:: Send to a Friend
:: View Comments
“Niue to Jayhawk, Niue to Jayhawk.”
“Dad!” I hollered. “The radio!” Add Comment
My dad picked up the radio’s receiver. “Jayhawk to Niue, go ahead, Howard.”
“John, you need to double-reef the main. We’re in for a storm.”
I was 19 and sailing with my parents from Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, to Nova Scotia in Jayhawk, our 36-foot sailboat. Our friends Jean and Howard King were traveling with us in Niue, their 30-foot sailboat.
“We need to reduce sail,” my dad said. He lowered the mainsail partway, and my mom folded it as it came down into the cockpit. The mainsail now had two reefs in it and was considerably smaller. The mainsail and the staysail, a small sail at the front of the boat, formed two gleaming white triangles against the steel-gray sky.
Eating dinner that evening was a challenge. I wrote in my journal, “On the broad ocean the waves got rather rough, high, and erratic.” Our aluminum stove swung forward and back, spilling water from the pan. “We all managed to get potatoes and green beans down us, as well as all over the cockpit!” I wrote.
Later in the evening Mom told me, “Go below and get some sleep, Jane.” I lay down on a bunk and instantly fell asleep. When I woke up three hours later, it was midnight.
I peered out of the hatchway and saw Dad standing in the cockpit. Fifteen-foot waves were breaking higher than his head. The wind blew spindrift—luminous white spray—off the tops of waves. It whistled through the ship’s rigging, making a high-pitched sound like the scream of a wounded animal. Sea spray splashed on my face and brought the smell and taste of salt.
It was my turn to be on watch. With a crew of only three, we each had to be alone on watch at times so we could all get some sleep. I prayed, Lord, we’re in Your hands. Please help us get through this storm. I was by myself but not really alone.
I huddled under the dodger, a canvas cloth that covered part of the cockpit. I munched on M&M’s out of a large bag that I had tucked between my crossed legs. Sheets of rain fell sideways, blown by the wind. I tightened the straps of my orange inflatable life vest.
Waves rolled the boat violently. “Jack,” our autohelm system, steered the boat according to the course we had programmed it to follow. I hope Jack doesn’t stop working, I thought. I don’t want to stand at the wheel and get soaking wet. Jack held steady.
During my watch I looked for “targets” on radar. Targets are other vessels that show up as small dots of light moving across the screen.
Targets could be many different kinds of ships. Fishing trawlers, with poles sticking up high, dredged the bottom of the ocean with huge nets hung from behind. Fishermen processed fish on large “factory trawlers” that were lit up like small towns. Large ocean liners with rows of lights shining from portholes glided silently by. Huge barges, ships carrying cargo containers, appeared menacingly out of the dark. Points of light on radar from sailing boats like Jayhawk were the same size as those from larger vessels. We never knew what we were looking at when we saw a target on radar.
“Dad!” I called below. “Wake up. Something is heading right for us.”
Dad jumped up and peered at the radar screen. “We’re on a collision course,” he said.
“What do we do?” I asked.
“We’ll have to change course for it,” he said. n “Don’t we have right of way?” I asked. n “It’s not changing course for us. It’s probably a large ship, either a cruise ship or a cargo vessel. It can’t turn fast enough to avoid us.” He punched new coordinates into Jack, slightly changing our course. We waited about 20 minutes until the ship had passed safely by.
“Go on down below,” I said to Dad. “I’m OK.”
“Are you sure?” he asked me. “It’s awfully wild out there.” n “I promise I’ll wake you if it gets worse,” I said.
Gale-force winds n By 1:00 a.m. the storm had grown even stronger. Lightning flashed behind me, piercing the black sky. A gust of wind sent a small cushion flying overboard.
“Mom, Dad, come out here!” I yelled below. “The storm’s getting really“Are you sure?” he asked me. “It’s awfully wild out there.”
“I promise I’ll wake you if it gets worse,” I said.
By 1:00 a.m. the storm had grown even stronger. Lightning flashed behind me, piercing the black sky. A gust of wind sent a small cushion flying overboard.
“Mom, Dad, come out here!” I yelled below. “The storm’s getting really bad! The wind’s between 35 and 45 miles per hour, and there are higher gusts.”
“A wind this high is a gale,” Dad said, coming quickly out of the cabin. Mom followed close behind.
Lord, I’m scared. Please help us, I prayed.
The rolling waves came up from behind and caused the stern, or back, of the boat to lurch upward, then lunge back down again.
“We’re in danger of pitchpoling,” Dad said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It means we could flip end over end, turning the boat upside down.”
“Can’t we do anything?” Mom asked.
“No,” he said. “We’ve got as little sail up as possible. We’ve done everything we can. Get some rest, Judy. You’re on watch in a couple of hours.” Mom went below.
I later wrote in my journal, “There was nothing we could do about the storm. We just had to keep going and functioning to survive.”
“I was in a trance,” Dad said later. “I was numb with fear. I forgot that God was with us and that I did not have to be afraid.”
At 3:00 a.m. Mom came up to relieve me.
“You need a break,” she told me. I went below, leaving my parents on watch. I lay rigid with fear, listening to the waves crash against the boat. Eventually exhaustion took over, and I drifted into sleep.
A sunbeam shone through a porthole above my bunk and woke me up. I poked my head out of the hatchway. Seas were almost flat. The ocean reflected the pale blue color of the early-morning sky. A light breeze ruffled the sails. The silence was broken only by the gentle lap of ripples against the boat’s hull and the creaking of the rigging. My parents sat calmly in the cockpit, eating blueberry muffins.
It’s over, I thought. We made it! God was with us during the storm. I didn’t have to be so scared. Thank You, Lord.
We arrived at Shelburne, Nova Scotia, after traveling 298 miles in two and a half days.
God is always with us, taking care of us. He helps us through all of life’s storms.
Jane Oakes is a preschool teacher’s assistant. She writes from North Carolina.
Getting Through the Storm
“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’” (Matthew 8:24, 25, NIV).*
Remember that crazy night when gale-force winds came down the Jordan Valley and almost “pitchpoled” the disciples’ fishing boat into the lake? And Jesus was sleeping! Just by His relaxed attitude, Jesus was trying to steer the disciples into trusting God the Father at every moment, even in the worst kind of storm. Was the storm bad? Yes, it was fierce. Many times before, those windstorms had swamped boats like theirs and drowned fishermen. These guys, who had been with the Son of God for months, still did not fully believe that God was watching over them.
Some say that to trust God so much is presumption. It’s true that we cannot take stupid risks, ignoring God’s will for us, and expect Him to cover it. That’s presumption. And even then, He does not abandon us. However, many of life’s storms are not of our making, and while we are living in surrender to God, it’s His job to take care of us. Worrying won’t fix anything. By giving our lives to God each day, we let Him control the storm.
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
:: Send to a Friend
:: view comments