If you are following this blog you will know that I have been taking a journey down memory lane revisiting my seafaring days. At the end of May 1974 I was on my second trip to sea as a deck cadet on an old rust bucket named the Irish Wasa. Having crossed the Atlantic with 16,000 tons of Canadian iron ore the Irish Wasa spent four days discharging cargo in Turku in Finland. After this the Irish Wasa sailed for Luleå to load Swedish iron ore for discharge in Koverhar, a small Finnish port midway between Turku and Helsinki. I had hoped to see the midnight sun while in Luleå, but unfortunately this was obscured by the midnight clouds. From Koverhar we sailed back to Sweden to load iron ore in Oxelösund for discharge in Amsterdam.

Oxelösund – yes I still have postcards I bought in 1974! Note the prominent position of the church.

We arrived in Oxelösund on Tuesday 4 June. No cargo was to be loaded until the following morning and a group of us went ashore, eventually ending up at the local seamen’s club. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but later that evening the third mate managed to upset Jimmy, one of our junior engineers. Jimmy, who had consumed a few beers, was not in the mood for the third mate’s misplaced attempts at humour. Jimmy broke the third mate’s nose so badly that it appeared to have moved across his face towards one of his ears. What no-one knew was that Jimmy was not good at holding his beer, but excellent with his fists even after a few beers. In fact, Jimmy was so handy with his fists that he had spent time at Her Majesty’s pleasure and had only just been released prior to joining the Irish Wasa.

St Botvids Kyrka – built on a rock (by a wise men presumably (Matthew 7:24-27)) and visible from around the town of Oxelösund.

Unfortunately, the third mate was due to get married at the end of his trip on the Irish Wasa. Consequently, he was despatched the next morning to a Swedish hospital to see what they could do with his nose. This left us a man down with no possibility of getting a relief third mate before the Irish Wasa sailed. The chief officer decided that I would cover the third mate’s cargo and sea watches under the supervision of the captain.

While second trip cadets would not normally wish to spend so much time in the company of their captain, this was a hugely positive experience for me. The old man (he was 32) took great delight at having a young cadet with whom to share his knowledge and experience, and I soaked it up. Our route to Amsterdam via the Kiel Canal gave the captain the opportunity to teach me many aspects of coastal navigation by day and by night. He even left me on my own on the bridge for periods, although I did wonder if he was keeping a close eye on me just out of sight. You could say that the third mate did me a great favour in getting his nose broken.

I didn’t just learn navigation skills on watch with the captain. He also taught me how vital it is to invest time in the next generation. Jesus did this with His disciples who were also serving a form of cadetship, but under a Captain like no other. Sadly the church of today often forgets to follow the example set by Jesus, not to mention that of the early church that His disciples founded once they had completed their cadet training. Are we investing in the next generation? And is the church of today worthy of comparison with the one that was launched in Jerusalem at Pentecost roughly 2,000 years ago? Or is it in need of hospitalisation with somewhat more than just a badly broken nose?

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT)