In the fall of 1992, a well known American yachtsman by the name of Michael Plant began a solo crossing of the North Atlantic from the U. S. to France. His friends and family gave him an enthusiastic farewell as he set out to sea. No one had any reason for concern. After all, his mid-sized sailboat the Coyote, was state of the art. The best that could be made.
Not only that but Michael Plant had on board a brand-new 406 Megahertz Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (or Epirb) which was capable of transmitting a message to a satellite in case of difficulty. Four short signal bursts from the Epirb would be all that would be needed for ground stations to fix a location on the sender and initiate an immediate rescue. Plant had everything EXPERTISE, EXPERIENCE, THE BEST EQUIPMENT.
But eleven days into his journey something did go wrong. At first, they weren’t concerned. Maybe it was just bad weather. Maybe he was busy riding out a storm. Maybe something was wrong with his radio.
But when the silence persisted, a search was launched. Coast guard planes began to criss-cross the area. Ships were notified. Finally, almost a week later, a freighter spotted the Coyote floating upside down. But there was no sign of Michael Plant.
At first, that was reason for hope. Perhaps he was adrift somewhere in the emergency liferaft, but the liferaft was found still on board. Plant’s body to this day has never been found.
Later it was discovered that eleven days into his journey ground stations in Canada and the U.S. had indeed picked up a distress signal from his Epirb radio, but who were unable to locate the source of the transmission. Not only that, but Plant had failed to register the signal of his new radio with the Coast Guard so that their computers would recognize his distress code. Family members think he was just so confident in his ability that he took those safety precautions too casually.
But the most puzzling question about the whole thing was the fact that the Coyote was found floating upside down. They are built to take the most rigorous pounding the wind and waves can offer.
Once they got it out of the water, the answer was soon discovered. You see, for a sailboat to maintain a steady course, to keep from capsizing, to efficiently harness the power of the wind. THERE HAS TO BE MORE WEIGHT BELOW THE WATERLINE THAN THERE IS ABOVE IT.
When the Coyote was built an 8,000 pound weight was bolted to the keel for that very reason. That kind of ballast was needed for stability. For some unknown reason, when the Coyote was found that four ton weight was missing. Somehow it had come loose.
Without that stabilizing ballast below the waterline, the Coyote was no match for the storms of the North Atlantic.
This story raises a question that each of us needs to consider. How are things “below the waterline” of your life? Not the part of your life everyone can see. Not the part that is on display. But what about the part that no one knows anything about except you and God. When the storms come is there enough ballast to hold you steady?
The apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians that Christ might “strengthen” (them) with power through His Spirit in (their) inner being (Ephesians 3:16) at the soul level.
Maybe it would be a good idea to pull into dry dock and examine below the waterline. Are we cultivating a closer relationship with Christ? Are we increasing in the knowledge of His Word? Are we developing a heart of compassion for others? Are we building our faith muscles? How are things below the waterline? Take care of that and you’ll have smooth sailing, even through the storms.
Have a great week!