All the ships I sailed on were equipped with two lifeboats and several liferafts. It was the third officer’s responsibility to ensure that lifesaving equipment was kept in good order, but many tasks were delegated to the cadets. It is fair to say that I have spent many a happy day both as cadet and third officer working in lifeboats.

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The writer in 1975 at the helm of a ship’s lifeboat

On occasions lifeboats would be taken for a ‘jolly’ while ships were alongside or at anchor. On one ship I sailed on the chief officer went off one afternoon with a couple of others and didn’t return because they had ignored the rapidly receding tide and managed to strand the lifeboat on an island. Foolishly they had not taken a radio and could not contact the ship. Eventually the captain sent me in the other lifeboat to find the missing boat and men. (Click here to read that story.)

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One lifeboat aground, one coming to the rescue, although the tide needed to come in to refloat the stranded boat

During the August Bank Holiday this year we joined a group of good friends from church and headed down to Mumbles in South Wales where we spent most of the day on the beach. Having had to move up one beach twice in response to the incoming tide we eventually relocated to another beach close to Mumbles Lifeboat Station.


The main Mumbles Lifeboat inside the Lifeboat Station – in permanent readiness for being launched

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is staffed predominantly by volunteers who do a magnificent job in responding to ships and people in trouble, and came close to rescuing our two youngest (aged 16 and 20) who swam over to a rocky island with two friends. They swam back just before the current between the island and the mainland started to increase. By this time two girls had copied our kids and swum over to the island. The girls hadn’t been there five minutes before the inshore lifeboat arrived and brought them back to the beach.


Our kids and their friends about to swim back to the beach while two others were swimming out to the island

Those who serve on lifeboats are well aware of the dangers they face when carrying out rescues. Sometimes even the best boat, technology and equipment is not enough to prevent a disaster. In 1947 the entire eight-member crew of a former Mumbles lifeboat gave their lives while trying to save the crew of a ship in trouble.


The inshore lifeboat arrives

When I think of the sacrifice of those eight lifeboat crew I am reminded of a boatload of fishermen struggling to survive a vicious storm on Lake Galilee 2,000 years ago. Strangely the Son of God was soundly asleep in the stern of the boat despite the chaos all around Him. What I don’t understand is why those fishermen were so worried about the storm when they knew that Jesus was in the boat with them? And if Jesus could sleep through the storm then what should it have taken them to trust Him rather than shaking Him until He woke and with a few words calmed the storm?


Two young ladies rescued and safely returned to shore

With Jesus in the boat we do not need rescuing because He has already rescued us. He is our Saviour. I know that there are times that it seems as if He is asleep while we fight the storm. I wonder how He feels about such lack of faith? But like the disciples it takes time for us to learn how to trust the Son of God with everything and for everything. The question we have to ask ourselves is are we getting better at trusting Jesus or do we still think that He is fast asleep?

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27 NLT)