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Walking With ClarenceA Sacred Journey To A Deeper Faith
By Jed Allen Freels
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Jed Allen Freels
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePushing the limits The Hobie Cat
As the storm intensified and the swelling waves continued to push us towards shore, I realized that time was of the essence. Our continued attempts at righting the Hobie had proved unsuccessful. As Lake Michigan continued to unleash her mighty forces, I began to comprehend that this could be the end. Laying my head on the overturned tramp, I began to pray....
6 Hours earlier
It was a beautiful day on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. I had chosen to spend the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college working on my Dad's charter boat for the summer. Most days were filled with First Mate duties. The duties included things like getting up early to stow lines, check equipment, make coffee, and in general ensure that The Country Boy was ready for her charter that day. But today was different. The Country Boy was scheduled for some routine maintenance so I had the day off. When you have a day off on the southern shores of Lake Michigan, the question is not what to do. The question is just which beach to do it on. But just as luck would have it my day off was not going to be a great beach day. The skies were overcast and a northern' was blowing in. This usually meant that the next three days would be anything but picture perfect.
The Country Boy was berthed right next to the Coast Guard station so I glanced over at the weather flags of the day...." Huh, 2-4 footers, that's not bad." So, I guess when God gives you lemons, you make lemonade ... time to go sailing.
I called my buddy, Craig, and said, "What do you think about a morning sail before this storm gets too bad?" He was up for the challenge and plans were tentatively set. I called Quake to see if anyone was using the Hobie Cat that day. He said it was a little rough for most people, and the Hobie was sitting on the beach at the Red Lantern Inn. I called Craig back and said, "We're on."
The Red Lantern Inn at that time was a great place to start a sail. It was located on the edge of the beach right in the middle of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The front of the inn at one time had been protected with a rock break wall to keep the surf from eroding the beach on which the inn was built. This made a great place for Hobie Caters to keep their boats if you could make arrangements with Danny at the inn to store your sails and equipment. Quake had connections everywhere so he had an in with Danny. The thing that was so great about having the Red Lantern as a base is you did not have a long sail out of the harbor to hit good wind and waves which is the goal of every Hobie Cater. At the Red Lantern, you just shoved off, and you were sailing.
Quake's Hobie Cat was an orange sixteen-footer with sunburst sails, a perfect craft. Among Hobie Caters, it was the vessel of choice. A fourteen-footer could not quite handle truly rough water, and an eighteen-footer was just a little too stable and safe. If you wanted to be on the edge and push the limits, the sixteen-footer was the ride.
Craig and I arrived at the Red Lantern Inn at about the same time and surveyed the surf. It was rough, pushing three footers, but if the storm held off we should have a great morning of one-hulling. We quickly changed into our wet suits and carried the rigging equipment and sails from the Red Lantern out to the Hobie Cat. Craig attached the rudders and center boards while I attached the jib sail. Together we attached the main sail and boom and ran the main sail up the mast. Her sunburst color pattern was visible for miles down the beach, especially since we were the only people making sail. We grabbed our life vests, put them on over our wetsuits, and then secured our trapeze harnesses in place. As our final presail check, we pulled the plugs on both sides of the twin-hulled catamaran and made sure that they were water free. All was right so we replaced the plugs, swung the bow around, and shoved off.
It was a great wind to tack into with plenty of power to overcome the current level of surf. It was sure to make for some great hull running. We drew taunt the jib sail, pulled in the main mast boom, and the Hobie surged out to sea. The swells were challenging but once we broke free of the crashing surf, they were manageable. We tacked northeast for about ten minutes to get out into open water. Then we brought her about to the port side. As the boom swung and the jib adjusted, we settled in for a nice northwest tack. It was exhilarating. As we pulled in the main boom to capture more wind, the tiny craft rose out of the water. We were one-hulling. Craig and I both fastened into the trapeze harness. As the little craft stood on her side and rode the waves with her port hull, we were standing on the starboard hull a full eight feet above the water. We leaned out over the churning sea below us, attached only by the thin cable running from the mast to our trapeze harness. We were human counterbalances to keep the tiny craft from capsizing. We were on the edge, and we loved it. The morning stretched on and with each tack and change in direction, we sailed farther from shore. Caught up in the moment of each hull ride, we jumped from swell to swell and from crest to crest. We realized that the seas were becoming rougher. This added to the exhilarating feel each time one of the sixteen-foot hulls would dance up and out of the water to fly with us aboard.
