Stepping Out On Faith
“But you’ve never really sailed before, you should learn first.”
“So, how do you think we should go about learning?”
“You’ve got to sail,” came the reply. With that, I shrugged that off our list of concerns. If nothing else happened, we were going to sail.
Such was the first response of those close to us when we shared our plans to sail around the world—a very real and very valid concern.
During the Summer of 2002, in the midst of America’s escalation of war against another abstraction—this time against Terrorism—God laid on our hearts a desire to give our children the incredible experience of sailing around the world.
The second and deeper concern arose as we shared our itinerary: “You’re going to a lot of places where they don’t value human life like we do.”
Over the course of the following five years, we learned to sail; the second concern arose from a collective fiction we had grown comfortable believing.
Stepping Out On Faith
We chose to name our boat Faith as a metaphor of how God brought us to this point and to serve as a reminder during this adventure. A boat, in spite of the romantic ideas of personhood we like to attribute her, is a piece of equipment (I say this now because our boat is for sale, and it’s easier to pretending this than say, selling a family member). Faith is a 56’ cutter-rigged fiberglass monohull, with sufficient room to be our small island home for the duration of our trip. A home in which our family’s relationships with each other required living-out rather than fleeing from.
On November 2, 2003, we departed the dock in Hampton, Virginia. A five-year old boy, two girls, twelve and sixteen, my wife Lorrie and I comprised our family—basically four children and one prevention specialist. Lorrie’s role was to help me distinguish between ‘child-like’ and ‘childish’.
Our first confrontation with unpleasant weather found me scared and Lorrie sick. Believing the kids were all shook up, she instructed me to comfort them. I checked on Greggii (the second, thus ii) and Emily, whose anxieties were masked by a deep sleep, then on Amanda, lying on the top bunk of the starboard cabin, where I put my arm on her shoulder.
“You’re still awake?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, I can’t sleep.”
“Are you OK?”
With 12-year-old innocence, she responded, “Yeah. Why?”
“The boat is going all over the place, and the crashing waves, does that bother you?”
“No. Why would it? It’s a boat, Dad!”
The faith of a child.
His Creation Revealed
On passage, a thousand miles from the nearest land, I showed Greggii the kite lying on its side—the Southern Cross—that amazing constellation that lies on the horizon at its dawn and its dusk, but stands vertical at its noon elevation. Then he wanted to see “that guy’s belt,” and while I pointed to Orion, the sky grew brilliant as a meteor tore open the inky canvas.
“Did you see that, Gregg?”
“Wow dad. That was cool!”
During daylight, we swam in those waters. Swimming was a treat when the horizon possessed only sky and water, where the depth was measured in miles.
With this distance from land and depth of the water, we experienced colors that cannot be captured on canvas or film—colors that appeared at night to be illuminated from within by an eerie green glow from the bow wave, along the hull, and trailing in Faith’s wake to the horizon. The term phosphorescence—as millions of organisms emit this glow when disturbed—enhanced the romance of this phenomenon.
Aromas warned of approaching landfalls before land was sighted.
“How much farther, Dad?”
“Tomorrow, maybe the next day.”
Time acquired new definition and the water was separated by dry ground. Dry ground of ancient eroded volcanoes where all that remains is a ring of coral, an atoll, or less ancient partially eroded volcanoes that reveal the rugged landscapes of Bora-Bora, the Marquesas, Tonga, Indonesia, and the Malaysian Peninsula, or the live volcano of Vanuatu–Mt. Yasur, currently constructing a new landscape.
God showed us many more landscapes created by forces more complex than rushing lava. Overlaid on all, just as in the oceans, were the living creatures—created each according to their kind; God allowed us a taste, literally and figuratively, of these elements of creation.
In Tonga, we boarded a whale-watch boat. The pilot steered us into open water where we saw five adult whales lazing about, surfacing, then diving for several minutes, then surfacing again. While we were all ready to pee our pants with adrenaline, the guide explained the safety precaution: if they breach, get out of the water. She then escorted us into the water to swim with them. Few events cause my world to freeze, but the underwater silence broken only by my breathing, while watching these magnificent shadows dance, was one such event.
In Kumai, Indonesia, a small city on the south shore of the island of Borneo, we visited an orangutan preserve. During our time there, a female orangutan named Francis, grabbed me by the hand to take me for a brief walk. Francis then lumbered over to sit on a bench next to my daughter Emily and play with the cuff of her jeans.
Four gibbons entertained Greggii by taking small green fruits out of his hand.
Amanda sat down next to Francis, wearing a crocheted hat that caught Francis’s attention. Slowly, Francis reached up to liberate Amanda’s hat before moving onto the grass where she played with it and put it on.
When you’re in the Galapagos, you will see marina iguanas, tortoises, turtles, boobies, sea lions, and tropical penguins. When making a journey such as ours, and the Galapagos was a part of that journey, one cannot help but witness the ocean, the sky, the land, and the creatures. All that stuff is scenic and it’s an important part of creation. But what grew to be most special about circumnavigating the world was the created image of God that we witnessed everywhere.