Going Nowhere…Fast!

October 19, 2013

Yesterday a friend, Paul, and I went sailing on Buckeye Lake in my little 17 foot-long sailboat. Some boats are made for speed, with deep v-shaped hulls and big motors. Other boats, like my sailboat, are made to move easily through the water with as little propulsive energy needed as possible. But this trade-off involves the reality that these “efficient” watercraft do not do well at high speeds…they are made to go slow. Even so, Paul and I were very intent on trying to get my boat to go at its maximum hull speed (the speed up to which the boat is stable) which, for this particular model, is 5 knots, or 5.8 miles per hour. Buckeye Lake Sailing 10-18-13If you click on the photo and watch the video you will see, in one shot which shows the screen of the depthfinder/speed/heading instrument, that we do hit 5.0 knots for a brief second or two (look in the lower right corner of the instrument screen). Even though 5 knots is not a relatively fast speed, we were very proud of ourselves! But…why?

I recently read an article about the philosophical underpinnings of why people sail. In the article the author quotes a well-known jibe that defines sailing as “the art of going slowly nowhere, at great expense and personal discomfort.” In exploring the “going slowly” aspect of the quote, the author points out that the need for speed is overrated. People who are weekend recreational boaters most often start and end their boating adventure at their dock or at a boat ramp where they put their boat in the water, and then take it out of the water at the end of their day of boating. So, the difference between their starting point and the ending point is zero. By definition, the average velocity of a given time interval is the difference in distance between the starting and ending point of a trip divided by the time it took to get there. The author explains:

By this reckoning, all weekend cruisers, whether laid-back sailors or high-speed motorboaters, have the same average velocity – namely zero! This is because they tend to end up right where they started – in their marina slip or on the boat trailer from which their vessel was launched. In other words, the total distance between start and finish is zero. And zero divided by any number of elapsed hours yields zero velocity.

~ Sebastian Kuhn, Physicist, Old Dominion University

So, why the need for speed? Isn’t this discussion a metaphor for life? We all seem to be so rushed with life and events going 1,000 miles per hour. And, most of the time, the rush is in an effort to earn money so we can get more things. But another oft-quoted quip reminds us, regarding all this “stuff” we accumulate “we can’t take it with us when we die.” One of the wisest men who ever lived, Solomon, reflects on this very concept of how life often seems to go nowhere for no real purpose:

What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-9, ESV)

Solomon continues through the entire book of Ecclesiastes with themes similar to the above. But in the last two verses of the book, Solomon offers his final insights and recommendations in the light of our vain predicament:

Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man. For God will judge us for everything we do, including every hidden thing, good or bad.

(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, TLB)

It would be a shame to come to the end of our lives only to find out that we spent a lot of time and energy to go nowhere, very fast. If Solomon was right (and he probably is since his wisdom was God-inspired) we would do best to focus on things that matter to God. I doubt, when we are standing in the place of final judgment before God, if He will be impressed with whether we had the newest model car, or the most beautifully appointed home, or whether we hit the maximum hull speeds in our sailboats. Instead, He will search our hearts to find if there was/is a deep respect for His ways and purposes mixed with a fervent desire to please Him because, as Solomon reminds us “this is the whole duty of man.”


Hope As An Anchor For the Soul

April 5, 2013

Last year, I spent almost two weeks with my son, Jeff, on his sailboat as we traveled down the Intracoastal Waterway. You can read more about our adventures in earlier blog posts here and here. Being a novice to the nautical world I learned a lot about boating and sailing on this trip. Even though the purpose of boating is to move distances over the water, a critical aspect of most trips aboard a vessel is the art of anchoring. I knew very little about anchors except that they were heavy, and I realized weight was only part of the formula.

Hope AnchorThere definitely is more to the science of anchoring than meets the eye. To achieve the best anchoring results, anchors should be matched to the type of bottom that exists under the boat. Anchors should first be attached to a length of heavy chain, then the chain is attached to a longer rope called the rode. The idea behind the chain is to cause the anchor line to lie on the bottom so the flukes of the anchor burrow into the bottom when the weight of the boat pulls on the line. The length of the rode and chain together which is deployed must be at least 5 times the depth in which the boat is anchored, and up to 10 times the depth in heavy conditions. For added security a second and even a third anchor can be deployed. And to add a final bit of insurance against the potential of breaking loose, you can use a GPS system that has an anchor alarm function. When the program is enabled, an alarm will sound if the boat moves beyond defined limits.

Obviously, the purpose of anchors is to keep the boat from moving when the captain does not want it to move. But the deeper purpose is peace of mind. When Jeff and I were faced with a decision whether to anchor in a fairly protected cove as Hurricane Sandy’s tropical winds approached, or to seek harbor at a marina, we chose the marina because we were not sure we had adequate anchor gear to weather the storm. Staying at a marina was certainly more expensive, but it provided much more serenity. We also ate much better at the marina than we would have otherwise, but that’s another story.

The Bible says that hope is like an anchor:

Therefore, we who have fled to him (God) for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

(Hebrews 6: 18b-19a, NLT)

What is the “hope that lies before us?” The writer of Hebrews explains that, because God had promised ultimate good to those who trust in Him, and because it is impossible for God to lie, this gives us the assurance and security we will be recipients of His blessings both now and in eternity. Like an anchor, this hope can hold us secure in the midst of the storms swirling around us each day. Instead of trusting the opinions of fallible men that change as often as the weather, we can set our anchors in the solid ground of God’s word. These lines from the hymn “The Solid Rock” say it well:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

~ Edward Mote

If you are experiencing “tropical storm” conditions in your life, and your anchor alarm is squealing, perhaps you should consider where you have set your anchor. Only the Lord Jesus Christ provides the firm foundation that gives the hope of eternal security.

Turning a Curse Into a Blessing

November 17, 2012

I wrote in an earlier post about a trip I took with my son to deliver his newly purchased sailboat, the Orenda, to his home port of Charleston, South Carolina. You can read about that adventure here. In this post I’d like to go into more detail on one aspect of that story.

We were grounded at an inlet near Beaufort, North Carolina. The tide had gone out, was now coming back in, and Jeff’s boat on which we had stayed awake all night was righting itself after having been heeled on it’s side in the shallow water for several hours. During this tense predicament Jeff and I had prayed together, asking God to protect us and the boat, and petitioning Him to send someone or something to help free us from the sandy bottom which held us in its clutches. At one point as Jeff was revving the engine in an attempt to power off the bottom the boat lurched forward only to become stuck again in another area of shallow water. Read the rest of this entry »

In God’s Hands

November 10, 2012

Recently I had the extreme pleasure of spending almost two weeks aboard my son Jeff’s newly acquired sailboat as he delivered it from it’s previous home port near Oriental, North Carolina to his home marina in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a 300 mile trip filled with excitement and wonder as well as frustration and anxiety. Jeff has lived and boated in an ocean environment for several years, but this excursion was an adventure which added quite a few novel experiences to my repertoire.

Motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway

Even though Jeff and I would have preferred going “off shore” on the ocean to sail to Charleston, several issues prevented our doing so.  Read the rest of this entry »


October 13, 2012

Recently I shared in a sermon that I’ve developed an unusual habit related to the search for satisfaction and contentment. When I begin to use a new bottle of shampoo in the shower, I look at the bottle and think “What will my life be like when this bottle is empty?” This quirky practice was particularly pertinent to me years ago when I was deeply dissatisfied with my current employment. I was looking for a way out, and the musings about the future helped me to cope, I suppose. Read the rest of this entry »