I meant to post this yesterday - you'll have to forgive me for being a day late.
Yesterday was Sea Sunday, the day we particularly remember seafarers in our prayers. Being an island nation, we depend on seafarers not just to defend our interests in times of war, but to provide us with much of what we need for our daily life. In 1995, I spent a month travelling on a container ship from Hong Kong to the UK. I was the only passenger, and the sailors treated me like a queen!
Last week, we were reminded of the perils of the sea when 110 children taking part in a junior regatta off the Irish coast were swept out to sea when a sudden squall blew up. Lifeboats, helicopters and the navy were instantly deployed, and thanks to the professionalism of the crews and a heavy dose of divine intervention, all of the children were safely recovered and there were no serious injuries.
A lifeboat came a little closer to home when I took part in a regatta a couple of years ago with the firm that I then worked for. Most of the crews were very inexperienced, and the regatta was seen as more of a social event than anything else. We were sailing from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight when the wind increased in strength. I have had few more terrifying experiences than clinging to the side of a small boat as it was buffeted by the waves, lurching and tipping through the water.
On arrival on the Isle of Wight, we learnt that another of the boats, carrying its crew of seven novice sailors and one experienced skipper, had hit a rock and sunk. The crew were rescued by a lifeboat just before their boat disappeared beneath the waves. Their clothes, wallets, car keys and other possessions were consigned alone to a watery grave.
At the gala dinner that night, seven grateful novice sailors told us how they had been rescued. They then described the poor condition of the lifeboat and explained that it was likely to be taken out of commission in the near future due to lack of funds. A bucket was passed round, and over £3,000 was collected to help keep afloat these people who risk their lives to save others.
On a calm, sunny day, there's nothing more beautiful than the sea. And on a dark, stormy night, there's nothing more terrifying. Please remember all seafarers in your prayers - the navy, the merchant navy, lifeboat crews, fishermen, and all others who battle the untamed elements for our safety and comfort.