Friday, December 27, 2013

Setting the course for the New Year

I've mentioned before that I lived on a yacht and sailed around for two years. We sailed north. We sailed south. We sailed coastal. We sailed offshore. We sailed fast and we sailed slow. We sailed during the day and we sailed at night.

I remember one night passage in particular. We had been anchored at Nassau's Paradise Island and had upped anchor to scoot to nearby Rose Island. Rose Island is a long, skinny palm tree-lined island with no roads and no houses. A daily excursion boat playing a steel drum version of Yellow Bird arrived every day. We'd hear Yellow Bird coming, we'd hear Yellow Bird staying, we'd hear Yellow Bird going. I liked hearing the distant calypso steel drums, their notes winding around the palm tree leaves before bouncing off to arrive at our swaying boat to serenade us. In between it was quiet. Very quiet.

When we decided to leave, we wanted to head back north to Great Abaco Island. We plotted our trip on the chart. It necessitated scooting around the western tip of Rose island we were anchored behind, turning north, making a deep water passage, and then turning west to get inside the Abaco island chain. There were no navigational aids to mariners. We'd have to sail in between dodgy narrow cliffs with shallow waters dotted with deadly coral heads. Coral is sharp, it could rip a hole in the bottom of your boat faster than a blink.

It's easy to see coral heads if the sun is behind your back, you're wearing polarized sunglasses, and you stand far forward on the bow or even better, higher up if you have a wheelhouse. Unfortunately, this meant that to arrive in time for the sun to be behind our back in order to navigate the coral, we'd have to get there before noon. And that meant sailing overnight to arrive at sunrise.

We left Rose Island at dusk, and as the sun set, turned our vessel toward Great Abaco. Our heading was 0 degrees, due north.

Source
Compass set for 0 degrees captain. Easy enough. The sky darkened, turned blue, then purple, then black. The stars came out. Absent any competing light, they were bright. However, one star stood out. It hung off our left spreader. The spreader is the cross-spar halfway up the mast. Our mast was unusual for a modern boat, it was wooden.


If I pointed the left spreader with the star just at the end of it, I could maintain my true north, 0 degree course. That is because the star was the North Star, and the north star never moves. All the other stars rotate around it, but Polaris never moves.

A long exposure photo of Polaris & neighbouring stars
(exposure time 45 min),taken in Ehrenb├╝rg
(Walberla) in 2001. Source

The North Star is a pole star, and it's called Polaris. There is only one, the North Star. Wiki says, "While other stars' apparent positions in the sky change throughout the night, as they appear to rotate around the celestial poles, pole stars' apparent positions remain virtually fixed. This makes them especially useful in celestial navigation: they are a dependable indicator of the direction toward the respective geographic pole although not exact; they are virtually fixed, and their angle of elevation can also be used to determine latitude. ... The North Star has historically been used for navigation since Late Antiquity, both to find the direction of north and to determine latitude."

We did not sail by celestial navigation, even though we had a sextant. We didn't have a GPS either but we used the compass and the charts and eyeball and Loran. (Yes, that's how old we are). We loved using the North Star as our navigational aid. It made us feel like sailors of antiquity, brave and adventurous, casting off to parts unknown and getting there using only what was set in the heavens.

Little did I know that in truth, that ten years later I'd come to know the real God who set the stars in the heavens. (Genesis 1:16). Now my adventures are more biblical, casting off for spiritual parts unknown, and following my North Star, who never moves from His position, and is always bright.

My New Year wish for you is that you follow the North Star. Always, always keep your heading to true north. Always check for drift and for undersea hazards that can rip your keel off and sink you in a blink. It is Jesus who never moves, never changes, and all other beings, planets, and stars rotate around HIM. You cannot go wrong with a compass heading as true as that. Follow Him, whether it is night or day, or whether there are rough or smooth waters. Navigate by His brightness, and the course that is set will see you there safely.

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)

Happy New Year.



2 comments:

  1. Hi Elizabeth, I always love reading your sailing related posts. It's wonderful how you can parallel those experiences with spiritual truths. :) Just like your Father... always using the material world to teach lessons about the spiritual.

    Happy New Year! (a few days early)

    -Carolyn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Carolyn! Happy New Year to you as well.

      I enjoy reading them in the bible, the shepherds, agriculture, wheat and chaff, and especially Paul's sailing allusions. God sent me around the world and taught me many things as I observed His creation, even though I didn't know it at the time! I love applying what I learned from the natural world to spiritual truths. I'm glad you like reading them!

      Delete

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