Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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Boat Fever

Long ago a chap in Florida (Virginia escapee) wanted to move back north. He said that he never got a chance to rest. It seems as if he was always doing seasonal chores that before he could let slip into fall, winter, spring and summer partitions. He lamented that he never got a break living in a temperate climate.

Around here we have all counted our blessings for the moderate, albeit wet, winter. How wet, one might ask? Well, so wet that our mold has mildew on it.

A test to the length of winter is boat fever. That is the direct result from being land-locked for any period of time. It doesn’t take but the least fair-weather front to make watermen drool at the thought of slipping their moorings and shedding harbor.

I found a good devotional piece in an old 1929 Standard Publishing Company book. Standard used to supply Sunday school materials and the necessary office support (records, journals). In their book More Four-minute Talks for Superintendents, written by K. L. Webb one reads: Just Boats—Mark 4:36: “And other boats were with him.” (Talk 5, page 16)

How many of us have been in a boat of any kind? How many have been in a rowboat, a canoe, a launch, a sailboat, a steamboat and an oceangoing ship? How many of you know anyone who works on a boat?

How long did it take Columbus to cross the Atlantic in 1492? Why did it require so much time to make the trip? How long does it take a boat to cross the Atlantic today?

Eleven years spent, Hazel and I were aboard a westbound Atlantic Disney Cruise; so relaxed from a wonderful cruise. Off the boat and in the airport we were shocked and alarmed when son Rob answered the phone saying, “Mom, you’d better come to South Carolina, we are about to be parents.” Had Hazel known of such, she would’ve jumped overboard and pulled the boat to Florida. Nonetheless, South Carolina was the detour home. Oh, the detour is now a sixth grader at Chesapeake Academy, shocked to learn: School’s Out!

Why can trans-Atlantic be done now in so short a time — is the ocean smaller? No, the change is in the boats. For hundreds of years boats carried passengers and freight with no other power than oars, tide and sails, but these would not be adequate today. More and more people are traveling than in those days; more freight is being shipped than the ancients ever could have thought. This makes it necessary to have larger boats with more reliable power, greater strength and increased capacity to accommodate this increasing traffic. Boats now have powerful engines, so that they may not be driven off course or delayed with their perishable cargoes. Even now some are lost in the storms and upon the rocks. A small boat is all very well in a calm sea, but on a stormy day we need “Leviathans” with their powerful engines to insure safe transportation.

This same demand is present in moral and spiritual matters. People are mingling more than they ever did before. We cannot depend upon the winds of chance, uncertainty and weak effort to get us where we want to go, lest we be as far out of place as a boat of Columbus would be upon the seas of today.

Everywhere people are urged by leaders to live larger lives — lives with driving motives which will be able to carry them through the waves. A narrow-souled person gets along very well as long as things are calm and peaceful, and he does not venture much, but when the waves of work and the spray of hurry and the winds of temptation begin to lash him, he needs something more than mere whims to hold him to his course, it takes strength of purpose and a determination to do right. Otherwise you are a drifter, a derelict, depending upon luck or accident.

We would not ship our goods over a steamship line that had defective boats or smooth-sea boats only. Neither should we entrust our souls to a line that is not equipped with high motives and stern determination. The kind of craft one has, decides how far one may safely travel.”

Well, that little piece might spark some discourse you may be called upon to render.

Titanic fever crept ashore around here, in recent decades. I viewed the borrowed flick in the privacy of home: popcorn and tears are not flattering. No matter how Hollywood dramatizes, romanticizes the sage, it was too sad for my public persona.

The only happy story I know about the Titanic is that our former next door Corrottoman neighbor, Fran Hayes, missed the Titanic because her papers for going aboard were not in order. She had to return home and wire her then Richmond-based husband of her pending delay. The boat sank. She stood in line and completed her emigration papers and later joined Fred for their 60-some year marriage voyage. That’s a love story.

Boat fever is welling up from beneath my toes. Those brave souls who have slipped harbor’s safety and wandered into my view have drawn me to bridge, door and car window. Spring is here. Ah yes, birds are singing.

Ugh, we no longer are personal property of any type of watercraft.