Then it happened: a small slip on a starboard tack. As we came around and slid across the trampoline that connected the two sixteen-foot hulls, a gust of wind surged and caught the main sail before I could release the main boom rope from the secured position just below the main boom pulley. The Hobie surged sideways and the sail crashed into the lake. We were both attached by our safety lines, and as we slid into the lake the craft pulled us forward. I furiously kicked for the surface, with a hand instinctively above my head. I broke the surface just a few feet from the Hobie which was now lying on its side. The sails were fluttering on top of the water. I surveyed for Craig and found that he had surfaced just on the other side of the floating hull. As I joined him, we took stock of our situation. This was nothing new when you run the fine line of one-hulling. As a matter of fact, for those of us on the edge it was somewhat of a daily occurrence. We set about the simple task of righting the craft. We maneuvered the Hobie into position so that the wind would not hinder her rise. We loosened all sails and freed the tiller ropes. We stood on the floating hull and reached up for the ropes tied under the trampoline. We grabbed the rope attached to the top hull standing above the water and leaned back. As we leaned back, the weight of our bodies acted as a counterbalance. The mast and main sail began to rise out of the water. Things were going as planned just as they had every other time, on every other day when I had found myself in this situation. In a matter of minutes, we would be sailing again and pushing the limit.
Yet this time things would not go so smoothly. As the sail began to clear the water, the floating hull began to list to the stern. Quickly Craig and I walked the hull to try to balance the stern list, but we were too late. The mast dipped into the crest of an oncoming wave and sank below the surface. The stern list was too great for us to counterbalance. The mast continued to sink until our top side hull crashed into the water and joined our other floating hull. We were turtled, a Hobie Caters worst embarrassment. Our mast was pointing straight down towards the bottom of mighty Lake Michigan. We were completely upside down. Two tiny sixteen-foot hulls were attached by a trampoline, rudders and center boards pointing to the clouds paying homage to the sailing Gods. We crawled onto the upside down tramp, looked around to see if anyone could see us and laughed. No one saw us because we were so far offshore that the shoreline was a distant line on the horizon. There was not another boat in sight. Our embarrassment was safe because nobody knew but us.
We laid there on the overturned Hobie Cat for several minutes to survey the situation. The seas had become much rougher with whitecaps riding each crest now. The little craft would rise on the overturned hulls with each crest and float the troughs between each wave. The storm was definitely intensifying, and it appeared that it was time to make a break for shore.
Righting a turtled Hobie Cat was no easy task. I had done it once before in much calmer seas, but this was going to be a challenge. We positioned our weight on the port hull. Grabbing the righting lines on the bottom of the tramp, we began to lean out over the side to start the mast on the upward journey to the surface. After a few minutes, much to my satisfaction, the mast began to break free. The sail began to flap in the wind. Just as I thought we were coming over, it happened again. The hull listed to the stern, the mast dipped, caught a wave and headed back to the comfortable position pointing toward the bottom. I was perplexed, but determined. I realized the seas were rough, but this was doable. We tried again and again and again. Each time we had small variations of success but the same results. The mast pointed straight down toward the bottom of mighty Lake Michigan.
Hours passed and the seas became rougher and heavier. Without fail, every attempt to right the tiny craft so that the sunburst sails would once again fill with the northern wind were unsuccessful. It was during this time that we discovered that one of the hulls was laying low in the water. After a quick inspection, we discovered that the hull had a small breach on the keel line. The small hole was the result of being dragged up and down the beach so often. Now the picture began to come into focus. The one hull had collected just enough water during our morning sail before capsizing that she was heavy laden in the water. Every time we would try to right the craft, the water would run to the stern end of the craft and counteract our efforts. We could not drain the water from the hull because the drain plugs were on the stern surface at the bottom of the hull which of course now was the top!
With intensifying seas and what seemed an impossible task, I began to look for options. We had only two: abandon the Hobie and attempt the long swim back to shore, or stay with her and take our chances when we hit the beach.
With option one, we would be free of the Hobie. If we used our safety lines, we might be able to stay connected and both reach the beach. However in intense seas such as this, I knew the undercurrent would be strong enough to pull us both under and back out to sea. Over the years, I had witnessed my Dad pulling stranded boats off the beach and looking for people lost to the rip currents.
With option two, we could float on the Hobie and stay with her until she began to be pounded apart by the surf. That might get us close enough to overcome the undercurrents and make shore. Yet if for some reason the boat crashed and fell apart sooner we could become caught up in the debris. Reaching shore alive would be out of the question.
