We left Port Edgar and heading out down the Forth. Overnight Jim turned out to be a reassuring pair of hands to have onboard and I managed to get some proper sleep. This feels like that feeling of coming in covered in dust to find ones mother has hot towels prepared and a warm bath. Given the humour prevalent onboard I didn’t let on too much how grateful I was but I could have hugged him. Caroline amazed me. She was seasick yet the moment her sickness was under any sort of control she bounced back like a green rubber ball with words such as, ‘Can I make tea?’ She proved to be such an irrepressible and bubbly spirit to be around that despite her personal struggles the general mood on board remained happy and confident. I feel slightly fraudulent in this because my general feeling of things going wrong was still there. The engine seemed to be running ok, I checked a few times and whilst it appeared a little hot and had started to smoke again, it sounded fine with no obvious leaks. As we rounded near North Berwick we encountered a deep rhythmic swell. It was this that initially triggered Carolines malaise. I associate this with a weather system out at sea and it normally means there is the possibility of a storm coming along a day or so later. We had a resplendent and beautiful dawn with the brooding red darkening the horizon’s edge. Then the engine stopped. I waited for it to cool and checked the oil and water levels. We had lost most of the engine oil. We had wind and spare oil so topped up and we proceeded to sail. I took the decision, weather permitting to head for Brighton if it looked like the engine issue precluded Mersea Island. As the day continued it was clear that Caroline’s sea sickness, despite her incredible fortitude, might not abate and it also seemed likely that Jim could also succumb. I love the writing in Matthew 11 in the bible. In this case it states:
‘“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
My burden has been incredibly heavy and the pressure to push on was immense. I knew that if I took the decision not to press on then I would be endangering the entire project. Against this I had the human responsibility to ensure that Caroline and Jim were placed at minimal risk and enjoyed their experience. I gave Navigators of Faith to Christ, it was always his in any case, and made the decision to abort and head towards Sunderland. I called ahead to be told that they had no room, and suspecting asking for a manger might not work I called to Royal Quays in North Shields. It seemed ideal as I could sail into the Tyne with the prevailing winds and use the engine at the last moment as we neared the lock. Five miles out the wind dropped as we neared some large stationary oil and cargo carriers. With no choice, other than anchoring, we reluctantly started the motor, initially on low revs to try and nurse her in. A huge swell, possibly as much as 3 or 4 metres commenced and the only option was to push ahead. At any moment our engine could stop and things were tense. As we neared the harbour entrance, with the bone crushing swell pushing us towards the harbour wall I knew that an engine failure now could be potentially fatal. Had I made the correct decision? We made it in, throttled back and then, just as we neared the waiting pontoon she died. With Jim and Caroline prepared we glided effortlessly onto the berth and safety, ropes taken by a cheerful and helpful marina staff member. I’ve always wondered why the Pope kissed the ground when he arrived, finally I knew and we also thanked God for our safe arrival. Which brings me back to Matthew 11. Earlier in the same chapter Jesus says:
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Confident in our faith we retired to the Zetland bar and raised a glass to our four crew members. Christ was there alongside us all the time.