Some examples of that can be seen below, on our yachts and others.
I spend a lot of time on this site talking about yachting around South Florida and the Bahamas. As a family we were privileged to do so in an era when things weren’t so crowded—or regulated—as they are now. We also got to miss the thrill of the piracy wave that swept over the region during the 1980’s with the drug trade.
One of our ports of call was Key Biscayne, near Miami. It is basically the last barrier island in the chain that runs along all of Florida’s east cost before the break west of Fowey Rocks begins the Florida Keys. It’s a nice place to visit, or at least was in the late 1960’s when we tied up our yacht at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club. In those days it wasn’t as much of a problem to let me and my brother putter around the island a bit, although I preferred to fall into the drink trying to get into my Dilly Boat dinghy.
One night, however, it wasn’t the kids that got into trouble: it was my parents. They went out partying and “bar hopping” one night. In the midst of all of this revelry my mother’s Movado watch left her wrist, victim of an unlatched band clasp failure and a broken safety chain.
Needless to say, when she realised this, panic ensued. All hands were on deck—or on the island, really, searching for this watch. My parents attempted to retrace their steps, but that wasn’t easy as they were having a job of it trying to remember what their steps were. Us kids were sent out literally along the roadsides to try to find the watch. As time went on the fear that the Movado was the victim of South Florida crime became greater. Finally, there was victory: they found the bar where it had fallen off, the bartender having found and kept it, hoping for the return of its rightful owner.
There are few who haven’t experienced the loss or misplacement of a possession. Such a common phenomenon finds expression in the New Testament:
“What man among you who has a hundred sheep, and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine out in the open country, and go after the lost sheep till he finds it? And, when he has found it, he puts in on his shoulders rejoicing; And, on reaching home, he calls his friends and his neighbours together, and says ‘Come and rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ So, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one outcast that repents, than over ninety-nine religious men, who have no need to repent. Or again, what woman who has ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And, when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbours together, and says ‘Come and rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I lost.’ So, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of God’s angels over one outcast that repents.” (Luke 15:4-10)
Jesus compares such an event to God’s diligence in seeking lost souls on the earth. Like my brother and I, he even refers to searching the roadsides: “’Go out,’ the master said, ‘into the roads and hedgerows, and make people come in, so that my house may be filled…” (Luke 14:23) For Christians, it is an impetus to do likewise, to spend as much time seeking the lost as we do looking for our stuff.
But what if the lost soul is you? Has that empty place in your life remain unfulfilled? Do you feel that you are of no worth? My mother’s Movado had diamonds around the face, but it was of little value to her while it was lost. When we find unity with God, the value that has been designed into us becomes real, and our life finds the purpose our Creator had for us from the very start. We all have diamonds mounted in our being, and when we enter into a relationship with Him who moves all things, our value in principle becomes one of reality, and our existence becomes a real life.
This photo graced my family’s Christmas card in 1965. It showed our second family yacht at anchor in Hope Town, Bahamas. What it didn’t show was that, six months earlier, it almost went to the bottom a few days after the photo was taken down in Spanish Wells, as described in this post.
May God richly bless you at this time and all through the coming year.
Most people are familiar with the America’s Cup, the sailboat race which has attracted prominent competitors such as Sir Thomas Lipton and Ted Turner. What most people don’t know is that there is a fresh water counterpart to that race, the Canada’s Cup, sailed on the Great Lakes. The genesis of that race, how the Americans lost it the first time and gained it back the second, is one of the most interesting in yachting history.
In 1896 the Lincoln Park Yacht Club in Chicago challenged the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto to a cross-Great Lakes race. The first race was held that year in Toledo, OH. The Canadians were victorious, thus they named the race the Canada’s Cup.
In the same year, another member of the Lincoln Park club, Chicago rubber magnate Fred W. Morgan, commissioned the building of his new yacht, the Pathfinder. Built in Racine, WI, its maiden voyage to Chicago was “the event of the season,” and people gathered on the docks to watch it glide into the harbour.
The Pathfinder was 140′ long (a sizeable yacht then or now) and resembled the U.S. Navy’s battleships of the day. It had telephones and electric lighting in an era when the vast majority of American homes had neither.
Two years later the Chicago Yacht Club, with Fred Morgan as its Commodore and the Pathfinder the club’s flagship, issued a challenge to the RCYC for the Canada’s Cup. The following year the Pathfinder steamed from Chicago to Toronto for the rematch.
The first day of racing was 21 August 1899. The object was to start near the RCYC, round two buoys, and return to the club. The Canadians’ yacht, the Beaver, had an accident right at the start and was out of the race. The American yacht, the Genessee, had a chance for a default for the first race (it was two out of three to win.)
But such was not to be. The Pathfinder was acting as a kind of “pace yacht” for the race, but in the haze on Lake Ontario itself got lost and missed the first buoy. Behind it was not only the Genessee but steam yachts Siren and Canada! The entire entourage mistook another buoy for the first official one, where the judges’ ship waited in vain.
Because of this the Americans missed the chance for a forfeit. We eventually (and when I say “we” I mean not only the Americans but the Chicago Yacht Club, where my great-grandfather was Commodore the following year) won the race, but only by 31 seconds on a five hour course.
In those days it was easy for everyone to follow the largest, most magnificent yacht on the Great Lakes. But they still got lost. Unfortunately things haven’t changed as much as we would like to think.
Our country and our world is directed by those who are supposedly the most educated and enlightened among us. Yet we still experienced the crash of 2008 and its aftermath. Many of us were participants in that by virtue of taking out loans on our houses and just about everything else we owned (and didn’t in some cases) because were were informed by “knowledgeable” people that we could afford it. That’s little comfort now that those homes and possessions are going away in foreclosure and repossession, especially since many of us are without income.
We have also been directed for the last forty years by a “knowledge class” that assured us that our “old ways” were hopelessly passé and that we would be happier in our new family structures. In a country with high divorce and incarceration rates and single-parent poverty, their self-confident assurances aren’t much comfort either.
In the end the only one we can trust for the truth is he that is the truth, Jesus Christ. Through him all things were created, so he is most knowledgeable as to what we need. And, of course, he is the real “pathfinder” from the ultimate challenge of life, death itself, as we walked out of the tomb after those who didn’t care for his challenge of their authority had him executed.
It’s time for all of us who have followed what looked to be the biggest and most magnificent thing “on the water” to turn to he who actually walked on it.
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.