Sea – Stories I

I could swear I’ve written this, but I can’t find it and if for no other reason then I want to compile some of my sea stories, I’m writing it again and I hope that I don’t bore or annoy anyone, but it really is a great story, on a few levels.

This happened sometime in the mid-80’s, reason I remember that is because as a result of this God smacked me in the head and made me realize that I needed Christ as my Savior and Lord of my life. So in my mid-twenties I was baptized and came to be reborn, a new creation, a child in Jesus and yea, it was as a result of my Coast Guard service.

It was in October, fall weather is definitely the worst, seems like cruddy weather, wind, high seas, raw cold, just the worst and this day was the worst I ever experienced.

Interesting thing was that we had been out the night before and was a nice evening for October in New England, calm, warm, wasn’t even wearing a jacket and we were out until 1am, that’s 0100 hours for you military types. Next day was Sunday, usually “holiday routine”, only necessary work and of course all response, but no station work. Since we had been out late and it was Sunday, we were all trying to get some extra sleep and then the Search and Rescue (SAR) alarm just rips through the station. That alarm could wake the dead, All I remember is falling from my top bunk bed, grabbing clothes and just running. Now the first tip off was that while we were running out, the other duty people were yelling at us “44”, which meant the 44 foot Motor Life Boat.

The 44 foot MLB is designed primarily for bad weather, it was supposed to go into seas up to fifty feet. I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but that was the standard. If people are yelling at us on the way out, it’s urgent and it’s crummy weather. We have to travel aways to get into open water, outside the chains of islands in Boston Harbor. So it was fine, initially, once we cleared the Brewsters, the islands marked by Boston Light the roller coaster ride began. Seas were in excess of fifteen feet, the boat was headed south to Marshfield to the North River. A man who had his boat moored in Marshfield decided it would be safer in Boston, despite the fact that he would have to go through high winds and fifteen foot seas. He went aground in the river, a MLB crew from Scituate station went aground trying to get him. The subject ended up in the water and died, the boat coxswain and engineer from the MLB both ended in the water, all were medevaced.

The trip is about 10-15 miles by water, in normal conditions on a normally fast boat the trip would take 30-45 minutes. It was not normal conditions and the 44 footer was not a fast boat. It took about three hours. On our way we’re going by Minots Light, I kept watching this big, ancient light house wondering why we weren’t passing it. We are getting tossed back and forth, there was no uniformity to the wave action and we were being tossed all over the place. We are keeling so far over to the side that the antennas on the side of the boat are actually whipping across the waves, this boat is very close to being on its side on the water.

 Needless to say seasickness is now rampant, furthermore I didn’t bring any foul weather gear, why would I perfectly nice out the night before. I’m becoming hypo-thermic with waves breaking over the front of the boat and side to side. The Atlantic Ocean isn’t warm, and getting doused over and over, on an open deck, with the wind howling around you, you’re going to get cold fast. At this point I’m leaning over the side, “discharging”, holding on. Add into the equation that the only other boat in the area that could come to get us if something happened with our boat is hung up in the river. Now the MLB is made so that if it does roll over, it will come back up and it’s made so that you should reach the nearest safe mooring. Yea…, OK…, small comfort and any damage to the boat and if we rolled, we might well not come up. No one wants to take a dip in the Atlantic in October and if you do come up, soaking wet, in the wind, you will probably live, but you will suffer.

After three hours, that is not a typo, we made it into the North River, we take the remaining crewman off the other MLB, get both boats secured, then start the trip back. During the trip down, hypo-thermic, purged of stomach contents, still dry heaves, I look over the water and say ‘OK God get me out of this and I will go to church.” Well He did, even though I had little concept of what that meant. Sometime around 5pm we finally return to Point Allerton Station in Hull, Ma. We had been underway almost eight hours, I was now off, got my bags, threw them in the car, drove home, took a very hot shower, fell into bed, and the next day woke up and went to the day job.

As i said it was an adventure on many levels. The obvious in terms of the storm and running a SAR case under those conditions. But the biggest adventure was just starting, God plucked me up, and while I had very little understanding of what being a Christian was, I was about to find out and it has been an adventure that has led me to Concordia Seminary in St Louis, Mo. I earned a Masters of Divinity degree and was called to be the pastor of First St Johns Lutheran Church, in York, Pa. I have no doubt that even after four years of ministry God has a lot more adventure in store for me and that’s good. Being a Christian should be about adventure, being led to find the lost, disicipling those in Jesus and all that goes with ministry, especially ministry in a downtown, inner city area. God has provided and continues to do so and He helps me to serve to the best of my ability.

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