My Anchor Holds

My eyes stung as the smoke hit me in the face, causing me to squint and my stomach to rumble. Turning the brats on the grill was smoking up the smell that was so wonderful and drawing everyone’s hungry attention!

It was the 4th of July, and I was standing in front of my small round gas grill on my twenty-two foot O’Day sailboat with my family, surrounded by boats on the 6,000-acre Indian Lake reservoir bordered by picturesque woods and cabins in northern Ohio.

We joined the other holiday-boaters on the lake waiting for the sun to set and for the fireworks to start. It was a beautiful mid-summer day with a blue sky, wispy clouds, and a gentle breeze. Earlier we had anchored near a small island to claim our spot on the water for the night. The plan was to watch the fireworks and camp overnight on the water.

It was my family’s first time to camp on the water, and I was praying that no one would do to us what some drunks did to my friend and I one time when we were camping overnight on the same lake in a different location.

Bonzel (a nickname), my friend from way back in high school, enjoyed sailing, and we had spent the day sailing from one end of the lake to the other and back again. As the sun set, we anchored in a cove and settled into a relaxing evening, telling old stories. Eventually, we were storied-out and headed below. The boat would sleep four, so we had plenty of room in the cabin to be comfortable. Bonzel had brought some kind of fancy-do large camping light that his daughter gave him for Christmas; he set it on the small cabin sink between us.

Popping his nightly antacid pill, Bonzel closed his eyes, and was gone. It took me a bit longer. While waiting for sleep to come, in the gentle rocking of the boat and quiet of the cabin, as I was drifting off to sleep, I suddenly heard a train that was loud and coming right through the middle of the boat!! I sat up in the dark full awake and realized . . . it was Bonzel snoring!! He sounded like a hulking freight train! I had never heard anybody snore that loudly! It certainly broke the “quiet of the cabin” I had been enjoying!

I grabbed my spare boat hook off the rack beside me and poked him in the ribs with the handle a couple of times—it didn’t wake him up but altered his snoring enough for me to go to sleep! Goodness!

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning—WHAM! Something hit the side of the boat, nearly throwing me from my berth. Bonzel’s fancy light hit the floor and other stuff went flying and clattered about the cabin as the boat rocked violently! Still half asleep, I thought, “Bonzel’s train just hit us for real!”

Quickly climbing out of the cabin onto the deck, in the moonlight I could see the trailing wake from a speedboat heading out of the cove into the open lake. I thought I heard laughter echo across the water as it sped away. It was probably a couple of fishermen that had been drinking all night and wanted to have some fun by slamming us with a hefty wake-wave while speeding past us, knowing it would wake us up with a fright! And it did!!

Giving the smoking brats one last turn, I didn’t want a repeat of that to happen to my family tonight, but thinking back to what happened to Bonzel and I did make me smile and chuckle.

“Brats are done!!” I yelled. My wife, two daughters, my son and his girlfriend crowded around our small fold-out aluminum picnic table my wife had ready with chips, buns, catchup, mustard, pickle relish, and local Amish potato salad. We thanked the Lord for our boating-brats and chowed down!

After supper we cleaned up and settled in to wait for the fireworks. Following a memorable fire-orange sunset with the stars peeking through the twilight, the clear night sky grew darker as the stars grew brighter.

Since I had an older sailboat, it didn’t come with a safety light at the top of my mast, so I had made a battery-powered light that I hoisted to the top of my twenty-seven foot mast whenever I camped over night. That light was to let the other night boaters know we were there.

With the blanket of darkness now thrown completely over the lake . . . it was time.

Zip! Boom!! Pop, pop, pop! The night sky dazzled with sparkling colors as the fireworks lifted off from the shore over the lake. What a show, with plenty of Oooooooos and Ahhhhhhhhhhs from all of us. The grand finale was so bright with bursting fireworks that I could easily see all the boats surrounding us. With the last dying sizzle and pop, it was over, not to be seen again till the next 4th of July.

It was great, and great to be out on the lake watching the fireworks. Red and green nighttime navigational lights started winking on all around us as folks headed their boats back to shore. From what I could see, we were the only boat staying overnight on the water.

One thing that is predictable about Indian Lake is how unpredictable the weather can be. As the stars began dimming out of sight, I knew clouds were moving in and the wind began picking up. It started sprinkling, so I grabbed a tarp and threw it over the boom and tied the ends down like a tent over the deck.

