Many years ago in another life I became part of an elite and special club. Members of this club used to meet soon after midnight in the bar of the m.v. Irish Wasa. The Irish Wasa is probably the biggest rust bucket I have ever sailed on. For my sins I completed two trips on this ancient iron ore carrier, so have spent nearly a year of my life on a ship that sank with the loss of several lives soon after the company I worked for sold her.
She might have been a rust bucket, but for most of my time on the Irish Wasa we had a fairly good crowd. At some point during my second trip the junior engineer on the 8-12 watch managed to acquire a sack of potatoes from the galley stores. The second cook may have helped by loaning his keys to the junior.
What might a junior engineer want with a large sack of potatoes you ask? Supper is the answer. You see the junior discovered that he could cook a mean jacket potato on the exhaust manifold of the main engine. In fact the junior engineer was able to cook quite a few potatoes in this way. And so it came about that soon after the 8-12 watch each evening the two engineers from the watch, the third mate and myself (I was a cadet at the time) would meet in the bar for a pint and a tatty or two. Soon the chief engineer discovered what was going on and began joining us each night.
One night in January 1976 we were hove to off the coast of Newfoundland in easily the worst storm I have experienced. Had I not grabbed hold of the third mate as he went past me on the bridge wing he would have gone over the side. Damage to the ship included our aerials blowing down leaving us with only the VHF. Just before midnight a crisis developed in the engine room and all hands were required to secure the overhead engine room crane to its rails before it plummeted onto the cylinder head and took out the engine, which would have been disastrous.
It was a while after midnight before the 8-12 watch finally made it to the bar. But we had been joined by the old man (the Captain) who needed a break from being on the bridge and probably trusted the second mate more than he trusted the third mate. A few minutes passed before the chief engineer asked if we were getting our supper or not. The captain was amazed when the junior engineer left the bar and returned with a stash of piping hot jacket potatoes. After that the captain joined us every night too. The chief cook never did find out why we were getting through potatoes quicker than usual.
In the worst of storms with the ship pitching and rolling so violently that all but one of the retaining bolts to the engine room crane sheared off, our jacket potatoes stayed firmly in place on the manifold, where despite everything they were cooked to perfection. Isn’t that reminiscent of life? In the worst of the storms of life there is always something that holds fast.
There is an old hymn that asks if your anchor will hold in the storms of life. This hymn was clearly not written by a seafarer. There is no way that a ship’s anchor would have held in some of the storms I have experienced. In this case we could not have anchored because the water was too deep. But Jesus is above the storm and this is the point the hymn writer was trying to make. When everything else fails us in the storms of life, and those we thought we could trust leave us adrift, there is still One we can turn to.
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.