After a long sail (motor) to Ardrossan from Pwllheli, with glassy smooth sea and glorious sunsets and sunrises, it was with mixed feelings that we dropped off Dave Stockley and picked up our new crew. I feel for Andy and Howard who will go through this many times over the next couple of months. Just when you are getting to know people and having gone through the intimacies of living in such close quarters and the sharing of your personal highs and lows, joys and fears, you say farewell and welcome the next group of people. It is an emotional sea that they sail and I am very aware that in too short a time, it will be my turn to say farewell. I will both miss Andy and worry for him.
It is tiring for anyone being on the boat; getting to know one another, being outdoors, learning new things, meeting people along the way, being physically hands on, concentrating on steering, plotting and planning navigation, cooking on a two-ring burner for six, staying tidy, lack of showers – mostly unfamiliar and therefore challenging territories. For Andy, who is responsible for the boat and for everyone’s safety I feel it is an even bigger strain. He loves being at sea but when things aren’t quite right with the boat and with a new crew every few days, he must be feeling the pressure. I know that God has led him here and I have absolute faith that He will continue to guide Andy through this, yet still I worry.
Having never traversed a canal before, the Crinan was a completely new experience for me and one which I loved. The social aspect of it was a pleasure. Being able to chat to fellow travellers and share what we were doing and why we were there was great. We had a good chat with a lad who was having a bad day and said morning prayer along the canal busy with passers-by. The views and scenery were something to behold – how can you not see God in creation in a place like this!? It was also a really nice change to be using our legs! Walking along the canal to the next lock, winding up and down and heaving the gates. It felt good to get the exercise after a week on board.
On coming out of the Crinan we headed for Iona and after a night anchored off Mull, arrived on St Columba’s day – a day of celebration. The Iona Community welcomed us with open arms, offering us a hot shower…just what we needed! It is a beautiful place, as are the other Hebridean islands and it was a wonderful opportunity to take some quality time out with Andy and relax. After the celebration service we had an interesting chat with one of the members of the Iona Community about the rules that they commit to and the specific matters of common concern they have and what these mean to her. One of those areas is ‘caring for creation by encouraging personal and collective accountability for use of energy’ so she has recently given up flying and uses other types of transport, despite her son living abroad. We discussed the wrangling of whether she could still fly for his wedding or for the birth of a grandchild. She has decided that she can fly for love but another member has decided not to under any circumstance. They must each decide where their responsibilities lie and the Community engages in discussion and action around these. They are accountable to one another for their use of time, money and resources. I have reflected on this over the last day and have felt that I do not hold myself accountable enough. After doing ‘plastic-less Lent’ I have given up using many single use products and have massively reduced my use of plastic but I wonder if I sacrifice enough. One of the closing responses for the morning service at Iona says, ‘We will not offer to God offerings that cost us nothing’.
Andy is sacrificing so much to do this voyage. He is away from home, he has put work on hold which has affected his business and his income and may not have a business to come home to, he is tired and run down, he is missing time with our dog who is terminally ill and he is missing both his mother’s and his father’s 80th birthdays as well as my father’s 80th. He is journeying where God has told him to go and in doing that is giving up control and handing it over to God. That takes Faith! So, as I think about saying farewell to Andy and Rival Star, I must keep that faith. I miss him terribly while he’s away but I must trust that God will provide for him and not just guide him. That God will be his strength and his salve. I am reminded of St Patricks prayer, ‘I will arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eyes to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me…I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation’. I will be praying that for Andy, ‘Lord, Hear my Prayer’.