Overcoming Fear on the Ocean

For several years I’ve had many opportunities to feel the presence of divine Love in overcoming fear. My brother and sister-in-law have owned sailboats and have asked us to accompany them on trips. Even though I grew up going on sailing trips with my family I found that my brother and sister-in-law’s method of sailing was quite different. I was used to cruising from port to port and only sailing during the day which was not what they usually did. The first time we went on a trip from Maine to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I found out that the plan was to sail through the night in order to reach our destination by afternoon the following day. I felt that I could do this trip and trusted my brother and sister-in-law because they had been graduates of the Coast Guard Academy and served in the Coast Guard. I knew that if they felt confident that we could do the trip safely I could trust their judgment. Then the time came for me to be on watch alone for a couple of hours before dawn. My brother gave me instructions on how to spot the tankers and fishing boats and told me that the self-steering mechanism was on and it was then that I started feeling fearful about the possibility of something wrong taking place on my watch. I decided that I needed to face this fear and know that God was with me, guiding me and that it was a wonderful time for me to understand that I wasn’t sitting there alone, but that Love was right there, governing everything and everyone. Our boat could not be in the wrong place, but only right where we needed to be. I started quietly singing any hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal that I could remember and soon found that I was able to appreciate the peacefulness out there on the ocean and was grateful for the clear night and that I could see the beautiful sky full of stars! I found a wonderful sense of God’s glory right there. Before I knew it, I was watching the sun rise and it was such a treat!

On the way home we had another opportunity to trust when we were traveling through a waterway that ran between several islands in the middle of the night. The waterway was marked but it was extremely dark and difficult to see them. We had charts and GPS loaded on a laptop computer and we could see our position but it wasn’t precise enough to tell us how close we were to the markers. It was at this time that I turned to God for the next step. The solution came to stand on the bow of the boat and call out when I saw the markers. Standing up there I could see the markers and that way we were able to make our way through the channel without colliding with any of them. I think about this experience and appreciate the lessons learned. The GPS and the charts were like the tools that we gain through our study of Christian Science and the guidance to go to the right spot where I could see the markers was the trust in God to govern and guide us even when we’re not sure about the path on which we’re traveling. Through study of the Bible and the Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary baker Eddy and her other writings we can learn how to trust God in any situation and let go of any feelings of fear that may hinder our progress. We couldn’t see the markers at first, but knew that they were there. By letting go of fear and opening thought to listen for answers we were able to see what had been there all along.

I had another opportunity to overcome fear when my brother asked me if my daughter and I wanted to go with them on the Newport to Bermuda race. My first thought was to say no, but then I asked myself if this response was due to fear about that type of race. I was reminded of the lessons that I had learned on my other experience and realized that I could trust God to guide and govern us on this trip.

We made plans for the trip, including training with the safety equipment, man overboard drills, and tracking our position on the chart. It was then that we learned about sailing through the Gulf Stream which can be quite challenging. I was tempted to be fearful about the things that could go wrong but again was reassured that each step of the way God had been guiding us and that I could continue to trust that Love would be governing. We started the race with great anticipation and began the trip with good wind and had made good progress when we entered the gulfstream. Things were going along fine until later that day and into the evening when we found that the wind and waves were increasing. The conditions were causing stress on the boat and I felt the fear creeping in. Since it was a race we wanted to use as much sail area as possible, however with the increasing winds and waves there was increasing stress on the boat. During that time I clung to the truth that God never leaves us even when things seem their worst. I was reminded of a passage in Science and Health, p. 495, where Mrs. Eddy says, “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious — as Life eternally is — can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not.” It soon became evident that decreasing the sail area was necessary and we ending up not taking on as much water as before and, yet, were still able to sail at a good pace. Later I found out that we had been encountering some rogue waves which have the potential of capsizing a boat. By “clinging steadfastly” I was able to once again conquer the fear, calm my thought, think clearly and listen. The situation was improved from that point and we finished the race in a good position.

On the return sail home I had yet another opportunity to conquer fear. We had to sail through an area on the north side of the Gulf Stream which is known for having high winds and seas. As we entered this area we encountered not only the high winds and seas but a thunderstorm as well. We quickly reduced our sail area, a difficult task given the increasing size of the waves, and those who were not on watch went down into the cabin in order to stay dry. I was one of the people who needed to be out on deck for that watch and had to work diligently not to let fear overwhelm me. I prayed to know that God was governing us and protecting us, yet I still struggled to feel calm and unafraid. Then my daughter (who was 11 at the time) came up on deck and said that she and her cousin were praying and I thanked her for that and we talked about how God was right there with us and we could be joyful about that. After a few minutes, she went back down into the cabin and said they were going to keep praying. My watch partner, who was not a Christian Scientist, said that’s really what we needed to do. My daughter’s sweet and simple thought lifted my thought and I gave gratitude for the angel message to all of us. It allayed my fear so that I was then able to feel God’s presence right there in the midst of the wind, rain, and lightning. Then the most remarkable thing happened. Even though these events were still taking place it felt as though our boat was in a calm, protected place, in the midst of the storm, but not touched by it. I had no doubt that I was feeling God’s power and presence right there where we were. I had such joy at that moment and knew that we would be absolutely fine. Shortly after this, we started edging out of the storm into calmer conditions.

I will always treasure this opportunity that I had because my daughter and I were able to see and experience things that we normally wouldn’t have. By conquering those fears I was able to witness the beauty of the moon rising over the ocean and the ocean animals swimming alongside the boat, not to mention visiting another country. Sharing the experience with family was also a precious gift that I would have missed out on if I had let fear dictate my decisions. I have found that it’s so important not to let fear do the talking when dealing with any situation. That experience of feeling God’s presence out in the ocean helped me to understand more about the fact that we are one with God. God never leaves us and no matter where we are we are being loved and protected by our Father/Mother. Psalm 139 reminds us of this: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”