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Three Ships Overload and Get Lost at Sea

In January 1999 the North Atlantic commercial fishing industry saw a deadly string of accidents. In a 13-day span, the Cape Fear, the Adriatic, and the Beth Dee Bob were lost at sea off the coast of New Jersey. In all, 10 men died, five never to be found. Commercial fishing is dangerous way to make a living, but even so three ships lost in such a short period of time is extraordinarily rare, particularly when all three were from the same docks.

Investigations revealed the following facts about the three separate tragedies:

  1. None involved a hull breach.
  2. All three ships were piloted by veteran captains with 10 years or more in the wheelhouse.
  3. All three ships were near the end of their journey, less than 15 miles from home.

So what happened? Two of the three ships were carrying too much weight, and one was carrying its weight improperly. Commercial vessels on the water in early January are mostly clam boats, as were the Cape Fear, the Adriatic, and the Beth Dee Bob. A commercial clam trap is 3' x 3' x 4' and weighs 300 pounds empty. Laden with quahogs, they weigh in at between 1 and 1.5 tons apiece! The Cape Fear and the Adriatic each had 10 extra traps on board. That's 10-15 tons of excess weight!

Interviewers later asked other boat captains who fished these waters the following question: Why would a veteran boat captain completely ignore the papers on his boat and attempt to carry 10-15 tons more than was safe? Time after time, the answer came in the form of a quizzical look and a shrug. Simply put, the behavior was common practice. These captains didn't perceive themselves to be in danger. They were simply doing what was normal in their industry.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Busyness; Rest; Sabbath; Success; Simplicity—This could apply to our schedules and commitments, which like these commercial fishermen get overloaded with too much cargo. (2) Greed; Anxiety; Stress; Burdens; Legalism; Resentment—What extra burdens or weights (greed, anxiety, stress, legalism) are we carrying that we need to give to Christ?

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