I was probably about 16 years old when our family first entered a “bikini cup” race here on the St. Johns River. This was a sailboat race where at least half of the crew had to be women and a female had to be steering the entire time. For our family — a dad, mom, and two daughters — the qualifications were no problem.
My family had sailed on the river for years and had even raced in a few other races, but normally I was part of the crew. I’d wench in sails, let them out, and stare at the little tell-tale pieces of yarn on the luff hoping to set it to the fastest position. But this time I was appointed the helmsman. Of course, my dad stayed as captain and overseer, but I was the one driving.
Unlike daysailing, racing was a little stressful, especially at the beginning when all the boats are tacking back and forth waiting to cross the starting line. Everyone is under sail, not motors, so there’s quite a skill in this. My dad helped me get into a good position and prepare for the start gun.
As the cannon boomed, we trimmed the sails and took off on a beam reach heading north towards Marker 3, the first turn. Sailing side by side, we were with a bunch of other boats at first, then after a while they all spread out taking different routes using different strategies. Each of us was hoping to get to the marker first and ultimately win the race.
My father was a good sailor and had taught us well, so I was very attentive to all the direction he was giving me at the helm as we glided along in the nice breeze.
When we were approaching the first turning point, the boats began compacting, each one hoping to round the marker as close as possible without loosing any speed or accidentally hitting it. My anxiety jacked up as you could almost touch the boat right next to you we were so crowded. I wasn’t sure how we were going to change directions in this cramped situation and I was in charge of driving this thing! My heart was beating so fast; it was intense!
But the voice of my father kept me focused. “Not yet… not yet…” he said patiently as the nearby boats felt inches apart. “Wait a bit…”, I was about to panic! Then suddenly he said, “NOW!” and in blind faith I shouted “TACK!” and swung the tiller to the other side. Sails were luffing loudly, wenches were grinding, people were yelling, and all the boats switched directions at once, rounding the marker like a group of choreographed ballet dancers in a row. Quickly trimming up and setting their sails, the boats took off down the river onto the next leg of the race. We’d made the turn well and without incident. I was relieved.
That was my first marker rounding in a race being at the helm steering on my own. Fortunately, as I mentioned beforehand, I wasn’t on my own. My father guided me through every stage of it. This truly was a “marker moment” in my life (no pun intended). In that race, I knew if I only did what my father told me to do, trusting him, it’d be okay and things would work out.
It’s been many years since my dad has passed away but that day on the river at Marker 3 was a lesson I’ve never forgotten. Today, I see my Heavenly Father watching over me, calmly guiding and directing me just like my earthly father did in that race. Sometimes I’m anxious or don’t always know when to change directions or make a move, but He does. I just need to listen to my Father’s voice.
(By the way, we took 3rd place in our class in that race and I still keep the little silver cup on my bookshelf.)