Susan C. Anthony

GPS track, a tangleAnchored in a Storm

It was great to see several of you down in Whittier yesterday. You don't get weather any better than that in Whittier. One thing I like about outings like that is getting to know more about people's lives and interests outside of church. We took some of the kids over to the bird rookery. A couple of boys wanted to explore every cupboard and compartment in the boat. It was great fun.

Susan and I have been going out on Prince William Sound every summer since 1994, the year we bought a little Bayliner Trophy. It was great to have the chance to share some of what we like about it with some of you.

A few years ago, my next door neighbor put his 25’ Erichson sailboat up for sale. He erected the mast in his yard, polished it up for display, and left it there, right where I had to walk by it twice every time I walked the dog. Of course, I had to go take a look. He had been my neighbor in 1980 when he bought the boat new, and I’d heard about his trips to Prince William Sound for years. He told me more as we sat in the boat and he pointed out all its features. He took extremely good care of the boat. I don’t even think they went inside with their boots on, in order to preserve the wooden floor. He added a little kerosene heater and I could just imagine us anchored in some little cove with rain pouring down, cozy and warm inside. There were so many good things about it, one being we can trailer it and store it in our yard here in town. That’s a big deal for a sailboat with a fixed keel 5’ deep with 2000 lbs of lead. It saves lots of money and trouble.

He offered me all his sailing books and even a year’s subscription to Cruising magazine. I guess he thought he was getting too old for sailing, despite the fact that he’s quite a bit younger than I am.

Susan knew I was interested and tried to talk me out of buying it, but it was an excellent price and included everything down to all the emergency gear, tools, dishes and real silver silverware. Eventually, I couldn’t resist. Susan and I have an agreement that as long as we don’t go into debt, we can spend a certain amount without both of us being in agreement. The boat cost just about that amount. She got back home from a trip to Kenai fjords with her mom and learned that the boat was ours.

An advantage of the power boat had been we could put it in and out of the water easily. Launching the sailboat is a big operation. You have to back it to the water, unhitch, pull the truck forward, put on a 30’ tongue extension, rehitch, and finally launch. The tide has to be high. We often get an audience, and last week someone told me afterward he'd placed a bet we couldn't do it! Once it’s launched, it’s in the water for the summer. We go out in the middle of the Sound until we’re done boating for the season.

This summer things didn’t go too smoothly. I won’t go into the details, but we were ten days late getting out. We finally launched the boat the day the weather deteriorated. Four miles out the motor quit. Water in the gas. It took an additional day to drain the tank and set out again. We got across the big expanse of Port Wells and into Culross Passage before the weather got really bad. The first day out we were at anchor in pouring rain and wind. It was OK. At least we were out of town.

The weather improved after that but the prediction was for a big storm to arrive Thursday. It came right on schedule. We anchored up in Bear Cove, what was billed as a “very secure anchorage” on Knight Island in The Cruising Guide to Prince William Sound, setting two good anchors. We tied the canoe up over the cockpit so it wouldn’t bounce against the sailboat in the night. The rain began pouring down in sheets. At midnight we were awakened by a violent williwaw that heeled the boat over and sent everything flying. We scrambled outside, took down the anchor light that had blown out, and checked the anchor lines. Everything seemed secure. The depth sounder still showed 60 feet. We turned on the GPS and watched it to be sure we weren’t dragging anchor. Everything seemed OK so we went back to sleep.

At 2:00 in the morning we were awakened again by a series of williwaws gusting to 60 mph and above. After that, it was impossible to sleep. I’ve never been in such violent wind. You could hear it gathering at the top of the mountain before swooping down on us at great speed and smashing into the boat. It was terrifying. All through the night, the next morning and the next afternoon, it wailed. Once I looked out the window and saw a 20’ waterspout where the wind smashed into the water.

Williwaws are winds that come down a mountain. Wind picks up speed as it moves across open water with nothing to slow it down. When it reaches mountains like those on Knight Island, there's a venturi effect such as that on top of an airplane wing. The wind picks up tremendous speed as it goes up and over the peaks, then smashes down the lee side.

Luckily, we had a GPS with a moving map. It showed a bread crumb trail of where we were being blown. We could see that the anchors were holding. By the time the wind abated, the circle was almost black, like a tightly wound ball of yarn. (See photo.) We must have spun around and around hundreds of times.

We were completely dependent on our anchors. If they had dragged, the boat would have blown onto the rocks and we couldn't have done anything to stop it.

Despite the terror of the night, it WAS a very secure anchorage. The holding ground in the darkness below was excellent. Our anchors were invisible. We couldn’t see what was going on 60’ below us. We could only feel the violence of the wind on the surface.

I told this story because it reminds me of life. We all go through storms, times when trouble just won’t abate. Sometimes all we can do is hang on and pray for relief. Susan and I did a lot of praying that night and day. We wanted the wind to abate, of course, but the most important thing was that the anchors hold. Jesus doesn’t always remove the storms from our lives, but He is the holding ground to which our anchors are attached. We can’t see Him, but He’s protecting us, even when the storms of life rage and we're terrified.

Hebrews 6:19 says:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..

So if Jesus is the holding ground in this analogy, and hope is the anchor, what is the anchor line? I’d say it’s prayer, faith, and the Spirit of God within us. We are assured that even if we despair and allow strands of the line to fray, we will not be lost. Our job is to hold fast to the Lord, no matter what.

Joshua 22:5 says:

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.

Our job is to hold on, to hold fast.

We have never been out on the sea in a big storm, at least not yet. Earlier this summer, I made the statement that we’d never run into a rock. I can't say that anymore. I’ll tell you more about that another day.

Life is like a journey across the water. If we keep our sights fixed on our destination, eternal life with Jesus, it helps us weather the storms. When things are going fine in our lives on earth, it’s like fair skies and fine winds on the sea. But the sea can never be our home, just as this world can never be our home. We know this is not where we belong, especially when the winds shriek and the waves crash.

Our job is to hold tightly to Jesus and to depend on Him to meet all our needs, not necessarily fulfill all our desires, at least at present. Focusing on our destination can help us weather the storms, but it is only when we reach our eternal home that we will be truly safe.

Amy Shreve wrote a beautiful song called Faraway that Susan's going to sing for us now.  Find more of Amy's beautiful music at:

I have sailed these seas, I have held to my course.
I've been whipped by the winds and the gales of the north.
And I dream of home, full of comfort and warmth
To carry me on through the journey.

I am weathered and drained from the suffering and war
And my vessel shows age as I strain for the shore.
And I miss my kin, who have gone on before
So I am still restless and yearning.

Far away my home seems to beckon me on
To its shelter, dry and safe.
There I will be free from the storms of the sea.
When I reach my home, so far away.

When the breezes are trace and the waters are fine
I am fond of this place, twix the air and the brine,
But I dare not claim what can never be mine
For 'neath me the current's still churning.

Far away, I know, is the treasure I've stowed
And its brilliance never fades.
Things that charm the sea become worthless to me
As I think of home, so far away.

Far away, my home seems to beckon me on
To its shelter, dry and safe.
There I will be free from the storms of the sea
When I ready my home, so far away,
Far away. La la la la la la la la la la,
Far away.

I have sailed these seas, I have held to my course,
I've been whipped by the winds and the gales of the north.

Far away, my home seems to beckon me on
To its shelter, dry and safe.
There I will be free from the storms of the sea
When I reach my home, so far away.

Far away, my home seems to beckon me on
For my Captain there awaits.
I can hear His call as the waves crash and fall
To the land I love, so far away.

Go on to read Avoiding the Rocks
Source:, ┬ęSusan C. Anthony