Posted in encouragement, theology

The First Forced Isolation & Cabin Fever: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

cabin verse

I’ve been writing a bit about my sailing adventures here on the blog. People seem to really like these anecdotes. The Lord in His sovereignty allowed me to be a liveaboard sailor with my husband for two years, sailing from Maine to the Bahamas and back. It was before I was saved. I was in my thirties.

I see now with 20/20 spiritual hindsight, there are many lessons I am applying that stem from that time. Those essays are linked below. Continue reading “The First Forced Isolation & Cabin Fever: A Sailing Story”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Dock Queens: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

I was a liveaboard sailor for a few years. We usually anchored out somewhere for free. If we had to get to shore for supplies, we’d take the dinghy and putt-putt in to land. We went to a dock rarely but sometimes you had to. You’d need to fill the water tank, or the fuel tank, or we were expecting a delivery of something from the marine store that the dinghy was too small to transport over the waves and marine traffic.

We enjoyed strolling the dock and seeing other boats. We liked observing the different tie-ups people employed, or learned different knots for our ropes. We liked the sway of the boats at dock or hearing the masts creak in the wind. Nautical sounds. Continue reading “Dock Queens: A Sailing Story”

Posted in encouragement, theology

Drifting Away: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1).

The question was raised at my Bible Group, how does a Christian prevent developing a hardened heart? One wise older man said by staying in the Word.

The Word is the only antidote for developing poor habits, shrinking our biblical worldview, and drifting away. I agree.

The word drift away used in the Hebrews verse in Greek means-

properly, to float (flow) alongside, drifting past a destination because pushed along by current. /pararrhyéō (“drift away from”) only occurs in Heb 2:1 where it refers to going spiritually adrift – “sinning by slipping away” (from God’s anchor). 3901 /pararrhyéō (“gradually drift away”) means to “lapse” into spiritual defeat, describing how we slowly move away from our moorings in Christ.

Paul often used nautical allusions and marine metaphors. They click with me because for two years I lived aboard a sailboat and traveled up and down the eastern United States’ seaboard and over to the Bahamas and back. We usually sailed during the day, unless we were on an overnight passage out in the ocean. But if we traveled down the Intracoastal Waterway, we’d find a snug spot to anchor in at night and went to bed after the sun sank.

The anchor becomes all-important. The anchor holds you in place, prevents you from drifting and damaging other boats anchored or moored nearby, and keeps you afloat rather than crashing into the rocks or going aground.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor. When we initially set it, we’d take time to ensure it was set correctly. Is the rode taut and not tangled? Are the flukes digging into the ground? Is there enough depth under us for when we swing with the tide or current?

Then we’d watch it a while. We took reference points ashore to compare with our position. One reference point isn’t really enough. Drift is deceptive and incremental. You could be drifting away and still seem like you’re lined up with the same reference point. So we’d take two references. Three references are better so you can triangulate.

During the night, we’d sleep lightly, listening carefully for any change in the pattern of the waves slapping the bow, or any other untoward noises that meant there was likely a problem.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor.

Do I spend an equal amount of time tending the anchor of my spiritual life, the Word? Do I treat it carefully, thoughtfully? Do I employ reference points to ensure I’m not drifting? Reference points in our spiritual lives that help us against drifting away from the truth are: visiting our prayer closet, studying His word, corporate worship, small groups, discipling and being discipled, and so on. Are we in position, standing firm in the center line of that narrow way, not going to the right or the left? Are we vigilant, listening for any variation in pattern of our sanctification in life?

We spent much time tending the anchor because our lives depended on it. We should take an even greater amount of time tending the anchor of our spiritual life because our spiritual life depends on it. When Paul says we must pay closer attention, the word in Greek means exceedingly, abundantly, vehemently.

When man sails upon the waters, he is not in his element. It is a foreign environment. It’s an environment that’s hostile, with many things in it either actively or benignly trying to kill him. Just so, Christian man on earth is not in his element. There are many things in this environment actively or benignly trying to kill him. We should pay the closest attention so we do not drift away.

Stay anchored to the Word, in position, with lots of reference points and a growing biblical worldview.

anchor
The Bahamian water was so clear we could see the anchor down 20 ft, at night

blog china doll

Posted in encouragement, theology

Night Passages: A Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. (Isaiah 59:10).

