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I have approximately ten journals filled with stories of God’s faithfulness; how when living aboard our sailboat and sailing across oceans, God delivered us through many storms. Today, I find myself in another storm. My mind is a confused sea of opposing waves and wind. That scenario on a sailboat feels like being tossed into the washing machine. And to be honest, I would much rather experience that physical churning than the tempest in my heart right now. As I sit down to write this article I feel like a phony. How can I write about God’s faithfulness when I am such a mess?
Then the Lord led me to Psalm 77 where I read about David crying out to God. He is distressed, unable to be comforted, groaning in spirit and too troubled to speak. Yet in verses 11 and 12 he shows his determination to remember God’s faithfulness:
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” – Psalm 77:11-12 (NIV-emphasis mine)
So, on that note, here is one of a thousand stories I could tell of how God has cared for me – a monument of His faithfulness that I can go back on when the storms of my mind rage making me question or doubt the true nature of who Christ really is.
In February of 2020, my husband and I sold most of our furniture, our house, and cars and moved aboard our 44 foot sailboat, Volare – which means, “to fly.” Our oldest son just got married the previous summer and our youngest moved out a month later. As my husband and I took on the life stage of “empty nesters” we thought it was time to pursue our life long dream of sailing from the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, out into the big blue Pacific Ocean to the French Polynesian Islands, and then duck south to New Zealand for hurricane season in the southern hemisphere.
We were finally going for it!
We weren’t always sailors. My husband and I were both raised in land-locked states (Oklahoma and Vermont). We took sailing lessons in 2005 in San Diego harbor and in 2006 purchased our boat. In 2007 we moved aboard with our two boys who were eight and ten at the time. We sailed up and down the Atlantic coast and to approximately forty islands in the Caribbean. And now, in 2020, we were ready to go all in and do the big jump to the other side of the world!
To help give a little reference, this journey takes months! The first passage alone from Panama to the Marquesas takes approximately thirty days. Keep in mind, that is without stopping or seeing another soul the whole time, just you and God and that vast body of water, completely at the mercy of the weather. It is a very spiritual experience alone at sea. You learn quickly that you have no control over outside influences and are completely dependent on God to keep you safe. The same is true on land, but we (falsely) feel like we have more control.
“The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.” – Psalm 29:3 (NIV)
Then enter COVID and the whole world shut down.
On March 12, 2020, right before everything really hit, we left port and sailed from Bonaire to Santa Marta, Colombia. This journey took us three days and during that time countries began to shut down their borders and people were instructed to stay at home. We had no news since we had been at sea so when we radioed customs in Colombia and asked permission to come in, we were perplexed at their hesitation. We were told to wait at anchor in the bay and not leave our boat until a doctor came out to exam us to see if we were sick. We waited all day and called again that evening to see if they forgot us. This is highly unusual, in most cases when sailing to a new country or island, we simply get in our dingy, go to shore and check into customs. We had been forbidden to leave our boat or even come into the marina. Finally, that evening a skiff pulled alongside Volare and a doctor took our temperatures and checked us for any COVID symptoms. Again, we were told to wait. Very close to dark we called again and asked if we would be allowed to enter. They finally approved us. Later we spoke with our customs agent and she said there had been a huge argument over us. The country had officially closed its borders and they did not want to let us in. The agent fought for us saying that we were coming from Bonaire where no cases of COVID had been reported. We were officially the last boat allowed to enter Colombia. Another boat sailed into the harbor just hours after us and they were denied permission to enter. We praised God that we had a place to safely land!
We were allowed to “enter” but not fully. For the following seven weeks, we were in lockdown in Santa Marta. We were not allowed to leave the marina except to get groceries. Many other sailors chose to leave their boats and fly home, not knowing when they would be allowed back into the country, but we did not want to leave our only home there. Like everywhere else in the world, Colombia shut down and people were not allowed to work. As desperation grew, we began to hear about break-ins happening at the marina. They were targeting the empty boats, looking for food. As we were trying to process what to do being stuck in a country that was not our own with no idea how or what this virus was going to do, we decided to sail back home to the US, with permission from the US embassy. It took several days to get our exit visa, and we became anxious to leave fearful that as people became more hungry, thieves would be more bold and begin to break into occupied boats. It was a gated marina with a guard but the bandits were swimming across the bay and climbing over the rock jetty to break in at night. Finally, our exit visa came and we could go. We were the first boat allowed to leave. The friends we made, fellow sailors, waved us off with shouts of “freedom” and blasts of horns.
