6/5/22 Wrong Waypoint ... Wrong Target Brings Near Disaster
(Definition of sailing terms; Waypoint-A predetermined geographical position that is defined in terms of latitude/longitude coordinates. Delivery- moving a boat for a customer from one location to another.)
Our day began before dawn moving from Chesapeake City, Maryland on a short delivery around Cape May, then a straight shot up the Jersey Coast to Manasquan Inlet. The weather forecast indicated nothing special, a little gusty wind out of the ENE early evening with building seas at night but we should be in before it became a tad bit rough.
We rode an outbound tide down the Delaware Bay and because the wind was more easting, we decided to cut through the Cape May Canal into the harbor and out onto the Atlantic rather than going offshore to get around the Cape. This would add to our ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) to Manasquan which is not the greatest inlet to enter at night but certainly not the worst.
We passed through the jetties of the Cape May Inlet a few hours before sunset, pointed up into a freshening breeze out of the east. Our destination lay ninety-seven nautical miles to our north. Five plus knots of boat speed equaled 17 plus hours… if we didn’t have to tack.
As a sailing instructor I would tell students that the first thing they would need to learn is a new language; tacking, jibing, leach, luff, the glossary could go for pages. It’s not too much different from Biblical studies; justification, sanctification, elect, covenant, Sabbath, Redemption, not to mention a new understanding of words we thought we knew, like resurrection.
With the onset of nightfall, we set our duty watches, plotted our waypoints on the charts giving special attention to the marks off Brigantine Shoals, the most dangerous part of the delivery. Night time is the time when the dragons come out.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2) No moon rose but the “vault” of the sky shone bright with the stars of heaven (the fourth day, Genesis 1:17). The dawn of creation must have been spectacular.
The sail up the coast was uneventful with only a few short course corrections. However, as we approached Atlantic City the wind backed more to the north requiring us to trim the sails more to centerline. As we ran our course line something seemed amiss. But we pressed on.
My crew sounded the first alarm, “Aren’t they white caps?” Almost immediately the boat hit the first sandbar of the shoals. The strike took out the rudder. We were without steering and with each successive wave we were being driven further inshore striking again and again on the shoals sending violent shock waves through the boat.
We struck and stuck hard aground with her stern facing out to sea. Wave after wave smashed into the stern flooding into the cockpit. Lights appeared ahead of us through the darkness. We quickly realized they were car headlights. The locals had come down to the beach to watch another foolish sailor run aground.
We made a distress call to the USCG in Atlantic City as we busied ourselves in getting the bow turned around into the waves. Accomplished, we sat and awaited the Coasties to come to the rescue. Within an hour they were on station but unable to assist us due to how far we had been pushed toward the beach. They would stand watch on us throughout the night. With nothing further to do we set the anchor and awaited high tide… 3 hours away.
As the tide rose, we manually throw the anchor as far forward as we could, then pulled the boat forward, hand over hand, foot by foot until we were far enough out that the Coast Guard could get their boat in, attach a line and pull us through the shoals. Once afloat they towed us back to Atlantic City. After several hours of repairs were completed, we got underway and by early that evening we limped into Manasquan.
In reviewing our experience the realization dawned on us we had laid in the marks but had not paid enough attention to the influences of the conditions around us; changes in wind direction, the tidal changes, and the most grievous, we had taken a route that missed the first mark, the one that would have taken us offshore, we had cut straight across the shoals. In life, we often lay our best course and think we have it all together when in reality we are headed for the shoals. It reminds me of Paul in Chapter 27 of Acts. Life, in this world will bring difficulty. Events and circumstances will always try to push us away from our goal in heavenly places. We need to be vigilant and anchor ourselves to the Rock. And remember, we are to be of good cheer for The Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
GOD is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. God will help when the morning dawns. The Lord of hosts is with us; the GOD of Jacob is our refuge. (Taken from Psalm 46.)
Next month “Head up in the lifts, bear away in headers.” Lessons for life.