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First Thanksgiving, Part 1: Enduring the Sea Voyage (a faith based story)
Wednesday, November 27, 2019 by Rami Scully

Shortly after Tom and I married the day after Thanksgiving, 1965, the army sent us on the last troop carrier to Germany. A few days out to sea a hurricane hit our boat during a meal. Cups of hot coffee careened across the table, and tureens full of hot soup tossed high. Miraculously, no one was injured.

Although Tom was one of the rare ones who did not get sick in body, I cannot vouch for his head. Grabbing the rails to keep himself from falling overboard, he lurched to the top deck to watch the waves rise above the four-story high ship and crash down upon us. Excitedly, he returned to tell me about it and was met with a moan. I lay in our private room, listening to the groans of the troops jammed into a common space just one deck below us. With what feelings I had left, I felt sorry for them.

Double-loading the boat

Today I laugh at that trip, but our ocean experience was nothing compared to the Pilgrims’ voyage to the New World. Because one of their boats was unsafe, they jammed nearly two boat loads of people plus their supplies into one boat, the Mayflower. They set sail in August 1620. When bad weather hit, all 102 passengers had to cram into a small space below deck, far worse than what our group suffered.

There were no windows, and the hatches had to stay shut to prevent flooding. At times the ship tilted until their single light source, a smoky lantern, hung completely sideways. No meals could be cooked, and children were constantly crying. If you’ve ever used an unclean port-a-potty or helped someone who is vomiting, you can begin to imagine their misery.

Washed overboard

After twelve days of storm, John Howland could stand no more. He decided to get some fresh air on top deck and was immediately washed overboard. Due to the ship’s extreme tilt, a spar rope dipped into the water, and he was able to hold on until the crew rescued him. Normally a person could not live more than four minutes in cold North Atlantic water. Howland was blue when they pulled him out, but he survived.

Mocked by the crew

The pilgrims prayed and sang psalms daily, to the annoyance of the mocking crew. One sailor regularly taunted the passengers, calling them “psalm singing puke-stockings.’’ Waving burial bags in front of them, he announced he would sew them into the bags and toss their carcasses to the fish. One day he suddenly became ill. His was the first and only body shroud to hit the water. After that, the crew paid their passengers greater respect.        

Seven weeks of storms

The hurricane we experienced tossed us about for only four days, but the Pilgrims had to endure seven weeks of storms. During the worst time, the cross beam holding the main mast cracked, causing the deck to sag into their already low ceiling. They could have been crushed, or the ship could have broken apart. They prayed my favorite prayer: “Lord, save us!’’   

Saved by a screw

A man named Brewster remembered that his printing press had a huge iron screw. Frantically they searched through supplies, found it, and screwed the beam back together. Finally, they heard the long-awaited cry, “Land Ho!’’

Waiting to land

When we landed in northern Germany, everything was organized and prepared for us. Not so for the Pilgrims. Scouts had to find a suitable place on land before they could go on shore. Both Tom and I had sick headaches that lasted the length of our travel time until we got used to land again. I hate to think how bad the Pilgrims’ headaches were. They had no aspirin, a longer, rougher ride, and had to remain in the boat three weeks waiting. (Story to be continued).

What the psalm writer said

“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me’’ (Psalm 50:15 NIV)

Today’s prayer

Lord, thank You for being with me during my troubles. Help me to be helpful to others during their times of need. Amen.

Resource: Most of the information for this story is found in The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, a fascinating account of the early history of America.

 

© Rami Scully 1998

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