by the Rev. Megan E. Sanders and the Rev. Marjorie Lindstrom
On Friday, November 9, we boarded the Ibrahim Dede with eighteen crew berthed at APM Terminal in Port Elizabeth—a visit that will forever be indelibly imprinted in our minds and souls.
The Second Officer greeted us in the ship’s office and then brought us to the mess room where we gathered around a table to talk. As the Second Officer began to tell his story, it quickly became clear that the crew desperately needed our visit. Eight hours out from New York Harbor on Thursday evening, a low front suddenly smacked the ship without much warning. As the barometer started to drop rapidly, the officers realized they needed to get to the bridge quickly. The seasoned Captain had spent twenty-five years at sea, and as the barometer continued to drop, he realized this was not going to be just any storm. This had the makings of one of those “perfect storms.”
The storm hit with a vengeance. Within five minutes huge waves swept the vessel—walls of water that eventually built to thirty feet. They crashed tirelessly as the fierce winds intensified, gusting to one hundred knots. The vessel began to pitch and roll erratically, listing heavily to port, then to starboard. It took all of the crew’s efforts to stay the course and to keep the ship upright.
At the height of the chaos, ferocious winds and walls of water tore at the ship. As the crew braced for another onslaught, the propeller jacked out of the roiling seas and the engine lost power. Just when they thought all would be lost, the engine kicked back in while the next wall of water hit them. The ship listed more than 35 degrees to port. (The Second Officer explained that if the ship listed beyond 40 degrees, there would be no way it could stay afloat.) In the midst of all this life-threatening chaos, the bridge’s printer and other objects became missiles, forcing the officers to dodge these flying dangers while trying to keep the ship steady.
Just when the crew thought they would perish, the Second Officer explained how he felt God’s presence and guidance. “God put his finger on the bottom of the boat on the portside and kept us from going over. Then God put his finger on the starboard side so we would not go over.” In a narrow window of opportunity, the crew turned the boat south, steering out of the worst of the storm.
As the fierce conditions started to subside, the captain got down on his knees to pray, saying he had never seen such a storm in all his days at sea. In the midst of all this, the Second Officer wrestled with how he could offer hope to the crew down below. He said he had to “think twice”—once for himself, and then for his crew.
As chaplains, hearing this story humbled us and made us glad we could be there. We offered a prayer in thanksgiving for the crew’s lives, for the ship and for those who waited for their safe return home. It opened our eyes to the parts of seafarers’ lives that we “landlubbers” rarely see or experience. With greater appreciation for their hard work, the preciousness of life and their willingness to share their lives with us, we left the ship feeling that our presence served them in spirit and solidarity.
Watch Video: Chaplain Marge Lindstrom of Port Newark after Sandy
After Hurricane Sandy swept through New Jersey, Port Newark Chaplain Marge Lindstrom rushed to assist seafarers despite limited resources. She soon found herself on the receiving end, however, as seafarers offered to help with the post-storm recovery.
Watch Video: Chaplain James Kollin of Port Newark after Sandy
Chaplain James Kollin relates how he served seafarers in the difficult days following Hurricane Sandy, balancing the needs of his own family with those of seafarers.