With neither option being acceptable, we would have to invent option three. We had to find a way to right the craft and sail her in. If we could right her in the rough seas, we could run with the wind and ride the breakers. We could land her on the beach. Determined, we started again to right the faltering Hobie Cat. We knew now that if we could counterbalance the water as it ran towards the stern, we may be able to keep her from listing. Yet when one of us would try to counter the bow to stern run of the water in the hull, the other person did not have enough counterbalances to continue righting the mast. Each time we tried to overcome the situation, we failed! We just did not have enough counterbalances in the right places at the right time to get the job done.
As we laid on the overturned trampoline with our mast still pointed to the bottom, I saw in the distance a sign of hope. This sign was the boat that I saw every morning when I woke up on The Country Boy, because she was docked right next to us, the US Coast Guard Cutter 44! The 44 was the toughest Coast Guard boat ever designed. She could sail straight into the oncoming waves and stand on end. She could roll completely over and right herself. She could batten down her hatches and ride out any storm if she needed to. The Coast Guard 44 was headed into port! Quickly, Craig and I jumped up and began waving. Surely they would see us. Surely the radar would pick us up. I guessed we were about two miles from shore now, still plenty far out for the 44 to make a quick pickup. Once we got too close it would be impossible for them to reach us in shallow seas. Yet the 44 kept on running for port. We waved our life vests, and jumped as high as we could with each crest. Yet with each wave that passed, the 44 sailed farther into the distance. Our turtled catamaran lying upside down in the water did not have enough of a signature in rough seas for the radar on the 44 to pick us up. What we had hoped would be a glimmering lifeline was not to be.
Now more than ever, as I laid there exhausted on the tramp, I realized our situation was worse than I had thought. If the 44 was heading in, then poorer circumstances must be looming. The conditions on the mighty lake were bound to be much worse than I expected. Now options 1 and 2 definitely seemed to end without us reaching shore alive. Option 3 was out because we just could not do it ourselves. I laid my head down to pray, but did not know what to pray for. What could God do for me that I had not already tried? What could I possibly pray for that would make a difference? Then for some reason a prayer popped into my head. It was the prayer of serenity that my mom had given me on baptism day so many years ago. It was on a little plaque that hung above my bed when I was a kid. It sat on my desk while away at college. Now it danced in my head, and I began to pray those words I had spoken so many times yet never really understood. "God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." With that, a simple peace entered my soul. It was at that moment when I realized that no matter what happened I would be ok in some way. If this was the end, I needed to accept the things I could not change. Then at that very moment Craig grabbed my shoulder and screamed, "LOOK"!
My eyes were drawn in the direction he was pointing. Among the waves I saw something. It appeared to be a man swimming towards us. As the waves would crash over him he would rest. Then as the crest passed, he would swim steadily through the trough of the wave towards us. With each passing moment, he swam closer and closer until he was just a rope throw away. Grabbing one of our safety lines, I tossed him the rope which he seemed to expect. He grabbed it, and we hauled him on to the tramp beside us. There beside us sat a very fit man probably in his early sixties. He was not even winded. He wore no wet suit or life jacket and appeared to just be out for a swim. Without thinking I screamed "Are you crazy? What are you doing out here?" He simply smiled and said, "I've been watching you boys all morning and finally decided you could use a little help. Now what do you say we get this boat sailing."
Now a spirit of hope and fortitude replaced the feeling of helplessness that had been aboard the capsized Hobie just moments ago. I said "Ok, here is what we need to do...." as Craig and I made our way on to the hull and grabbed the righting ropes, the man moved with grace and ease. He knew what to do before we even told him. As Craig and I began to right the Hobie and the mast started to break plane and show itself through the water, the hull began to list as it had done so many times before. Yet, this time the man quickly placed himself at the perfect counter point, and we continued an upward motion with the mast. It was working; we were coming over. As the damaged hull labored to keep us afloat, the solid hull splashed down into the water in the restored position.
Excerpted from Walking With Clarence by Jed Allen Freels Copyright © 2011 by Jed Allen Freels. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrologue: Looking For Directions....................ix
Chapter 1 Pushing the Limits The Hobie Cat....................1
Chapter 2 A Familiar Voice Rainbow Acres....................13
Chapter 3 Running on Overload The Barn Fire....................23
Chapter 4 Rewriting the Future A Swinging Floor....................35
Chapter 5 Check In Or Check Out The Crash....................45
Chapter 6 Looking for Simple Signs Bed Time Songs....................55
Chapter 7 Letting God Drive Atlanta....................61
Chapter 8 Understanding Wisdom Carrie's Placement....................71
Chapter 9 Singing His Praises Guitar Sunday....................77
Epilogue: Living In His Name....................91