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

From The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

The Bible is full of agricultural metaphors and references. Many of these are lost on me because I never gardened and I’m unfamiliar with animals. But researching them is fun and learning the meaning behind them gives greater meaning of the word of God. That’s a good thing.

However, when the Bible gives sailing metaphors, I am so happy because I have experience with those! I was a mariner for 2 years, living on our own 37′ sailboat. We sailed from Maine to the Bahamas and back, and then turned around and did it again. I’ve been in storms, wind, lee shores, drifted away, rocks, peril, calm seas, and all the rest.

We sailed about 12,000 nautical miles.

So I was preparing to launch off on our sailing voyage. I had a lot of experience with being on the water, having grown up in The Ocean State of Rhode Island. My grandparents had a house on the Bay and we were always messing about in boats. But they were rowboats or motorboats. I had little experience sailing. To prepare for our own voyage on the sailboat, I decided to take a sailing course from the Annapolis Sailing School. It was a four day journey from Tampa, Florida to the Dry Tortugas and back, captained by an experience sailor who would teach the students who signed up. I was the only woman, and there were 2 other guys plus the captain.

From Tampa to Dry Tortugas is about 150 nautical miles. We’d be making an overnight passage after pulling in to Venice, Fl for a short replenishment.

The area around the Dry Tortugas is shallow with shoals. That means we could go aground if we strayed from the navigable channel.

Source. Lighter blue water is shallower. It gets lighter blue until it’s white; which is shallowest of all, sand!
source. Not our boat. Landscape-about 2′ above sea level. Hard to see in the dark or even the daylight. Navigation needs to be precise or you’ll miss the island completely & be in Cuba before you know it

We ran into some technical trouble. My voyage was 33 years ago so I can’t quite remember what it was. The Global Positioning System (GPS) had been invented but it was military use only at that point. We relied on the old Loran, and as a backup, Radio Direction Finder (RDF).

The weather kicked up. Of course. Just as the boat was in trouble, the weather turned nasty. Waves piled up. Because we had to pull into Venice to get fixed, and took off again, we wound up approaching the Dry Tortugas at night. Not good.

I was steering. The captain talked me in to the harbor. The two men were on the bow as lookout for shoals and shallow water. The captain would take a reading (with the notoriously unreliable RDF) and tell me what compass direction to steer. It was hard because the waves and currents wanted to push me off.

We were white-knuckling it like that for a long time. At one point, the Captain gave me a compliment. It stands even 33 years later as one of the top compliments in my life:

“You’re steady as a rock at the helm.”

That meant a lot to me. I had worked hard to adhere to his guidance and directions in order to make harbor safely.

As with all my sailing stories, I try to compare to my Christian life. The experiences I had during my traveling years (the ones I call my Ecclesiastes, ‘striving after wind years’) were lessons. What lesson can I learn from the drama of the risky passage to the Dry Tortugas?

Unexpected things happen as we go through the days of our life. Shoals, storms, nightfall, rocks, boat failures…But I had a compass and a knowledgeable captain talking me in. Our Lord gave us His word and His Spirit to talk us in to safe harbor. What we need to do is steer by that. On our own, we hit the rocks, go aground, get in all sorts of trouble…the only reliable guide is Jesus. His harbor is small and the way is difficult and narrow. Usually there will be a storm…or two…or a hundred. There is only one way to get there. Abandoning His word for our own ideas on how to steer will only bring trouble. Be steady as a rock at the helm, relying on THE Rock!


Anchor: A Sailing Story

Marooned with husband: A Sailing Story

The First Forced Isolation & Cabin Fever: A Sailing Story

The Storm of the Century: A Sailing Story

Dock Queens: A Sailing Story

Drifting Away: A Sailing Story

Night Passages: A Sailing Story

Following the North Star: a Sailing Story

Pay closer attention, lest we drift away: A sailing story

The Tongue is a Rudder: A Sailing Story

Humdrum to Terror: A Sailing Story


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

3 thoughts on “Steady as a Rock at the Helm: A Sailing Story

  1. Elizabeth….so enjoyed your sailing adventure story today. I am going to read all ones listed below that. I’ve probably read some in the past, but now that they are altogether, you have made it easy✝️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story with parallel truth! I enjoyed this one and the other ones from yesteryears too!

    Brother Rick 🥸
    Peachtree City, GA


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