I lived on a sailboat for two years. We made a journey from Maine to the Bahamas and back, twice. We mainly followed the Intracoastal Waterway, a series of connected rivers, bays, channels, and canals that allow marine traffic up and down the coast without having to sail the open sea. Though, we did make passages “outside” too.

Sometimes we made overnight passages on the outside. If we wanted to get to a place more quickly. or as quickly as one can in a sailboat that goes 5 mph lol, we’d hop outside and make a 24 or 48 hour continuous passage. This was a carefully considered decision, because we did not have self-steering nor did we have GPS. Night watches meant you stood in the cockpit, which was open to the elements, and with hands on the wheel for hours at a time, you steered, maintained course, and watched, peering into the gloomy dark. It was full hands-on.

Night passages are strange. You’re on the open ocean, but it’s busier than you’d think. You’re in a shipping lane, so often you’d see distant red or green navigation lights on another boat or a ship passing a mile or two away. There are whales below, who usually know not to breach up under the boat but you still hope they don’t. There could be a lost container that fell off a ship lurking just under the surface ready to sink you. This has actually happened to other mariners. A floating log or telephone pole ready to impale the boat and it goes down.

The ocean looks like a wide-open space but when you’re going along under sail at a full gallop over the bounding main into the dark, it’s disconcerting.

If you happen to be in a room you’re not familiar with and the lights go out, you grope your way around. You carefully place your feet, you wait for your eyes to adjust, you feel your way along the wall. You stagger and totter, unbalanced and unsure.

Do you stride confidently around in the dark? No, of course not.

But that is what the boat did, with us on it. And we never knew we were lost, blindly stumbling around this earth at the sufferance of our God who was angry with us every day. Our spiritual blindness was unknown to us and we strode around the earth as if we owned it, not even knowing we would fall into a pit.

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (Proverbs 4:19).

But if anyone walks at night, he will stumble, because he has no light. (John 11:10).

Yet,

If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. (John 11:9).

How refreshing it was to spot the lighthouse! When we saw that bright beam slicing through the dark, we were relieved. We knew we were about to be safe, the light had come.

How much MORE am I now safe, now relieved, that I have the eternal Light. His Light is in me as the Holy Spirit, and around me as  fellow believers, and before me as His statutes and ways. The Light is above me as my future destination in glory, and I will dwell in the Light forever.

The lost know (deep down) they are lost. The unsaved know (deep down) they are in the dark. The mysteries of the visible universe are present before them, as it was to me, yet we suppress that truth in unrighteousness. It’s heartbreaking to see the lost stride confidently around in their dark, the blind leading the blind, heading for a pit and ignoring our cries and pleas to do the one thing that will open their eyes:

Repent.

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15).

Then you once were blind, but now you see. I see the Light now, by His grace, and when my hand reaches out to grope my way, it is His hand that takes me, sustains me, guides me. I have HIS confidence, HIS light. In the darkness no more, my eternal life with Jesus rolls out before me as ocean billows, sparkling, luminous, radiant.

blog dark

Posted in creation, theology

Following the North Star: a Sailing Story

By Elizabeth Prata

blog china doll

I lived on a sailboat for two years. We made passage from Maine to the Bahamas and back, twice. For much of the time along the eastern Seaboard, we traveled the Intracoastal Waterway, a series of connected rivers, bays, and sounds that allowed for passage inside the landform instead of the open ocean. Though, we also made overnight passages on the ‘outside’ too.

It was a fun and interesting experience, a different way of living. Vagabonds, unfettered from the workaday concerns and free to dwell neither here nor there. It also taught me much about the natural world, and who I was. I wasn’t saved during those years, and the experience of living in harmony directly IN nature opened my eyes to the fact that there was a God who created all this; the seas currents, lands, skies, and the stars.

The Bahamas is an island country. It is made up of over 700 islands, and likely many more uncounted, strung out from northwest to southeast in the Atlantic starting at mid-Florida and extending down to mid-Cuba. Cuba actually isn’t our nearest ocean neighbor, The Bahamas is. West End is only 44 nautical miles from Boca Raton. To get there by boat, you must cross the Gulf Stream, that mighty mama of ocean currents.

