In trying times we find our way through the storms/fog of life using “navigational points” that point us in the right direction, and warn us of notable dangers. In the Navy and the Coast Guard, we have buoys and geographical radar points. And one of the most notable in my life was “Buoy STJ”.
STJ marked the entrance to a major river and basin that we navigated often. The buoy was often one of the most notable radar contacts during a navigational detail. (It isnt the first radar point but it is one of the most clear hits I could remember. It is a great thing to find on a navigational chart too).
STJ also served as a point of hope when you were heading home, but the thing that I remember the most is the feeling that STJ represents the point where the river gives birth to the ocean. After a short time I had checked onboard, I had a feeling that I had been delivered to the ocean. A well meaning member of my division commented that STJ was the starting of the clock and our scramble to get to where we were supposed to.
We had passed STJ numerous times over the few years I was on the ship. It marked the beginning and the end of various evolutions. It marked the end of crappy deployments. It marked the end of successful times too. Our times in the ocean were measured by them.
And in this measurement, I know my time on the sea was largely done. It was my time to move on to the rest of my life. We had been out to sea and I remember watching our navigational detail working in sync. My time was short and the others knew I was a flying fish, skimming away like others before me.
STJ made me love the sun beating upon my face and the frollicking people on the beach. STJ reminded me that the helicopter’s flights served to watch maritime and air traffic in support of security.
Many sailors before me can mark and remember the first and last times they passed that buoy. The buoys marked where we had gone and been.
Lord willing we will pass them again when we sail to our Lord’s Fiddler’s Green.