The Eternal Voyage of the Sea Moose
Boating has taught me many lessons about the Barque of Peter and the Gospels
Whenever I read about Jesus and the disciples in their fishing boat, I recall the days when my late husband and I journeyed around an island in the Gulf of Mexico in a boat called The Sea Moose.
My fascination with moose started when I was studying philosophy at the University of Florida. There, professors lectured about respected thinkers who questioned the existence of everything — a chair, a dog and even themselves!
Was the physical world really out there or had we somehow conjured it up? Frankly, this line of questioning exasperated me because the answer seemed so patently obvious, but I dutifully went along with the discussions.
Privately, though, I told my friends that such philosophers needed to confront a lumbersome, shaggy, in-your-face animal, preferably a moose. Really, who could question the existence of such a beast?
When I married, my husband and I named our house “The Moose Nest” and our car “The Blue Moose,” so it made sense that when we purchased a boat, we christened it “The Sea Moose.”
We had marvelous voyages in a vessel so humble and small that one Florida local stared at it in disbelief, as we prepared to put the boat in the water, and exclaimed, “You’re going out in THAT?”
Yes, indeed, we did go out in THAT, but instead of catching fish, we caught glimpses of otters, stingrays, herons, roseate spoonbills, dolphins and the occasional, shy manatee. The boat had a quiet electric engine, which meant we didn’t scare away the critters, including blue crabs that dined on crumbs from our lunches.
I’ll always remember the night we were caught in a sudden storm and barely made it to shore. And the afternoon when the first mate — yours truly — discovered a large roach inhabiting the boat and almost capsized the vessel in an attempt to escape it.
Our trips in The Sea Moose helped me understand the fear that gripped the disciples when their fishing boat was caught in a storm. After all, there’s something about the sea slapping madly at the boat’s belly and the rain drenching you that puts you face-to-face with the cold, hard truths of reality.
You don’t need a philosopher to debate about whether the sea really exists, nor do you need anyone wondering whether there is life after death. Your entire being concentrates on survival and the very real possibility that you’ll end up flailing about in the water with some hungry sea creature eagerly awaiting his next meal, which is you.
Boating also has given me a real sense of the predicament St. Peter faced when he climbed out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. It seems that when he kept his sights set firmly on Jesus, his fear lessened, but the moment his mind started churning out doubts, he began sinking.
My favorite scene in the Gospels occurs when the disciples have been fishing all night and have caught nothing, so they are surely discouraged. Then they see a man standing on the shore, who tells them where to cast their net to find fish. John is the first to recognize Jesus and cries out, “It’s the Lord!” How lovely that Peter was so keen on seeing Jesus that he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore. He simply couldn’t wait another minute.
And how beautiful that the Risen Lord, who had once said, “I come not to be served but to serve,” showed his love for them by cooking breakfast.
At night, before falling asleep, I sometimes imagine what heaven could be like. In my imagination, there is always The Sea Moose chugging quietly along with my beloved husband and me in our usual places, and an abundance of manatees and dolphins surrounding us.
In this vision, there is no time, no illness, no tears, and no pain and loneliness anymore — just the endless rising and falling of the sea, the sweet love of Jesus Christ and the knowledge that the voyage of The Sea Moose will go on forever.