Well, we did, and we enjoyed the ‘blue water’ of the Bahamas for a season, hopping from island to island to sample Bahamian life to learn of their history, and just relax on a boat that looked like it was floating on air, the sea was so clear.

One particular passage stays in my memory. To go from New Providence Island, where Nassau is, to the Abacos, a larger island string just north of New Providence, you cross New Providence Channel (deep water) and head due north. The mariner must leave at dusk in order to make it to the entry into the island string at dawn. This is so you can cross the coral reef channel safely without the sun in one’s eyes. At dawn, the sun will be behind you and you can see the razor sharp coral that if you run over, will slice your boat and you’ll be in the drink before you know it. So, this meant a night passage. This was OK since most of it was over the deep Atlantic.

Having made some night passages before, we were prepared. We left the cozy anchorage at dusk, sliding out from the arm of land that protected us and turned our compass heading due north.

Annotation 2020-02-17 075402

Seeing the stars over the ocean twinkle and glitter at night is magical. We look up through our sails, through the spreaders. A spreader is a spar on a sailboat used to deflect the shrouds to allow them to better support the mast. Shrouds are the pieces of rigging that extend down from the spreader ends to the deck and help hold up the mast.

As the boat rolls along, we look up through the rigging to see the carpet above us, littered with diamonds, peeking in and out of the cloud cover, or starkly winking at us through clear skies. We notice one particular star, the North Star AKA Polaris. It is at the end of the handle of the constellation known as the Little Dipper. It’s a unique and important star.

The reason Polaris is so important is because the axis of Earth is pointed almost directly at it. During the course of the night, Polaris does not rise or set, but remains in very nearly the same spot above the northern horizon year-round while the other stars circle around it. Space.com

If we put our right spreader tip at the North Star we could maintain a north compass heading. It was fun to navigate by the stars instead of the compass set in the binnacle where the steering wheel was and the technology blinking at the nav table below. Doing this as we rolled along in the night sea allowed for some pretty majestic and pondering thoughts. Where did the stars come from? Why are there so many? Why doesn’t Polaris move? Do the stars know us? Are we just an insect moving along on the earth or the sea as the unfeeling and unknowing stars go their way in the sky, night after night? What a gulf between us!

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
(Psalm 8:3-4)

As an ignorant pagan, I was asking the same things that have been asked by others. See, even the ignorant pagan knows there is a God. (Romans 1:18-20). Everyone knows there is God, because God made it plain to us that He exists and that He made everything we see.

Barreling along on a tiny yacht in a big ocean, under an even bigger sky, the night air cooling my skin and the stars brightening by the moment, I looked up…and wondered. If there is a God, how can I know Him? Who am I?

Polaris doesn’t move. Polaris exists, stays motionless, and all the other stars swirl around it.

Jesus is our pole-star. He never changes, He remains enthroned, while all of creation bows to Him. All our motions, our travels, wanderings, meanderings, eventually bring us all to Him- saved or unsaved. How can I know God, I’d asked? Jesus descended to us. He made Himself known.

He died on the cross and was resurrected as the sacrifice God demanded for sin. I am eternally grateful I know Him and I will meet Him on God’s terms, as a saved sinner, and not on my own sinful terms, as a wandering yachtsman, curious about Him but living in sin and loving it. In that case, I would be destroyed, sent to hell for payment of those sins.

But little did I know on that night, wondering about the sky and Who made it, that I would someday be given grace to be forgiven and enfolded into His kingdom to forever circle around Him, the unchanging, eternal, unique star, the God-Man Jesus.

Posted in encouragement, theology

He is my hope and stay…what is a stay?

By Elizabeth Prata

In the song “The Solid Rock” we sing the lyric ‘He is my hope and stay’. Did you ever wonder what a stay is?

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

In Isaiah 10:20 in the KJV the word stay is used. It means, To rest; to rely; to confide in; to trust.

It’s good to remember that the Lord is our hope and stay. He is strong and we can rely upon Him and His promises.

When Edward Mote wrote the song in 1834, sailing was the only mode of travel across the sea. People were familiar with ships on rivers, lakes, and of course, the ocean. Steamships hadn’t come to the fore yet.

