The four men and women had been around the sea all their lives. They were avid boaters, trained carefully by their father. He knew lack of training could result in disaster, because the sea held no close friendships with any human, no matter how much that human loved the sea.
So how did it happen? And why? No one knows.
As the hot summer sun beat down on the mudflats and marsh grass, all four cousins set out on a pleasure trip to the open sea. Their party also included one more, the wife of the younger brother. Armed with cans of soda and snacks for lunch, they hugged their elderly parents goodbye, and headed for the dock. Being the responsible person that he was, the older son checked the radio to ensure it was working properly, since there were no cell phones in that day. Satisfied that they were ready to go, he cast off. Soon they passed the last buoy in the mouth of the inlet, the boat bouncing over the choppy waves, the wind in their hair and the spray of salt water in their faces.
Having arrived at their destination, all settled in to relax and enjoy God's beautiful creation. They watched for dolphins, or for angelfish that swam close by. Occasionally, they saw a shark, though it was only a baby about three to four feet long. Talking, joking and laughing together, they feasted on the snacks they had brought. All too soon, it was time to head home.
However, the engine wouldn't start.
As a matter of fact, it wouldn't even sputter. The younger son checked the fuel lines, and the engine itself. Nothing appeared to be wrong. Time passed, and the women became uneasy. They watched their brothers discuss the situation, and prayed. Their joyful mood was replaced with tense silence. Finally, the older son turned to the radio to call for help.
But it wasn't working.
Concern seized the crew of five as they realized their plight. Then, as the sun began to set, one of the young men realized they were drifting away from the shoreline. As the others came to the same realization, one of the sisters turned her head so the others wouldn't see her tears. The other hugged her new sister-in-law, who gazed at her husband. Having no answers for his new bride, he turned his face to hide his frustration. Night was setting in quickly, and they were far from home.
They knew if they didn't arrive home as expected, especially by nightfall, then their parents would take action. They had explained in detail where they would be, so it wouldn't be hard for the Coast Guard to locate them, especially from a helicopter. Certainly they would be found by morning. Deciding who would take the first and second watches, they prepared for a chilly sleepover.
What they didn't know, however, was that during that afternoon their father had suffered a fatal heart attack, and was gone. In her grief, their mother ran to the neighbor's house for help, and followed the ambulance to the hospital where her husband was pronounced dead. During that time, she didnít think about the fact that her children weren't back from their trip. Hours later, she made the fretful call to the Coast Guard, wondering if she would have to have six caskets at the funeral instead of just one.
Four days later, with no explanation at all, the small ocean-going vessel and its crew washed into a harbor some four hours south of the place where they had left the coast. None of it made sense; the Gulf Stream should have taken them north and farther out to sea. Having never been spotted by the Coast Guard, they were weak and dehydrated. But never had they been so glad to see land and familiar faces, including their mom whose joy at their return far outweighed her grief as she announced to the children the loss they would soon discover.
It was the wisdom of an earthly father, now gone, that kept the crew from making hasty decisions that could have cost them their lives. However, each of them knew that it wasnít his training or their planning that had saved them from disaster. It was the Providence of a Heavenly Father that kept their boat turned toward the shore, finally guiding it safely to a harbor where help could be found.
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