The Captain is a Christian Allegory in which Jesus helps the Captain to know and understand himself and the world around him. Faced with a societal need; having the tools and opportunity to do something constructive about it; viewing the challenge as too great, the Captain is immobile, that is until someone who knows and understands things steps up and takes control.
Having a good understanding of the ship, and how it can tackle the challenge, that mentor (Jesus) issues commands that employs risk, yet achieves escape from the harbour and the resultant bounty. Others unable to take the risk flounder but in the hands of experience, the ship performs as it was designed to, the Captain and sailors have a greater understanding of her and her capacity to perform, as well as renewed confidence to take risk and do the Master’s work. You can see this greater confidence as the Captain orders that the excess fish be given away – an understanding imbibed from spending time with the Master, one not actually explicitly taught. This is the way of Light, revealing not only what God wants for us, but also shining light on ourselves and the people and things around us. Never again will the people hunger, even if a storm is up if the Captain simply has the faith to build up maximum boatspeed while he can to set forth into the challenges ahead. It’s an interesting lesson too in the power of example and learning through experience and imbibing. The concept that we go to school and learn from teachers what they teach only has validity to a point. Far more powerful is the way that Jesus taught, by showing His disciples the nature of the Father, just as the Captain learned in this short story.
The land was suffering a drought and the people were hungry.
The ship’s captain knew there were plenty of fish in the ocean but the entranceway to the harbour was small and the seas were getting up. The sailors were tense but the a new man had come on board said that he had seen this all before.
“Stoke the engines!” he spoke quietly to his ‘newly appointed’ captain.
“But sir, the sea is up and it’s not safe to sail at the moment!”
“Stoke the engines!” the man spoke again, this time a little more firmly. “The people are hungry and we should be off now!”
The captain was worried but seemed to trust the man who said he’d seen it all before. He barked the call down below-decks.
With steam up the man encouraged his captain to raise the sail. At anchor the boat pointed into the wind and thus at the reef, so the captain was concerned but he obeyed, barking another command to the deckhands.
The sail was raised. It flapped furiously in the stiffening breeze, raising a merry racket that put all on edge. All on shore watched as the man instructed his captain to turn the rudder fully to one side and the boys pulled the anchor.
Slowly, as the ship floated free from it’s moorings it turned as it floated backwards, pushed towards the beach by the combined action of the wind and the rudder. The sailors and captain watched and waited for the call from the man who was clearly in charge of a dangerous situation. The breeze caught the sails as the ship backed up and she gently came to a halt, then moved forward slowly at first, then quickly gained momentum as the wind and sails coordinated to take control of the vessel.
It seemed that the man cared not in the slightest where they were headed – he just wanted boatspeed.
“Full steam ahead now, captain!” the man ordered.
“But sir! We are headed directly to the reef!”
“Yes, son but you will need everything you have to make it through the harbour entrance safely! Full steam ahead, now!”
The ship lurched forward as the propellers engaged and bit into the tropical lagoon. Sail and steam hurled them all directly in the direction of the coal reef and they all watched and waited as the inevitable collision occurred.
Sensing the tension amongst the men, the man spoke deliberately and slowly to bring calm to their nerves.
“Trust your ship men! You know she’s a beauty and can handle the seas in the hands of a master,” he said.
The reef was almost underneath them when the call finally came from the man . . .
“Ready about . . . “
“Ready about . . . “ the captain echoed. The boys tensed and prepared for action.
“Now!” the man called.
The captain was ready and the boys responded like lightning. At just the right time with maximum way-up the ship responded to it’s instructions and turned beautifully and directly into the heavy seas.
The ship’s movement changed from an easy ride through the lagoon into a huge battle, rising up and over the huge swells that came through the entrance to the harbour. She wallowed deep into the troughs so much that the sails loosened in the lee of the waves yet her screws pushed her through the toughs and into and up and over the approaching walls of foam.
Lifting like a cork, she rose to the challenge, and as she did so the sails picked up wind again sufficient to pull her up and over the approaching challenges from the seas. The boys held on in awe as their ship, in the hands of their captain conquered the task and they sailed off free and into the ocean.
Riding out the storm for a day or so, the seas calmed a little and the man encouraged the captain to prepare for fishing.
Their catch was larger than they’d ever experienced previously and the man nodded knowingly as the boys learned a valuable lesson or two – the fishing is always better immediately following a storm!
As they returned to the lagoon they surveyed the wreckage of other boats that had stayed in-harbour. Anchors were unable to hold them from danger and many had been washed ashore – some had sunk at their moorings. It was a sobering sight.
People crowded the dock for the plentiful fish on offer. Food to a hungry people made for friends all round.
At rest, the job done, the captain turned to his advisor and recapped the experiences of the last few days . . .
“I’ve learned a lot in the last few days . . . “ he started.
“What have you learned?” the man enquired of him.
“You don’t catch fish in the harbour when the storm is coming!”
“True!” the man smiled and agreed.
“And that the best fishing is immediately after the storm . . . and nothing ventured, nothing gained . . . and to trust the ship!”
“And the Master too?” he prompted.
“Yes, there’s nothing like experience is there?” the captain noted. “You were the star – we could never have done it without you, eh? Thanks!”
“But you know that the job was done through teamwork don’t you? You (eventually) trusted me to build steam up when the challenge looked too great to you! You trusted me to weigh-anchor and let the sails set and guide us despite the approaching beach. You trusted me to put full steam ahead even though we were apparently headed directly into danger. You trusted the ship to respond to the rudder at the crucial time and she did. You trusted her to ride out the storm on the high seas as she was built to. We did it together didn’t we?”
The captain was silent . . . He looked down and was lost in thought, for a long time. Eventually he looked up and found himself alone.
Then, it gradually dawned on him and he understood it all.
The Master . . . yes this was a very special day, for he had listened to and learned from the Master.
He went outside to the rails of the ship and looked down at the wharf, where the boys had sold the fish to all the people. There was still plenty of fish left over and the boys looked back at him as if to ask what to do with it.
“Give it away boys . . . take it to the people and share them out,” and he thought to himself that he knew that’s what the Master would have them do!
He didn’t need to look to his side because He knew that the Master was there, right beside him, smiling and approving, or would be, if He ever showed up in person again.
That day was the first in a new life for the captain.
He was a new man, ready and willing to tackle the job he had been given!