In Mote’s time, women’s whalebone undergarments were made with a bone lining of rigid ‘fingers’ called “stays”. Whale baleen isn’t really bone but is robust but flexible, and was cut into narrow strips, inserted into the lining of outer garments, creating whalebone bodices or ‘bodies’ that molded the torso into a tight and conical V-shape that was sought-after at the time. In the 17th century, these whalebone linings became distinct, separate understructures, known as stays. (info source)

What we have come to know as a corset (a term not used until the 18th century) was previously known as stays. It is not likely however, that a genteel man writing a hymn of praise to the Lord would intend a mental picture of a ladies undergarment for his metaphor.

So what is a stay, then?

As a result of the familiarity with ships, many people were acquainted with the terms of a ship. Mast, bow, port & starboard, etc were commonly known. A stay on a ship is a piece of rigging that holds up the mast. Rather, their downward pressure hold the mast in place. It’s critical that all the stays, do their job in harmony to perfection, every time.

Wikipedia defines stay

Stays are ropes, wires, or rods on sailing vessels that run fore-and-aft along the centerline from the masts to the hull, deck, bowsprit, or to other masts which serve to stabilize the masts. A stay is part of the standing rigging and is used to support the weight of a mast.

I lived on a sailboat for two years. We regularly inspected all the rigging, including the stay. If the mast falls down, you’re in serious trouble. The boat will roll, might even capsize. The mast, till attached to the rigging, is a mess and might trap your foot and you’d drown. The broken mast might punch a hole in the boat as it wildly pitched, having no balance. Lots of things.

I was on a friend’s boat in the Bahamas, sailboat racing, when his forestay came loose. His mast fell down he was pitched in the water amid the soggy huge sail and all the ropes and rigging. We had to get him on the boat fast before he got wrapped in it and pulled underwater. Luckily it was a calm day and we were providentially near the only port in the entire Bahamas that had a crane lift and mechanics and riggers to fix the mast. And all because one piece of rigging, the forestay, failed. The stay holds up the mast, or rather, holds the mast down with pressure.

I do not know what author Edward Mote had in mind when he wrote that line, but it’s comforting and lovely nonetheless.

Jesus IS my hope. He IS my stay. The original title to the song, was in the author’s Hymns of Praise, 1836, is No. 465, and entitled, “The immutable Basis of a Sinner’s hope”. Source info: John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

O Lord, let me remain in you, my hope and stay.

china doll

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Buck the current

For a while in my free-wheeling days, I lived on a sailboat with my husband. We sailed from Maine down to Florida, over to the Bahamas down as far as the Tropic of Cancer. Then we turned around and sailed back. We made this mini-circumnavigation twice, putting about 12,000 nautical miles under our keel. Our yacht was a 37′ Tayana with a full keel and 12 feet of beam. She was a study boat, and a pretty one, with a wooden mast and lapstrake style fiberglass and a wooden bowsprit.

Needless to say, we encountered all types of weather and all kinds of marine conditions. Storms, believe it or not, are not as hard to deal with as one might think. Boats are made to bob and yaw and pitch and really are in their element when it’s storming and you are underway.

The one that gets hard to deal with is current. But more on that in a moment.

One of our elders who delivered the confession time devotional in the worship service on Sunday mentioned his above ground pool. He said it is a small pool, and that you must circulate the water because it’s better for the water and better for the pool. What he does to circulate it, he said, is walk rapidly around the perimeter of the pool while in it. That gets the water going. Around and around he goes, the water as a force swirling. If you turn around, he said, you suddenly feel the force of the water against you. When you’re going with the current you don’t feel it, but turning around suddenly this wall of water pushes against you.

This got me thinking about ocean and river currents.

When I lived on the sailboat, we traveled down some of America’s mighty rivers, like the East River, Potomac, the Cape Fear River, or the Savannah River. The currents on these rivers are very strong. When traveling against the current, the current wants to push you off course, and can do so very easily unless you maintain constant extreme vigilance. The engine works hard, you have to hang onto the steering wheel pretty tightly to maintain course. If you lose the engine, you end up on the rocks. You anxiously keep looking at the time, waiting for the tide to turn so the current will ease up.

