"I must have knocked the autopilot off while I was working on something," he explained. "I don't seem to have any manual control now. Here--see if you can get us back on course using the autopilot."
I glanced at the compass and began pushing buttons, while Bob went to check the hydraulic fluid. The swell was carrying us with it and we were 45 degrees off course.
To add to our troubles, our mainsail had been torn in tremendously strong winds two nights before, in the same storm that had crippled a cruise ship bound for Vanuatu. Now we were sailing with a small storm sail, able to run before the wind but not change direction easily.
Every time we needed to change direction, the wind turned with us so I knew God was in control. But when I tried to employ the autopilot, it complained with a "Beep beep beep beep beep!"
"Off course," read the gauge. I'd have turned on the starboard engine but a peg on the key reminded me that the alternator needed Bob's attention before we reached Port Vila, so the engine was out of action for the moment. "Try it on manual again," Bob called out. I found myself holding the wheel hard over and pressing my foot against the side of the cockpit. As if that would help! "God, can You help me with this please?" I asked, "I can't do this by myself." Immediately, I looked up to see a strange white wave speeding toward us out of the swell. It was long and low, torpedo shaped, and its purpose was clear. BANG! It hit the starboard bow with a crash. The boat shuddered and paused. A second wave, identical to the first, followed close behind--BANG! Spray flew halfway up the mast while I remained dry at the helm. I glanced down at the compass. We were now exactly on the course we needed. I laughed out loud.
"Thanks, God!" I said. Quickly, I pressed the autopilot buttons to secure the course and the boat began to pick up speed.
I had no doubt in the world that this was a miracle--not coincidence. There were no waves like it previously and none after, and the swell was carrying us in another direction--the reason we had the problem in the first place!
I've been smiling ever since, whenever I think of how God turned the boat around. Now I know why He didn't change the wind for us when we needed to turn--He wanted to show me something greater.
Jesus asked him, "Do you believe all this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." John 1:50. Judy MacDonnell and her husband, Bob, spend about six months each year in Vanuatu, assisting the volunteer medical work of Pacific Yacht Ministries. They mostly live in Murrumba Downs, Queensland.