Has anyone seen the anchor?


The definition of the word adrift is often this: so as to float without being either moored or steered: “a cargo ship went adrift”.

Unless you are a submariner by trade, you are probably not familiar with the fact that some submarines have anchors. My first boat was the USS George Washington and she was built when I was about six years old. I reported on board in 1973 in Guam and like all submariners, had to learn about the boats systems so I could become qualified.

One of those systems was the anchor. This first class of 5 SSBNs had a “mushroom” shaped anchor in one of the forward main ballast tanks. It was there but you never really saw it until you went into drydock and inspected the hull. The bottom of the anchor blends in with the hull when the anchor is fully raised.

These boats had a system designed to stabilize the boat during missile launch. The anchor was called a Station-Keeping Anchor, and was intended to provide backup if the station keeping system failed. Long before I reported on board, the anchors were ultimately deemed unnecessary. But ours was in place. Or was supposed to be anyway. Apparently something had happened when the Gold crew had the boat and the “Anchor housed” light was not illuminated. Either a circuit was faulty or we had accidently lost the anchor somewhere in the waters around Guam.

This picture is not from Guam but it is interesting to know that I would serve on both vessels during my career. I began on the George Washington SSBN 598 and later on the USS Los Alamos AFDB 7 as the Docking Officer

So the boat was dry docked and sure enough, there was a hole where the anchor was supposed to be.  It was my first chance to see a whole submarine out of its element. Those things are deceptive on the surface. You really don’t get a feel for how massive they are until they are on the blocks of a drydock. I would get many chances to have that reinforced over the next twenty years.

To be honest, an anchor on a submarine is not one of the highest priority items.

Most boats end up tied to a pier or submarine tender or other floating facility when they are not operating at sea. So the need for an anchor is not that great. But somehow the anchor was found and was reinstalled before we left for patrol. I don’t remember many details since I was already assigned as a mess cook and frankly had bigger things to be concerned with.

About ten years later, another anchor mishap would impact me more directly.

The USS San Francisco was returning from a deployment but we went to Maui first for some R&R. San Francisco was a 688 class submarine that had been built in 1980. I was privileged to arrive just after she was launched and got a chance to see every single inch of the boat from a unique perspective. It’s awesome to see a submarine come together and I was as proud as anyone on the day they commissioned her.

During that last big deployment, I had qualified as Chief of the Watch as a second class petty officer. I was very happy that Captain Previty saw a capable leader in me and gave me the chance to prove it. Standing watch as a Chief of the Watch was an honor although I tried very hard not to think about all the things that could go wrong.

We had arrived in Maui in the morning and I was lucky enough to be on the first liberty after the ship had anchored in the channel. I was going to meet my wife Debbie and have a little honeymoon reunion. Talk about exciting. The honeymoon did not last very long. Sometime in the early evening, the anchor had feed itself from the boat. The San Francisco was now adrift. The on board crew was able to get propulsion up and began to steam in very large circles on the surface. But there were not enough crew members on board to man a twenty four hour watch.

Word reached the beach and soon came a knock on the door of our hotel room. It turns out that none of the Chiefs could be found and I was directed to go back and man the watch instead. Pretty sure I cursed a bit that evening as the small boat returned me to the boat. We picked up the wives and remaining crew in the morning and sailed for home. Not sure they ever did find that anchor.


If you were here for the submarine story, you are free to check out now.

The rest of this is about where I am right now in my spiritual life. I won’t be offended if you go back to what you were doing before. I rarely do this but it’s on my heart now and I want to share it. Maybe if for no other reason than so I can get it out of my head.

I was born into a Presbyterian family. I attended Sunday school faithfully (I used to have the medals to prove it).

Check out that tie!

I Sang in every level of church choir from Cherub to Crusader to Adult choir. Confirmed to the church after a really grueling catechism class. Being a Presbyterian was an honor because I knew about the traditions going back to the country of Scotland and the whole reformation. I was taught the structure of the bible and the principles of being a Christian. Over the past sixty years, I have added to my understanding by study and by preaching the gospel as often as I was able and allowed.

A Presbyterian is a Protestant who belongs to a particular form of church government. The word “Presbyterian” refers not to a special system of doctrine or worship but to a representative form of church government. In Greek, presbyteros means “elder.”

But from the early seventies, I have also watched the Presbyterian Church drift further and further away from what I was taught it should be. Like the anchor on a submarine can’t be seen, neither can the forces that once held her in place. She has been pulled and pushed about by so many other forces, she is no longer the church of my ancestors. The word discernment has been used like a scalpel to carve away at everything that should have been kept in place. New Lights have stripped away adherence to the meaning of the gospel and left us with a church that feels like it needs to become the very world it was supposed to avoid becoming.

If you speak up, the defensive mechanism is that you are a bigot or an ill-informed person. Leaders that try to correct the course get left behind and are mocked. So the pews continue to empty out at an alarming rate. Churches that dare to raise their concerns by leaving find enormous obstacles placed in their way.

In this, the season of Advent, I feel like my anchor is lost. But then I remember this one truth. My anchor is still there. It is Jesus Christ. And I am reminded that in the end, he did not carry any particular label like Presbyterian or Methodist or even Roman Catholic. He was the Way. He is the Way. All of the manmade prescripts (ordinances, laws, or commands) are simply that. Man made. And few of them are aligned with the Word.

I am not sure what path I am about to be placed on but I do know this. I have hope in the only true anchor that has ever existed. I will follow the Way.

Isaiah 64:1-5

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways…

Mister Mac


3 thoughts on “Has anyone seen the anchor?

  1. Interesting that I was also raised in the Presbyterian Church (and I still have my medals!). The Presbyterians have indeed “drifted” into PCUSA and PCA and others. I can still remember the pleasant shock when one of my female Kentucky cousins was allowed to serve communion. My submariner and I were married in 1965 and moved about every 2 years for 30 years, eventually joining the United Methodist Church looking for inclusion and diversity. It is during this time of Advent that we light the candles of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, and reflect on how we can best prepare our own hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus Christ as we continue to follow the Way. Thank you for sharing about your spiritual journey.

  2. I’m glad my first boat (USS Tunny SSN 682) had an anchor. We’d have had trouble visiting Hong Kong (twice) in the mid-90’s without it.

    As for the second half, I grew up in the Nazarene (an offshoot of Methodism) church, but attend a Presbyterian church now. I’ve often said there are only two things I look for in a church: A preacher who preaches the Word, and a place to plug in (I’m not just a pew-sitter…). Thankfully, I’ve been able to find that my whole life. And as Peter said, “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

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