It’s so much easier sailing with the current. You cruise along, carried by the current in its course, enjoying the lack of turbulence.

The two years of sailing as a live-aboard cruiser are still reaping benefits in spiritual insights and life metaphors. I’d often wondered why the Lord would send me on such an amazing journey (now that I know the Lord). His providence is amazing. Because He ordains everything in a person’s life down to the last dust mote, there had to have been a reason He sent me down America’s coast in a boat. I didn’t know Him then, but I do now. And I know there is a reason. There may be many more I’m too dense to comprehend, but the spiritual lessons keep coming.

I’m not an agricultural person, so the sheep and the wheat and chaff and such don’t resonate with me. But the marine symbols do.

When the writer of Hebrews says cling to your salvation lest you drift away, I know.
When Jude says there are hidden reefs at your love feasts, I know.
When Paul says do not make a shipwreck of your faith, I know.

I hope you caught the life-lesson I’m about to reveal. The current is the world, it sweeps you along and you do not notice any turbulence…until you turn 180 degrees. When you turn (repent), suddenly the force of the current is quite noticeable. It pushes against you. The world wants to direct your course, and if you don’t have an engine, you’re headed for the rocks. The engine is the Spirit. You have to grip the wheel tightly so as to stay on course. The wheel is the Bible. You have to maintain constant vigilance or you will be pushed to where you don’t want to go.

Here’s the difference. As opposed to a mariner’s life, in Christian life- the tide never turns.

There is never, every a season of ease. There is never a time when you can safely coast along. There’s never a time when you don’t need to constantly be vigilant and check your course. As long as we’re in this body, we have to remain at the binnacle steering this ship of faith against the current of the world that always pushes against us.

When the time comes in each of our lives to let go and swim the River Jordan, we will emerge on the other side climbing up the bank victorious. Of course, it is not our victory. Jesus swam against the current of the world all His life and was never shunted off course, never drifted an iota into dark waters, not even when He was tempted by the devil. He kept His eye firmly on the lighthouse and the glory of God. He gained the victory because of His righteousness, and imputed it to us.

Buck the current. Stay vigilant. Have a firm grip (hold fast) to the steering wheel. We will eventually make it to safe shores and we will never have to slog through an angry tide again. All will be peace, calm waters and safe harbor.

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

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

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1).

The question was raised at Bible Family Group last night, how does a Christian prevent developing a hardened heart? One wise older man said by staying in the Word.

The word is the only antidote for developing poor habits, shrinking our biblical worldview, and drifting away. I agree.

The word drift away used in the Hebrews verse in Greek means-

properly, to float (flow) alongside, drifting past a destination because pushed along by current. /pararrhyéō (“drift away from”) only occurs in Heb 2:1 where it refers to going spiritually adrift – “sinning by slipping away” (from God’s anchor). 3901 /pararrhyéō (“gradually drift away”) means to “lapse” into spiritual defeat, describing how we slowly move away from our moorings in Christ.

Paul often used nautical allusions and marine metaphors. Last night at Family Group I’d shared the experience from when I was living on the sailboat that relates to the verse. We usually sailed during the day, unless we were on an overnight passage out in the ocean. But if we traveled down the Intracoastal Waterway, we’d find a snug spot to anchor in at night and went to bed after the sun sank.

The anchor becomes all-important. The anchor holds you in place, prevents you from drifting and damaging other boats anchored or moored nearby, and keeps you afloat rather than crashing into the rocks or going aground.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor. When we initially set it, we’d take time to ensure it was set correctly. Is the rode taut and not tangled? Are the flukes digging into the ground? Is there enough depth under us for when we swing with the tide or current?

Then we’d watch it a while. We took reference points ashore to compare with our position. One reference point isn’t really enough. Drift is deceptive and incremental. You could be drifting away and still seem like you’re lined up with the same reference point. So we’d take two references. Three references are better so you can triangulate.

During the night, we’d sleep lightly, listening carefully for any change in the pattern of the waves slapping the bow, or any other untoward noises that meant there was likely a problem.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor.

