Celebrating our forty-second wedding anniversary earlier this week brought back memories of our wedding day and our honeymoon in Guernsey. I remember Marilyn’s shock when she realised that the plane with propellors was ours. Her Dad was an engineer with British Airways and she had only flown on large jets. We stayed in the hotel next to the house I grew up in where we met a couple who were celebrating their silver wedding. We got on so well with this couple that we made a pact to meet up again in the same hotel in twenty-five years’ time for their gold wedding and our silver, which we did.
Our second honeymoon began ten days after we returned from Guernsey. I was serving as a second officer with Geest Line back then, and Marilyn accompanied me on my next trip. Geest Line operated four identical ships carrying general cargo out to Barbados and the Windward Islands, and predominantly bananas home. We also carried twelve passengers. The round trips lasted twenty-eight days, although five days of each trip was spent in Barry Docks in South Wales, unloading and loading cargo. When we returned to Barry Docks Marilyn had to leave the ship while I had to stay and complete another round trip before having twenty-eight days’ leave.
During the homeward passage we encountered a particularly bad storm. We were not alone in the storm, and an RAF Nimrod alerted us to a trimaran in trouble. This vessel, the Charles Heidsieck, had been taking part in an ocean race from Lorient to Bermuda and back to Lorient.
Covering the thirty-seven nautical miles to the Charles Heidsieck took some time, given the sea state and the wind strength. The third officer and I had swapped watches meaning that I was on the 8-12 watch instead of the 12-4, so that I had more time with Marilyn and better sleeping patterns. Marilyn joined me on the bridge at 20:00 hours. Shortly after this we sighted the trimaran. It was now fast becoming a catamaran due to the weather.
The weather was too severe for us to put a boat in the water. It was a case of all hands on deck so I left Marilyn on the bridge with the captain where she was put to work operating the engine room telegraph as the captain tried to manoeuvre the ship into a position where we could enable the two French sailors to grab a cargo net. Nets had been rigged on both sides of the ship for this eventuality.
The weather was horrendous and it seemed as if we would never rescue the French sailors. Every attempt by the captain to create a lee where the trimaran could be safely brought alongside failed until 22:57 when out of the blue the impossible happened and the trimaran was suddenly alongside – right by a cargo net. Two of our West Indian able seamen risked their lives climbing down the net to assist the two exhausted Frenchmen onto our deck. Less than two minutes later the trimaran sank.
Both Frenchmen had been rescued before so I guess that they were aware of the risks, although they didn’t expect to be hit by such a violent storm. The storm would have been forecast, but perhaps the intensity was greater than predicted? Even if the French sailors had been aware of how bad the storm was going to be there was nothing that they could do to escape from it. The storms of life are like that. We are never quite sure how badly they will hit, Covid-19 being a great example. Who would have thought that the pandemic would have lasted this long and taken so many lives?
Who do you turn to in the storm? For two French sailors they had the good fortune that their distress call was picked up by a British military aircraft that just happened to be in the vicinity. They were also fortunate in that there was a British cargo ship nearby. I don’t know, but I am guessing that those Frenchmen prayed to God in the storm. He certainly answered. Even the wind and the waves obey Him!
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”