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After the incident with the two bosun birds (see previous post) the Sheaf Royal seemed to encounter more inclement weather than had been expected. Perhaps the birds were albatrosses and Neptune was seeking revenge? The weather continued to be challenging as we approached the Tsugaru Strait that separates the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. There was another problem in that both of our radars had packed up and Stan, our diminutive radio officer, was unable to repair them.

The bridge of the Sheaf Royal showing the main radar in the foreground. Neither of our radars were functioning when we transited the Tsugaru Strait in February 1974.

Because of the bad weather and the issue with the radars the mate decided that extra eyes were needed on the bridge and assigned his two cadets to watchkeeping duties. I got the 12-4 watch with the second mate, while George had the dubious privilege of joining the mate on the 4-8. Any extra cover on the 8-12 was provided by the captain.

The Sheaf Royal entered the Tsugaru Strait at 20:00 on Friday 22 February 1974. Scattered heavy snow showers conspired against us, reducing visibility and obscuring lights on the shore. We verified our position by taking bearings of these lights when we could see them. Lack of radar not only removed the possibility of taking radar bearings and distances to chart our position, but also meant that we were unable to monitor other vessels in the vicinity when visibility was reduced. This was a night when the captain earned his wages. By 02:00 on 23 February the Sheaf Royal was clear of the Tsugaru Strait and the old man left the bridge to get some rest leaving the second mate, me, and the duty quartermaster to finally relax a little.

Not having radar was also an issue for a bunch of fishermen on the Sea of Galilee some 2,000 years ago. The Bible records how they resorted to panic in two separate storms. Like us they couldn’t see the shore, but even had this been possible they had no charts or means of establishing their position. On the first occasion Jesus was in the boat but not providing an extra set of eyes because He was fast asleep. When woken by the crew (His disciples) He simply commanded the weather to behave itself and it did.

The next time the disciples were in a storm on Galilee Jesus wasn’t in the boat, but at just the right time He came walking towards the boat on the water, unaffected by the storm. Unsurprisingly, the disciples failed to recognise Jesus until He spoke. Not only were they blind to the shore, but they were also blind to their Saviour. And save them He did, but only after one disciple had a go at walking on the water.

I understand that by and large the world is as blind to Jesus now as it was when He walked on this planet. Often it takes a storm for blind eyes to see. Some will never see. I don’t understand that, particularly when God/Jesus is so visible in every created being, in every piece of life on Earth, and when the universe is on display in the night sky. If I ever doubted the existence of God when at sea I only had to gaze at the stars on a dark clear night. If I looked long enough I used to find myself completely overwhelmed by His presence. Just like Job in the Old Testament.

He alone has spread out the heavens, and marches on the waves of the sea.

He made all the stars – the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky.

He does great things too marvellous to understand. He performs countless miracles. (Job 9;8-10 NLT)