Do I spend an equal amount of time tending the anchor of my spiritual life, the Word? Do I treat it carefully, thoughtfully? Do I employ reference points to ensure I’m not drifting? Reference points in our spiritual lives that help us against drifting away from the truth are: visiting our prayer closet, studying His word, corporate worship, small groups, discipling and being discipled, and so on. Are we in position, standing firm in the center line of that narrow way, not going to the right or the left? Are we vigilant, listening for any variation in pattern of our sanctification in life?

We spent much time tending the anchor because our lives depended on it. We should take an even greater amount of time tending the anchor of our spiritual life because our spiritual life depends on it. When Paul says we must pay closer attention, the word in Greek means exceedingly, abundantly, vehemently.

When man sails upon the waters, he is not in his element. It is a foreign environment. It’s an environment that’s hostile, with many things in it either actively or benignly trying to kill him. Just so, Christian man on earth is not in his element. There are many things in this environment actively or benignly trying to kill him. We should pay the closest attention so  we do not drift away. Remember all the nature documentaries…what always happens to the gazelle that lags behind and is alone?

Stay anchored to the Word, in position, with lots of reference points and a growing biblical worldview 🙂

boat

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Humdrum to Terror: A Sailing Story

I lived on a sailboat for two years. It was a Tayana 37 with a full cast iron keel and a wooden mast. A cutter rig. It was a pretty boat, a standout in the harbor.

I sailed with my husband from Maine to the Bahamas and back, worked for a year and did it again. We sailed and motored down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) combined with “outside” overnight passages, and made it to our terminus of Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas in 6 months. After languishing in harbor for a while, we turned around and sailed back up.

boat

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a series of Bays, Sounds, Lakes, Canals, and Rivers that connect, from Cape Ann Massachusetts to Key West, FL. (and beyond) There are man-made parts that the Corps of Engineers dredge and maintain, and there are natural parts that form the connection, like Albemarle Sound or the Neuse River. The technical portion of the Waterway begins at Mile Marker 1 in Norfolk VA, because you can go all the way from Norfolk to Key West without having to enter the Atlantic Ocean. However the informal ICW goes all the way to Maine. In order to make passages north or south most live-aboards use a combination of staying inside and going outside.

220px-CapeCodCanalEastEndAerialCape Cod Canal, Wikipedia photo

When you’re motoring or sailing down the ICW, what you’re really doing, apart from cruising and sightseeing, is commuting. If you are on a sailboat, your maximum speed is likely going to be 3-5 miles per hour. That’s only how fast sailboats go.

So traveling down the ICW means you’re seeing the eastern seaboard at a rate most people can walk or jog. Progress is incremental at an agonizingly slow rate. Since there are only so many daylight hours, and since it’s inadvisable to travel the ICW at night, and since you need to chart ahead to make the next anchorage and bed down before it gets dark, you get up at dawn and start aiming to hit that anchorage before dark.

So, you’re essentially commuting. You can make between 30-50 miles per day on average, given weather conditions and ICW traffic. The traffic you share on the ICW is a mixture of other sailboats, motorboats, small pleasure craft, commercial fishermen, and commercial traffic such as tugboats and barges. It’s busy.

Getting up at dawn and turning on the motor and setting off for the day, every day, repeatedly, lulls one into a routine. We’d check the engine first, all the belts, the oil, and the pistons. We’d do a once-over topside to make sure things were still hunky dory. We’d turn on the engine, my husband would up the anchor, and off we’d go.

anchor 2

Leaving a Georgia anchorage at dawn. EPrata photo

Mainly, life commuting down the waterway was humdrum. You turned on the motor, did the same thing each day, and you anchored down at night. You made slow progress. Sometimes you had to look at a map just to see IF you’d made any progress. It seemed that the ICW was very long and the amount traveled in a day was very short, inconsequential even. Looking at the 1700 miles from start to finish it seemed like we would never get there.

The humdrum routine was punctuated by occasionally pulling into a town. It was always interesting learning about a town’s history, getting some local food, and/or replenishing the larder. It was fun to hop into the dinghy and putt-putt into a town for recreation. Even doing a laundry run was all right if it got us to walk and stretch our legs a bit. Getting off the boat added a little different something to the day-to-day commute.

Cruising the ICW was fun and good, sometimes thrilling, but it was far from being the glamorous yachting life you see in jetsetting magazines. Routine is routine. Humdrum.

