The Words of the Lea Family

Adventure on the Ocean

Erling Lea
September 1988

Erling Lea repairing a net on Sea Hope III

Erling Lea is a fisherman at Bayou La Batre, Alabama.

After seven years of fishing, I have learned many things from the ocean. Has anybody wondered why God created more ocean than land? There are two-thirds ocean and one-third land. From a logical viewpoint, there should be more land so man could have more space to live, but the reality is that there is more ocean. Did God make a mistake?

The ocean is becoming more and more a place that people long to visit. Cruising ships travel around the world, charging $1,000 a day, and more than ever people are willing to spend that much. For the rest of their lives they talk about their trip on the ocean.

Sunrise on the ocean

The Ocean and Religious Life

Father has great love for the ocean. Life on the ocean, especially on a fishing boat, is very similar to living a religious life. In our movement, we have many different organizations to "catch" different types of people for God. Likewise, there are many different ways of fishing. It all depends on which type of fish you want to catch. The ocean is absolutely the best training ground for church members, who will lead the world someday.

What I have learned here is endless. When we are fishing, we stay out for weeks at a time. One trip like this is like one very long day, because we never relax before we come back. The only thing on our mind is catching fish, shrimp, or whatever it might be, day night, in good or bad weather. The weather always changes, and we have to be careful that we have the right size boat for a certain kind of weather.

A boat captain never relaxes at all, even while sleeping. He is always worrying about the safety of his boat and crew, and how to catch more fish. Fishing is a never-ending story; you are always looking for more and more fish. When fish show up, there can be long hours without sleep. The captain then uses the "frying pan method" to stay awake. You hold the pan in your hand while you are standing up; then, if you fall asleep, you drop the pan on your toe and wake up. It gives you approximately a 1/2 second rest!

After 30-40 hours straight of working on the deck with fish and fishing gear, I'm not sure if I'm asleep, dreaming, or awake. Sometimes when I am longlining* for example, it takes hours to get the fishing gear up. If it is tangled, it can take a good "clock" (one clock is 24 hours). One has to stay in one spot the whole time. f here we work, eat, and sometimes take a catnap, still standing up!

When the crew comes back to land, in the beginning they often bring that spirit with them. One crew member, for example, woke up in the middle of the night thinking that he was still fishing and that his boat had drifted ashore all the way up to the center where he was sleeping. He ran out in the street in his underwear, yelling, "Help, somebody call the Coast Guard! We've run aground!" Another member who just woke up believed the same thing and tried to reverse the boat in the bathroom by rapidly turning the faucets in the sink. He tried to call the Coast Guard with the shower handle!

Captain Mackay Holmes at wheel watch on Sea Hope III

Dangers at Sea

One time I was working with hydraulic gear and I fell asleep. I was dreaming and working at the same time. Somewhere in my mind I knew that if I did not turn off the gear I would hurt myself, so I had to yell at my physical body to wake up, and I did -- at the last second.

Many times we come in bleeding after a day's work, but we cannot recall when or where we got hurt. Fishing is very dangerous work. In the beginning, many people wonder why our boat captains yell so much, but with a 70 percent higher accident rate than most other industries, a captain has good reason to yell. Remember that if you go out on a boat sometime!

In warmer weather we have to worry about sharks, who would not mind having us for lunch. Some of us already have had some close encounters with them. I had such an encounter with a Portuguese man-of-war two years ago. (This is a dangerous kind of jelly fish which gives people cramps.) I still have marks from that painful experience.

The boat is the only protection we have out on the ocean, so attention is needed at all times. Our church company, Master Marine, has a very good reputation for building quality boats that are very safe. If a person's boat sinks or he falls overboard in northern waters in the winter, he doesn't have a long time to live. Now we wear survival gear that gives us a better chance.

Seafood is becoming increasingly popular all over the United States. People are getting hooked on seafood and don't want to eat anything else. It is much healthier also; the cholesterol in seafood is not harmful to the blood like that in meat is. I often hear from people that after eating meat they feel like they have eaten a brick. It makes people look ugly after a long time, too. Seafood is a very natural food that isn't processed a lot; it only gets packed and frozen. Today there is a product called Shirimi made from Pollock in Alaska. It has different flavors, and can taste just like any kind of seafood or any kind of meat you find on land.

Right across the American border, the world is starving, and we have so much here. It makes you cry sometimes. Often I feel ashamed to have to throw away a good fish when I know people are starving.

There is a good chance that the answer to AIDS and cancer may be found in the ocean, too. Already scientists in Norway are studying this and are working on creating some medicines derived from the ocean. The immune system in sharks, for example, is so strong that it kills cancer cells injected into their bodies. Scientists are working on developing a type of shark oil for humans to prevent cancer.

A large "devil ray" that got caught in the net

Earth, Sea, and True Parents

The fisherman has to battle with many factors: bad weather, environmentalists, sport-fishermen, and the government.

American environmentalists have created so many obstacles for the fishing industry in Europe that Europeans are now boycotting American products there, and they want American military forces out of their countries. Many of the environmentalists have more sympathy for the fish and animals than they do for man. But people are starving all over the world. God wants to feed them more than anything else. The creation wants to be a part of a perfect man. Without perfect man, creation does not have any purpose.

It takes many, many hours of individual sacrifice to become a good fisherman. Being a fisherman's wife can be lonesome because she sees her husband only about four months a year. But he makes a super husband who cleans and cooks just like her because he has to do all of that on the boat. A fisherman thinks about his wife all the time.

The mission of Ocean Church is very simple: it is to go fishing. The rest God teaches us out there. When fishing, the spiritual atmosphere on the ocean is very clean and pure and simple. True Father accomplished many missions on land after making conditions of being on the ocean. Handling a boat in all kinds of weather is a great challenge. Many fishermen talk tough when the weather is calm, but when the forces of wind and waves come, they talk very humbly about God, Christ, and True Father and Mother.

Many similarities exist between the beauty of the Principle of Creation and the beauty of being on a boat. There are endless things to learn and many incredible things to see on the ocean: the sunrise and sunset, the dolphins playing around, and all kinds of fish, crabs, shrimp, etc. I feel more answers to man's questions can be found there than in space. I sometimes have to laugh at all the attention the space shots get, as if some great answer will come from space, while True Parents are on earth -- and the sea -- with all the answers.

You may lose your lunch in the beginning -- but if you do not get anything out of being on the ocean, at least you will definitely love the land much more than you did in your whole life. Every step will make you grateful for something that does not move at all!

You may be scared to death of working on the ocean after reading this, but how do we brothers want to live, after all? Like Fred Astaire, dancing on the roses, or like Rambo? We make the choice!


* Longlining: fishing with a heavy fishing line that may be several miles long and that has baited hooks in a series. 

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