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Sailing to Mortality. 248. Sept 10, 2020

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

( A follow-on from our previous edition, Abundant Salvation)

At the end of the 1988 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, I flew to Hobart in the hope of being part of a 'delivery crew' returning one of the yachts that was in the race. Quite often race crews just want to get home the fastest way possible and leave sailing the boat home to someone else. After some bantering around the traps, I was fortunate to secure a berth aboard Doctor Who, a 52' Davidson, which came 6th over the line out of 119 starters. Having sailed competitively for a few years on Port Phillip Bay, I was confident of my abilities but wanted to try my 'sea legs' in the ocean before signing up to a Sydney to Hobart race myself.  

Our initial route was south, as we were trying to reach Port Davey on the west coast of Tasmania by nightfall. However, we left a little late and only got to Maatsuyker Island before we turned back seeking shelter in Recherche Bay. The next morning, our skipper, Simon, decided to head north up the east coast, cut across Bank Strait, and then Bass Strait to Portland, Victoria. He was on his way to his next race, Adelaide to Port Lincoln, which he won.

We sailed around the top of Tasmania, keeping King Island to port (left-hand side), but then a storm blew up and the sea became rough topping out at 7-8 metres. Crew changes were two hours on and four hours off. On my shift, I had approximately 60 seconds to get my wet weather gear on, fly up the steps, clip my harness onto the rail, and vomit over the side. I was ok after that. As we sailed into this howling gale the yacht was on a 40-degree heel. We had the storm jib on and mainsail trimmed as far as we could to maintain our course. I was on watch with Simon's girlfriend, but he preferred me at the helm. Rest became more difficult for the sleeping crew members, as the boat would slap deep down in the trough after flying over a peak. The helmsman's job was to find a way down the back of the wave that created the least impact, so there was no time to rest.   

Although difficult, there was still time to think, and I let my mind wander for a brief time. It was on the night watch at about 2:00 am when reality hit me. With only a little light, sea spray continually in my face and wheel in my hands, the only time I could see any distance at all was at the peak of a wave. In the troughs, there was no chance of seeing anything but the tall wall of the next wave.

Normally I don't let myself think negatively in situations like that as it can create fear and unsettle determination, but this time a short thought crept in, "If a container ship came through in this darkness in these seas, we would sink within 60 seconds.  Even a floating container would do some serious damage let alone a submarine on a training mission."

For a brief pause, my mortality looked me in the eyes. It wasn't the right time to let that monkey climb on my back, so I shook the thought out of my head and focussed on the job of getting us safely through to the next shift. It was some weeks later I revisited that thought of"what if?"

There are times in our lives where we get through situations by the skin of our teeth. I know I have been rescued from certain death several times only by the hand of God. You probably have similar stories. I have had friends who didn't get through and are missing limbs, brain-fried or dead. 

What happens when our number is up? We never know when that is, otherwise, we would avoid it.

The question is, are we prepared for that blink in time?  I know from my collision when my brother died that it is only a blink. A near-miss is a bee's-wing distance from death. One minute the adrenaline is pumping through our veins lifting us to great heights, and the next, we are dead and in the spirit world on our way to being judged. 

I thought of the seven crew including me at that time, and recognised that if we were hit and any survived the swiftly-sinking yacht, we would still not have survived the treacherous seas unless God intervened.  

We need the adventurous spirit but as part of our preparation for adventure, we also need to know we are 'saved' — spiritually prepared. 

Hebrews 9:27-28 give guidance to us all about such preparation.

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

All people are judged, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life go to Heaven. For everyone else it is frightening, and that is what I pondered briefly at the helm that blustery night.

Revelation 20:15, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Today's prayer:Dear Lord, thank you that you give assurance of salvation, that you have provided a door I can pass through that secures my eternal life and brings me in a closer relationship with you.  


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