My taste in music is probably best described as eclectic. A few years back I came across the intelligent and at times melancholy lyrics of Antje Duvekot.

Duvekot was born in West Germany and moved to the United States as a teenager. Given her background, imagine my surprise when in one of her songs she mentions the sugar boat (the MV Captayannis ) which lies in the Clyde on a sandbank between Helensburgh and Greenock. There are lots of people in Scotland who do not know the story of the MV Captayannis, so I’d love to know how/why Duvekot came to hear about it and include it in a song!

Will your Anchor Hold?

On Sunday we will be looking at Hebrews 6: 8 – 20 and this passage makes me think about the Captayannis. Yes, this is the bit in Hebrews about your anchor holding!

The MV Captayannis Story

Gale-force winds in late January are a common feature of Scottish weather, and January 1974 was no exception (not that I personally remember it). At that time, Tate and Lyle had a large factory in Greenock. If you are of a certain age, you may remember that near the Victoria Docks / Baker Street area of Greenock, you would often encounter a horrible smell. Many people mistakenly thought this came from the sugar refinery, but it did not. It came from a much smaller factory in Baker Street which boiled down animal bones to make glue, fertiliser and other products which can made from what otherwise would be waste material.

Anyway, the Tate and Lyle refinery meant that boats with raw sugar would dock in Greenock so their cargo could be transported a short distance up the hill to Tate and Lyle.

On 27th January unable to head to the shelter of the Gare Loch, the Captayannis put down her anchor, hoping to weather out the storm. However, the winds were so strong that rather than hold, the anchor dragged on the soft, sandy bottom of the Clyde. It drifted into the anchor chains of another boat, British Light, a BP Tanker which I think, but I’m not 100% sure, was waiting to head to the Finnart Oil Terminal on Loch Long. The chains of the tanker ripped a hole in the hull of the Captayannis below the water line.

Tugboats from Greenock were sent to the aid of the ship. Realising the speed with which water was flooding the ship, Alan Helpburn, a Clyde River pilot, told the Captain of the Captayannis to beach it on a nearby sandbar.

As a child I always thought the boat had flipped over, certainly that’s how it looks when you see it from Greenock. However, it lies stricken on its side. I canoed out to it years ago and most of the superstructure is gone, given as soon as the weather allowed “enterprising” men from Greenock and Port Glasgow went out and stripped what they could for scrap.

Don’t be the Captayannis!

If you are a ship, it is important to have an anchor, but as, or perhaps more, important is what your anchor holds on to. Drive down the M8 toward Greenock when the tide is low, and you can see just how sandy the bed of the river is in this area. With its anchor in sand, the Captayannis could not hold its position.

Am I the Captayannis?

That the writer to the Hebrews warns them about the dangers of drifting (Heb. 2:1) and now speaks of having an anchor, makes me think that he, or they, and the people who first received this message lived by the sea and were familiar with boats.

There were three major consequences of the Captayannis’ anchor not holding and drifting.

  1. It was damaged, holed below the waterline.
  2. It became beached, literally stuck in the sand.
  3. It lost its cargo, the sugar ended up in the Clyde.

I wonder if we are not too dissimilar to the Captayannis?

The consequences of our anchor not holding, our drifting, is:

  1. We get hurt/damaged.
  2. We become stuck.
  3. We lose our cargo = our (true) sense of self, and/or relationships, and/or things which are important to us.

What is your anchor? Where is it placed?

That our anchor needs to be placed in Jesus, I think, is a rather obvious thing to say. Both Jesus and God are throughout the Bible described as a rock. The writer to the Hebrews does a version of this by describing God as unchanging. Now, I’m not a sailor, but metaphorically at least, an anchor fastened to rock is better than an anchor in sand. An anchor fastened to rock will hold in strong winds!

However, key in this regard is the question, “What’s your anchor made of?”

I hope to touch upon what our anchor is made of on Sunday.

What are the winds that batter us?

That the writer (or writers) to the Hebrews speaks of drifting and anchors reminds us that the people/congregation he is writing to are facing their own gale force winds. Without a strong anchor and secure anchor point, they are going to drift and suffer the results of drifting.

The writer does not pretend that we do not encounter challenges and forces which seek to blow us off course. Rather, in the face of such challenges and forces, practical and helpful advice is given.

On Sunday I hope to think a little about what some of the winds which batter us are, how practically we make sure we have a strong anchor and how we ensure this anchor is fixed securely to Jesus our anchor point.

See you all on Sunday.


PS. For those of you wondering about the song I mentioned at the start of the blog, here’s a link if you want to listen to it.