Awe and Fear are Not Opposites
I’ve been thinking about this post for a year now and I still am not sure I can properly convey my experience the night that we sailed back from the Bahamas. After pulling into Grand Cay and taking stock of the up-coming weather, Dan and I quickly realized that we needed to make a choice quickly. That night and the next day were expected to be calm sailing and low waves for the crossing back to Florida but after that we were seeing 2 solid weeks of high wind and waves. We made the decision to head out at once to get back to the States and pulled up anchor before we ever set foot on the island.
We set our course for the Fort Pierce inlet, had some dinner and settled-in for a long night of motoring. The water was glassy and there was not a hint of wind from any direction. Dan took the first watch while I put Carter to bed and tried to get a couple hours of sleep in spite of the rumbling engine. When I woke up and went out, I could tell right away that Dan was not happy. A huge line of thunderclouds had appeared on the swiftly-disappearing horizon.
Typically, Dan loves watching a storm (evidenced by our pictures and video from the inside of a tropical storm at anchor) but the idea of getting struck by lightning in the middle of nowhere on a windless night was really starting to worry him. However, as we were too far from land to outrun the storm or anchor, the only real option was to keep moving and hope that we weren’t struck. (If we had been, we did have back-ups by means of secondary GPS items and physical charts, but we still weren’t relishing the idea of replacing all of our charts or especially the possibility of the engine dying in a strike and stranding us until the wind picked back up.) Dan went down to try to sleep after I assured him that I would wake him if anything serious happened.
Being on a boat at night is very different than during the day. The only light was from the stars and our running lights. The water was still glassy and the wind hadn’t picked-up. It was as if nothing in the world existed in that moment other than our boat and the water. And then came the lightning.
It’s hard for me to put into words the majesty of those few hours I spent watching the storms. One moment, everything was blackness, the entire world consumed by the inky shroud of night and in a single instant the entire sky would be lit up to reveal a monstrous wall of towering clouds stretching the entire width of the horizon in front of us. The dance of lightning strikes jumping from one cloud to another and down to the water’s surface was breath-taking, awe-inspiring, and terrifying all at once. At that moment, more than any other in my life, I was overpowered with reverence for the forces on this planet and the One who created them.
We eventually made it through with no damage to ourselves or our boat by early the next morning and motored through the rest of a calm day to safely enter Fort Pierce inlet, our trip to the Bahamas officially complete. However, those few hours touched my soul in a way that I am pretty confident I will never forget.
*While I was too in awe (and afraid of ruining our camera in the pouring rain) to take any pictures, this picture is the closest image I could find to what it looked like that night.