To make this journey home even more stressful and difficult, a couple days into our passage, we lost our auto-helm (something like cruise control). We had to hand steer the rest of the journey, just my husband and I, taking two hour shifts around the clock. Sailing is much harder than driving a car. Depending on the strength of the wind it can feel like you are arm wrestling the helm. The wheel wants to turn into the wind, but if you allow that to happen the sails lose their wind. It is called being in irons, because you no longer have forward momentum and lose control of the boat. After twelve days at sea, we anchored in Key West, Florida tired but safe. We would then bounce our way up the east coast toward North Carolina.
“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” – Psalm 18:32 (NIV)
As we were sailing toward home hurricane season started early that year. It started with Tropical Storm Arthur and a few days later Tropical Storm Bertha came through, and by the grace of God, we managed to skirt both storms…barely. We saw the tail of Arthur. It was like sailing next to Mordor from Lord of the Rings, a mountain of fire with constant flashes of lightning. While Bertha turned inland at South Carolina, just miles from where we were. We saw the eye pass over us. And, when we thought things couldn’t be made worse, we also had a major leak in our engine shaft that the bilge pump could not keep up with. We had to use a hand pump to pump out the water pouring into our boat. Thankfully, we were close to an anchorage and were able to fix the leak before we sank.
After all of those ups and downs and unexpected hardships, eventually we made it home to North Carolina, safe and sound. Thank goodness. My husband and I knew this was nothing short of God’s hand of protection and provision.
We made our grandiose plan and sold everything to go for it yet it all got turned on its head. So, what now? We are still trying to figure that out, hence the raging storm in my heart. But God has always led us faithfully and I know He has a good plan for us. How about you? What dream did you shoot for and miss? I want to remind you that God has not forgotten you. Just like He has not forgotten me.
When the seasons are rough, I have to remind myself to look back on the moments of His faithfulness and when I do, I am reassured that I can trust Him and He will always be there for me.
He sees dangers that we cannot see and protects us. If our engine had leaked when we were 30 days at sea, in the middle of the Pacific where there is no Coast Guard, we might have sunk and I would not be here now to tell of it (although, I would be safely in the arms of Jesus!). If we had been allowed to leave Colombia when we wanted, we would have run right into Tropical Storms Arthur and Bertha, but God knew and He was protecting us the whole time His timing is always perfect.
“You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, You still them.” – Psalm 89:9 (NIV)
As I close up my story, I wanted to bring all of our attention to a story recorded in Matthew 8:23-27. In this story Jesus and His disciples are in the boat, and a furious storm comes up out of nowhere all the while Jesus is fast asleep. My first thought about this story is that many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen and must have been very accustomed to the water, so for them to be afraid of the storm… it must have been some storm! That makes me realize that even a seasoned Christian can get thrown off by unexpected circumstances. The next part that hits me is that Jesus is asleep. Just wow! When we hit bad weather on the boat, we usually aren’t sleeping through it. We are just trying to hang on to our cookies. I love that Jesus is so chill. He knows that they are not going to die. The storm may have come up suddenly to the disciples, but He is not surprised or disturbed by its presence at all. In Mark’s account of this same story chapter 4 verse 35 tells us that it is Jesus who leads the disciples into the boat. He allows me to experience the storms, not to rattle me, but to increase my faith which is of more value than gold. Then, jumping back to Matthew’s account in verse 8:26 he says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
Oh LORD, you have given me safe passage and stilled the waves before me. Do that now in my heart and in the hearts of my sisters, who may also feel like a tempest is going on inside of them. We trust you Lord. Have your way.
My name is Lori Bound. I was raised in Oklahoma and at age 20 moved to Honolulu, HI to become a nanny. There I met my husband, Andy, who was from Vermont. In 2006, despite not knowing how to sail, we bought a sailboat. We were determined to sail the world with our 2 boys. The adventure did not quite go as planned, but God has always been so good to us.
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