Thanksgiving in Panama City

The Boat Ride

Over Thanksgiving week 2015 my husband Donny and I rented a pontoon boat in Panama City, Florida, to enjoy a day on the bay with Chris our oldest son, Meggie his wife, and my mom and dad. We began our leisurely excursion and were having a great time. The water was calm, the sun shinning, and the temperature perfect! Donny was our captain; he looked so handsome maneuvering the boat. I was impressed with his nautical skills.

Then everything went downstream fast! We crossed an invisible line in the water and found ourselves in the Gulf of Mexico – where we were warned NOT to go. But Donny tried to shake off that warning by consoling us and saying, “We are not in the Gulf. Don’t worry.”

Easy for Donny to say, but hard for us to do as the waves grew higher and higher and rougher and rougher. Water literally poured over the sides into the boat! Unfortunately, Chris was reading the map upside down and assured us we were in the right “boat lane.” Funny about that, because all other boats in that lane were actually ships – cargo ships and cruise ships!

Our little pontoon was like a bobber in the water. Up down, up down, up down. Huge ocean vessels passed us by, and crews on their decks yelled and asked if we needed help. Of course, with all the noise from the water and the waves, they couldn’t hear Meggie yelling, “SOS! SAVE OUR SHIP!” Instead, they looked at us as if we were crazy, and I guess we were crazy at that point!

My dad started looking for life jackets, but couldn’t open the seats where the man at the rental place told us the jackets were stored. In fact, the man said, “You won’t need any life jackets in the bay!”


Donny replied, “Don’t worry. We’re right where we should be.”

It was about then that Chris aligned the map right side up. And guess what? We were not where we should be. We were far out in the Gulf in a pontoon boat where only ocean-going vessels should be. Our leisurely excursion had morphed into a terrifying experience!

Donny finally turned us around and we made it back to the calm waters of the bay. “I’m gonna park the boat now,” he said (I believe the nautical term is moor) after hitting two buoys and another pontoon. I said to Donny as we got off the boat, “What were you thinking? You almost got us killed!”

Donny smiled his half smile and laughed, “I guess I really don’t know how to drive a boat” (I believe the nautical term is steer).

This experience caused me to think about the many times when we are where we shouldn’t be and think we can handle the situation on our own. The storms of life toss us up and down, up and down, yet we still think, “We have this.”

After being tossed around in that little boat for awhile, my family got down on our knees and realized that the only One who really has this is God! He is the Captain of our boat and He will always lead us to calm waters if we allow Him to.

The Lord says, “Do not be afraid . . . When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you . . . For I am the Lord, your God, your Savior . . . You are precious to me . . . and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1-4 NLT)