Have you ever navigated a boat?
I spent a large portion of my growing up years in Alaska where my step-dad had a 42-foot fishing boat. The Maple Leaf had been purchased from a friend in Gig Harbor, Washington in the late ‘70s, where she had been sunk in a fierce storm right in the safety of the boat harbor, tied up to the dock in her slip, of all places. My step dad had her shipped to him in Homer, a small fishing and tourist town on the South Kenai Peninsula, when he retired from his state job. He spent a couple of years completely renovating her, inside and out, and placed her in the Homer boat harbor when she was finally seaworthy. She left the waters only during the winter months, when the fishing wasn’t good.
I spent every summer on that boat from the time I was 12 until I turned 18 and left home. If the wind was below 15 knots and the seas weren’t too choppy, we were going to be somewhere fishing. Halibut, King salmon, reds, crab, and shrimp. Even the octopus didn’t stand a chance when we got out on the water, as we always seemed to pull them up with the crab pots, red and angry at having been plucked from the safety of the cold, dark depths of their ocean home.
Our mornings began before 6am – no summer vacation when there was fishing to be done. Bleary-eyed until the smell of the saltwater hit my nostrils, I usually perked up about the time my step dad was piloting the boat out of the harbor. There was a no-wake rule, (as I’m sure all harbors must have, although I’ve never been in another one so I have no way of knowing) and it seemed to take an excruciatingly long time before we left the grey rocky mouth of the harbor for the beautiful open waters of Cook Inlet. The view was breathtaking once we rounded the end of the Homer Spit and headed out to sea and I never tired of seeing it. Off in the distance was Gull Island, a large outcropping of rocks that were home to angry seagulls, puffins, and even a few otters. Mountains rose like sentries on both sides of the inlet and followed us on our 20 mile journey.
Sometimes there was a low-lying fog on the water and it made our travel slower. The CB was always on and occasionally the harbormaster’s voice could be heard giving somewhat static shout-outs about the weather or boats in the vicinity. Mostly though, it was quiet. But on the days when there was no fog and the sun was glistening on the water, I knew to be in my first mate’s spot on the upper deck, for those were the days I got to pilot the boat. I was left alone on deck while my step dad went below to prepare the poles and cut the bait. It was never what you would call warm on any of those mornings, usually around 45 or 50 degrees, but by layering a flannel shirt with a long sleeve t-shirt, combined with the canopy on the boat, it was quite nice. It was a good feeling to be considered responsible and trustworthy enough to be left alone at the helm.
My step dad taught me to pick out a spot in the horizon, in the direction of our destination, and just steer towards it, keeping an eye out for floating objects like driftwood, kelp, and marker floats, which all had the capability to get caught in the engine blades at the back of the boat, and could render us helpless. Course-correct if you have to go around any such object. Get back on course as quickly as possible. Don’t look behind you at the wake, you’ll only get off-course again. Scan the horizon for other boats and stay on the starboard (or right side) of all passing boats. There were so many rules in boating that you had to know or someone could be seriously hurt, or worse, die.
Here I am, all these years later, still trying to pilot the boat. Knowing the course that has been set before me, I sit at the helm, once again shouldering the heavy responsibility of being a good wife, mother, daughter, teacher, friend. At times, the waters have been smooth and calm – everything has fallen into place for me and I’ve known exactly where I’m going and what I’m supposed to be doing. Yet, for the past year and a half, the waters have been more turbulent and sometimes I lose sight of that spot in the horizon because the waves are above my head and my boat is in the valley of the giant swells. I am suddenly fearful and I feel unsure of how to correct, because I honestly don’t know if I am capable of doing it myself. I wonder how I got so off course and if God will deliver me or will He allow me to drown in this storm of my own making?
Am I not unlike the boat that has sunk in the harbor, while safely moored in my own slip? Have I anchored myself to the things of earth, rather than laying up my treasure in Heavenly places? Why is it that I yearn for a restoration…a new start with my husband, my children, my friends, and especially my Savior?
Lord, restore me so that I may be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for Your use, and prepared unto every good work. If it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to turn the helm back over to You. I’m done with piloting this boat.
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