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Spiritual yacht crew anchored by practicing faith while traveling the world

Chief Stew Annie Barclay released tears as her crewmate stood by her side, an arm around her waist. They attended a chapel service yesterday at Bahia Mar, offered for the first time at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

For Barclay and several other crew in attendance, the service was a chance to practice their faith with fellow worshippers, something yacht crew don’t often get to do. But faith shouldn’t be something they must sacrifice to work on yachts, they said.

“If they seek it out, it’s available,” said Barclay, who has worked in the industry for 14 years, about half that time on  M/Y Antares. “I’ve been in the Bahamas on Easter, so I find a church and I go.”

Yesterday, that opportunity came at a chapel service organized by Rio Vista Community Church parishioner Liz Pasch, who came up with the idea for a faith-based event after learning that other national and international events make the effort to serve the needs of their guests of faith.

“I started doing a little research, and I realized that the PGA has a worship service,” Pasche said. “And I started questioning why doesn’t the Ft. Lauderdale boat show? It’s been 56 years; why isn’t there one?”

Crew attend the first chapel service offered at Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Photo by Suzette Cook

Crew attend the first chapel service offered at Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Photo by Suzette Cook

So she met with Rio Vista Pastor Matt Lomenick and — with the help of marine industry sponsors including a boat builder, brokers, industry businesses, crew and a marina/yacht owner — rented a room at the hotel.

“Originally, it started with possibly busing people to the church,” she said. “But what God wants us to do is bring the church to the people.”

Shelly and Steve Berry, who work on a 100-foot private charter yacht, were among the roughly 50 people at the service.

“There are Christians in the industry,” said Steve Berry, who serves as a first mate. “We hope it will be every year at the boat show. It is difficult to be part of this industry and yet be God-based.”

Barclay thanks her crewmate, Stew Jacoline Van Zyl, for inviting her to attend church with her a year ago. For Barclay, who is Christian, attending services and studying the Bible are a part of her life that she doesn’t want to give up as she works on yachts and travels around the world.

“We’re usually so busy, we don’t get to go to church on Sundays,” she said. “But you make your own church. The sea is the church, the dock is the church. It can be whatever you want. I’m very proud of my spirituality.

“It washes me clean,” she said about the tears she shed at the service yesterday. “It happens every time I go to church.”

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