Vessels of hope

August 20, 2022

Ever since Noah’s ark, ships and boats have always featured in God’s mission to rescue humanity. 

Ships carried Paul to Europe on his missionary trips, firstly to Greece, later to Malta and Rome. The completion of the Great Commission requires reaching all tribes and every people group, from the remotest reaches of the Amazon to the most isolated islands in the Pacific. Vessels of all sorts are essential for this task. 

Last week, after writing about the ‘bumbling beginnings’ of Youth With A Mission’s ship ministries, I tried to track down the 28 vessels I was told made up the YWAM fleet (one of YWAM’s best kept secrets!). What became clear is that many were of necessity boats, needing to negotiate shallow waters around islands, lakes and rivers, bringing medical aid, disaster relief, community development teams and evangelists. Others would fit the category of smaller ships

So what’s the difference? When does a boat become a ship? The best test, I read somewhere, is to talk to the captain about his/her ‘boat’. If he/she is offended, the vessel is a ship. 

Technically, there’s a thin line between boats and ships. Some say a ship is at least 60 metres (197 feet), weighs at least 500 tonnes and is used to travel across deep-water. Boats are mainly used for smaller purposes and mainly ply near the coast. Yet under the International Maritime Labour Convention 2011 and the UK Smalls Ships Register, any vessel 24 metres and over is referred to as a ‘ship’.  That limit is set to allow enforcement of safety regulations and in commercially registered vessels, to guard the rights of mariners. 

An old definition demanded three masts and a bowsprit. By tradition, vessels with sails are referred to by their rig, e.g., Schooner, Ketch, etc…. The term ‘ship’ evolved when referring to ‘ship of the line’ which basically meant a vessel was big enough to line up and fire cannons at other ships! 

Even submarines, which can be huge these days, are always referred to as boats.

Operating under a rather bewildering array of entities linked with local YWAM bases (including Marine Reach, Pacific Hope Global, YWAM Ships, YWAM Yachts for Life, YWAM medical ships), the following ‘vessels of hope’ comprise the current YWAM fleet of, in my count, some thirty vessels. At least nine can be classified as ships; eight are river boats patrolling the Amazon. One or two have been omitted for security reasons.

For information about how to give, how to volunteer (all sorts of skills needed) and training courses, see: • (for crew training) •   •    •    •   •    •

Till next week,

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