Then some days an unexpected kind of comet would burst into your life and BLAM! you would almost die.

There was the sunny, calm day like all the previous days in northern FL when we were cruising north, in tandem with a tug pushing a barge. Barges are big. The part of the ICW we were motoring was narrow and crowded. We were ahead of the barge and both of us were cruising at the same speed. We had been in close VHF radio contact and were friendly with each other, courteously minding the navigable ‘rules of the road’ and frequently making way for each other in minor ways that helped us travel safely.

The bottom was sandy, which tends to silt up at the edges. We both tried to stay in the middle so we wouldn’t ground. The tug & barge had a draft of only a foot or so but we needed at least 6 feet of water under us to stay afloat and not touch bottom.

At one point in the long day, the tug radioed and asked if we could pull to the right a bit, as he wanted to pass us. He had to do some maneuvers up ahead as his turn off the ICW into his home port on the St. John’s River was approaching.

We edged over and slowed to just enough speed to keep way on. The tug and barge passed us. We sped up and started coming back to the center of the river. We made it!

BLAM!

Underwater in the middle of the channel was a hump of sand, enough to ground us. We grounded so hard nothing on the boat even jiggled. It was instant and it was final. I was below making lunch, and all I heard and felt was a JOLT. I looked out the porthole and the trees were not going by. We were stopped.

IF we had still been traveling in front of the tug and barge, we would be dead. The tug and barge are too large a vessel to be able to stop on a dime. Think 18-wheeler, on water. It would have crushed our boat, ramming us and pushing the debris down into the mud below, and us along with it. Or perhaps my husband who was steering in the cockpit would have had time to jump off, but with me being below I certainly would have died instantly.

But those thoughts didn’t come until later. For the present, we had a terrible problem of being stuck in the middle of the channel and exposed to all other motorboats, barges, tugs, and whatever else came along. We enacted the protocol for this situation where you put the anchor into your dinghy, row out to deeper water, set the anchor, and then get back on the boat and winch yourself forward off the obstruction. Fortunately, this worked. After some hard work, terror, sweat, and skittish eyes looking down the waterway for oncoming craft, we shook loose of the keel grabbing sandbar and got afloat again.

We were extremely grateful we had a full keel and it could withstand the jolt. We were very grateful we had no adverse effects except a little lost time. It could have been so much worse.

giww-tug-colo-locks

A tug and barge, not THE tug and barge., Photo TX DOT

As we processed what had happened and realized our extremely close call, we shivered and shuddered. Our days and days of tedium had been shattered in an instant by a near death experience we would never forget. That is liveaboard cruising on the ICW, long periods of humdrum routine punctuated buy sudden terror.

And that is the Christian life too.

Sometimes it seems like you’re making no progress. It feels like you’ve come only inches and there are miles to go. Can you even see your progress? It’s only incremental. It feels like you’ll never get there. You go days and days and wonder if you added anything of value to the Kingdom at all. It’s just routine. Tedium. Then BLAM! , a life changing event stirs you out of your mundane life and suddenly you’re scrambling.

A car accident. A cancer diagnosis. An injured child. A lost job. Homelessness. Whatever it is, one day you’re sailing along and the next you’re struggling for your life. Job knew. Elijah knew. Mary knew. Paul knew.

Does God use His interruptions to our daily life to shake us? Our pastor had given us the example of the fish tank. He said he had known someone who had a fish tank with fish in it but sometimes it got dirty. The water looked clear and clean. But if you were walking by and bumped it, the sludge on the bottom would drift up. He said that sludge accumulates, laying there, invisible, until a bolt from the blue comes along and then you see how much there is to clean out.

guillaume-150

Photo by Guillaume on Unsplash

That’s us believers. Our hidden sins, ruts, and blots lay in the bottom of our heart lurking and waiting undetected. When an unexpected life-comet zooms in, you turn to God. Prayer suddenly becomes fervent. Diligence in spiritual disciplines become tantamount. Pleading with tears ensues.

Does God uses the occasional BLAM in our lives to shake us? I think He does. Progress might be slow, tedium might even enter in. But when the jolts come, thank the Lord for them. He is using them to do a good work in you. It will be OK.