Friday, June 8, 2018

Safe Harbor

This morning I was out biking on my prayer and worship route at 0400. The wind was increasing and I had a feeling of a coming storm.  As I pulled in between the lighted stone columns at the entrance of our subdivision I felt a relief like I was entering “Safe Harbor.”

“Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”  Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.  And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there” (Acts 27:8-12).

Paul was a prisoner heading to Rome with other prisoners. He cautioned against sailing because of the weather and difficult coastline. But the centurion decided to sail on past “Fair Havens.”  The remainder speaks of the great storm that came up and brought a shipwreck. All survived as Paul had prophesied, but all material goods were lost.  How about you, have you sailed past Fair Havens or safe harbor?  Have you put aside good judgment or common sense? Have you gone on your own advice and not God’s wisdom?  I certainly have often. I write of disastrous plane and car crashes from which I have survived by the grace of God. I write about personal decisions that have led to career endings.

It was 1967 and I was sailing through the Virgin Islands with fraternity brothers. We had wonderful weather and idyllic conditions for the “bare boat” adventure. We stayed in the Cook Inlet for the most part. We moored at British Virgin Islands at night, having snorkeled and fished as we sailed through the warm and azure Caribbean waters. We found safe harbor in tropical protected bays on quaint mountainous islands of Peter, Tortola, Norman, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda. We sometimes partied with the folks on other sailboats that had found us. We were equipped with foreign beers and rum from the ancient rum distillery, still running on a now abandoned cane plantation worked by African slaves during the 17-18th centuries. We had fish I caught while trolling and lobster from spearfishing. It was smooth sailing to say the least.

On Virgin Gorda, the last of the chain before the open dark blue Atlantic we found wonderful fishing and spearing. We anchored off Saber Rock the last vestige of land. The 20 foot high coral heads hid giant lobsters and schools of permit and mackerel harvested for our hibachi grill off the back of our 27-foot Vega sloop. This was a paradise.

When it was time to start sailing back to Cruise Bay, St. John we made what would be a dangerous decision. We decided to head out and around the islands. It was exhilarating as the ocean spray cooled us in the tropical sun and the waves rose above the boat. We could look into the dark blue 20-foot waves seeing fish and porpoises.  The main was full and it took all hands on deck to control her. Fortunately we had one accomplished ocean sailor on board.

We tried the jib, but could only raise it half-mast because of the winds blowing at 20 knots. Up and down the huge waves we cut. At the tops we balanced and then raced down the steep sides to the bottoms. The waves around us seemed to loom like skyscrapers. Waves were breaking over our bow as we plunged on. Soon our moods changed from excitement to fear. We were in over our heads, literally.  The sailors among us started giving edgy commands as we headed back towards the islands that we could barely see except from the wave tops. This was indeed uncharted water for us.

We reefed the sails to keep from capsizing. We were in trouble as we headed into the monstrous waves. We had tied each of us to the mast or strong parts of the boat for safety in the event we were washed overboard. We kept tacking in. We threw a sea anchor to slow our pace.

Finally an island seemed to appear from nowhere. We scuttled along side looking for an opening. Then it materialized through the spray. The lines were burning our arms and hands, the sea searing eyes and throats.  We could see an entrance a few hundred yards ahead. As waves crashed over us, we held our line, the keel skipping almost out of the water. If it came out we were finished.

Our bow tore past the coral rocks by just a few feet with waves splashing 25 feet in the air, our speed over 20 knots.  Immediately we realized we were in “safe harbor.” We had entered a protected coral bay. There were several sailboats already there to seek protection from the seas. Our speed shot us forward into the protected bay right at the others. Realizing we needed to avert another potential disaster we threw the rudder and dropped the sails at once coming about immediately and coming to a stop only a few yards from the other anchored boats. It was an instinctual and almost blinding maneuver. Cheers went up as our hearts and minds began to take in the calm waters and gorgeous harbor. The other sailors were applauding what they told us looked like the maneuvers of a seasoned America’s Cup Team.

Soon we were joined with the other boats and lashed together to share and party. The rum flowed freely and the charcoal grills started up to share in the seas bounteous fare. We were secure in “Safe harbor.”

Do you have a safe harbor? Do you know the only safe harbor from the storms of life?  Jesus Christ is the one who was with us in the boat as He was with the Disciples on the swollen seas of Galilee. He will calm the storms on the sea and in your lives if you trust Him as Savior and Lord. Do it today if you have not for the seas are rising.

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