Safe in the Harbour (Barely!)

My father always maintained that, when buying yachts, you could never go smaller when purchasing a new one; you always had to go larger.  That’s the way he bought our boats; first it was a 36′, then the 51′ (the one we hit the reef with.)  Our less than stellar navigation notwithstanding, that boat was a seaworthy craft; it rode out a storm well and didn’t draw too much water, which was good in the shallow inlets and harbours of the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.  Best of all for my mother, she had it fixed the way she wanted it.

Well, that never stopped my father from doing anything; we discovered one day that he had purchased a 65′ yacht.  The pretence was that the old boat had dry rot.  It was hard to tell the new one was an improvement; it would not pass marine inspection and it was filthy.  After the marine items were attended to and my mother scraped the dirt off of the boat, we were back to yachting again.

Probably our most memorable episode in that boat was on a return from the Bahamas.  We were at the Chubb Cay resort, then in its infancy, canned bread and all.  Our plan was to leave Chubb Cay, pass north of the Bimini Islands and end up at Port Everglades, the port at Ft. Lauderdale, and then return to Palm Beach via the Intracoastal Waterway.

This was a pretty clear course; unfortunately, we encountered probably the worst storm we had ever gone through in our years in yachting.  At this point we were reminded of one of our fine boat’s uninspiring traits: its habit of severely rolling in any sea, especially the 6′-8′ (2-2.5m) one we were in.  Everything that wasn’t tied down ended up on deck or somewhere else.  We weren’t ones to get seasick but we were close — even the cat “turned green”. (Photo at right shows same cat in a happier moment on the boat.)

We got through all of that but, as we entered Port Everglades, the steering wheel of the boat became useless.  We realized then that the steering cable, having frayed badly during the storm, snapped close to shore.  Since we had dual propellers, we were able to use the two engines to get us to dock; had we had to do this during the storm, we probably would have overheated the engines and lost both power and what control of our course we had left, ending up on a reef in a more permanent way than the last time.

In the ancient world, one of the symbols Christianity adopted was the anchor.  It was good not only because it incorporated the cross but also because it symbolised a safe entrance into the harbour.  Sea and lake storms were familiar: Jesus calmed the storm on Lake Galilee (Luke 8:23-25) and the apostle Paul endured one during his last journey to Rome (Acts 27).  Arriving safe in the harbour meant that the destination had been achieved.

But the harbour isn’t the only destination we should be aiming for; storms at sea aren’t the only crises we face either.  Many of us careen through life from one disaster to another, wondering when it will all stop.  For some of us our steering cable has snapped and we cannot get out of our situation.  For others, like us at Port Everglades, we’ve barely scraped through another disaster, knowing that the next one won’t be as pretty unless we repair our lives and that somehow, someone has kept our steering cable intact long enough to prevent a complete disaster.

We, however, who go through storms in life need to understand that we do have a God that cares for us through the storms but can’t do much for us unless we decide to put him first.  As long as we are content to cross our fingers and hope our steering cable won’t snap in the middle of a crisis, we are only asking for trouble.  When we put God first and let him keep things fixed, our cruises through life — both in the rough seas and the smooth ones — will go a lot better.  Best of all, when it’s all over we can safely enter the harbour of eternity — and not just barely either.

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