If I Had a Boat

This is the scene I woke up to on Friday morning. Quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful. It was a very good day.

Anchorage North of Holiday Island, NC

I spent a few days on the water last week, and, as always, I’m grateful to my church for the time away. While taking in the beauty of the Albemarle Sound, I reflected on how I came to spend time on a sailboat. 20 years ago I first went sailing in this same Sound because I said yes to a trip to Cuba.

I was one of a dozen Alliance of Baptists pastors recruited to preach revivals for 7 days in Cuba and then to spend a week at Veradero Beach—at least that was the promise (“One of the most beautiful beaches in the world!” Alan Neeley explained when he was convincing me to join the group).

Talk about bait and switch! I was in Cuba for two weeks and never saw the ocean. But I did make two really good friends, fellow Alliance pastors Richard Peerey and Charles Howell.

Richard was a long-time sailor and his idea of continuing our friendship was to arrange a five day sailing trip on the Albemarle Sound. I snapped this picture my first night on a sailboat.

Albemarle Sound 1991

I had never sailed before, but this seemed like a hobby I could really enjoy. That summer Virginia White loaned me a Sunfish, and I learned to sail (clarification: I learned enough to get out and back without capsizing). Then in October 1991 for my 5th anniversary as pastor of Northminster, the church presented me with a Taser 16-foot racing sailboat (thanks to Lynda’s behind-the-scenes persistence…“No, he really doesn’t want a grandfather clock for his office. What he wants is this used sailboat he found.”)

Free, Aaron, and Sammy Launching the Taser at Edisto Beach

Fast forward to 2006. Charles Howell, my friend from the Cuba trip, called me with the crazy idea that we drive to Edenton, NC to look at a boat that was for sale. When he told me the asking price, my thought was, “No way we’re buying that one!” The boat was a 1982 O’Day 30.

Another pastor-friend was interested in a partnership. The owners—in their 70s and no longer able to use the boat—apparently liked the idea of turning their “baby” over to three pastors because they dropped the price unbelievably low. I used the love offering Northminster gave me for my 20th anniversary to pay my share.

After signing the bill of sale, we took each other’s picture at the helm, a great day that I recall whenever I’m on Facebook.

Every day my screensaver reminds me of Edenton, a thriving small town I’ve come to love.

Edenton, NC

So, several times a year I make the drive and sail for a day or two or three, and when I come home, more often than not, I feel refreshed.

And always before I leave Richmond, I recall Wendell Berry’s lines from Sabbaths:

The mind that comes to rest is tended/In ways that it cannot intend:

Is born, preserved, and comprehended/By what it cannot comprehend.

Now for your musical enjoyment—thanks to Lynda who introduced me to Lyle Lovett years ago—here’s the song that plays every time my sailing buddy Charles phones. It’s called If I Had a Boat.

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