The cabin slept four and two could sleep out on the deck benches, now covered with the tarp. The rain increased. My wife and kids sat in the cabin playing cards while I listened to an audio book. Menacingly, the wind picked up.

Whitecaps were forming on the lake. More wind, more rain, the boat started bouncing a bit in the waves as the anchor held her bow into the wind. A major storm was marching its way on to the lake. It was time for bed and everyone headed to their berth.

I awoke an hour later with the storm full on us. With all the rocking, I was amazed everyone else was still sleeping! Raising up on my elbow in the darkness, I could see the slight outline of the island we were near through the porthole on the port side of the boat. It was hard to see in the dark with all the rain but some street lights around the lake formed a faint silhouette of the island.

Suddenly fear leapt into my mind! If our anchor rope breaks in the fierce storm or if the anchor pulls loose from the muddy bottom of the shallow lake, we would either bash into the island or crash into a nearby dock with expensive boats long before I could ever get the motor started and get us out of danger!

Lying back down, I was debating if I should go out and start up the outboard motor just in case. Every few minutes I would again rise up on my elbow in the dark and stare out the porthole to see if our boat position had changed relative to the island. After an hour of this, the anxiety was getting to me, so I decided to go start the motor.

Sitting up, I felt around for my shoes in the dark when I thought to myself, “I haven’t prayed over this yet!!” I stopped everything, and while still tossing around in the storm, I prayed, “Dear Father, in the name of Jesus, please protect my family and this boat. And give me wisdom to know what to do.” Just as suddenly as the fear had leapt into my mind, peace leapt into my heart!

Then the words of an old hymn came to me as I noticed to my surprise, the storm suddenly starting to slack off. It reminded me of the turbulent times in my life where Jesus had been my anchor, had held me secure against the gales of life, promising to never leave me or forsake me. That song was . . .

My Anchor Holds

Though the angry surges roll
On my tempest-driven soul,
I am peaceful, for I know,
Wildly though the winds may blow,
I’ve an anchor safe and sure,
That can evermore endure.

And it holds, my anchor holds:
Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
On my bark so small and frail;
By His grace I shall not fail,
For my anchor holds,
My anchor holds.

Our boat anchor held us that night through the storm, but more importantly, an Anchor is available who will hold us securely through the storms of life!

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. . .”

Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

Video link to the complete hymn: My Anchor Holds

Copyright (c) 2016 by William D. (Nick) Nichols
“My Anchor Holds” by William C. Martin (1864-1914)


Captain ChadThis story is dedicated to the late Captain Chad Grubb (1941-2016). About a year after buying our first sailboat and taking yachting lessons, my wife, Barb, and I were staying at our church campground at Beulah Beach in Vermillion, Ohio. I thought it would be fun to go over and look at the sail boats in the nearby Sandusky Harbor Marina.

Walking out to the end of the dock, I see this cool, double-masted blue schooner. On a nearby pole was a box with literature about the “B-About” sailing ministry! I thought, “What is this, a God boat?” Little did I know–it sure was!!

In the few years we were involved with the Genesis Chapter of the Christian Boaters Association, we got to know Captain Chad, Steve & Deb, Ed & Lee, Keith & Brenda, Steve & Sandy and other cool folks there. Captain Chad was a remarkable man and was instrumental in helping me expand our sailing ministry by connecting me to a contact who had a 29-foot Cal from Texas, a ministry sailboat that was looking for new home. That story is chronicled here:                                         (Cut and paste address.)

It was truly an honor knowing Captain Chad! He was an awesome sailor, smart, funny, and he had a huge, caring heart. He loved his boat “The Journey” and he loved sailing, but he loved Jesus and helping troubled youth even more!

He will be missed deeply. In his memory, it is a privilege to dedicate our “My Anchor Holds” story to our godly friend and sailing mentor, Captain Chad Grubb.

Link:  Christian Boater’s Association      Link:  B-About Sail Ministry

Nick & Barb Nichols
Serving in Malaysia

Journey pic 1


  • Scot Darby says:

    Nick and Barb,

    It is good to hear from you again! I enjoyed reading this story. Great job on the writing. I am praying for you often.


  • Anonymous says:

    You are always an inspiration!

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