I heard this story from Hieromonk Theophylact, a monk of the Pskov Caves Monastery, during the latter half of the 1980s. He was told it by a military man—a first-rank captain and man of faith. How did he come to the faith?
In his youth he commanded a torpedo boat on the Pacific Ocean. One day the boat went out on its watch into the sea. The weather forecasts were good, and nothing indicated any trouble. Just the same, on the horizon there appeared at first a large dark cloud, which started growing rapidly. A sharp wind blew, which grew into a strong squall. A storm began. Huge waves started beating against the small ship.
The ship was tossed from side to side. Water flowed into the machinery area. The ship was on the verge of stopping, and that would fatal for all.
The captain was no coward, but nevertheless the fear of death reached his heart—after all, he was not alone; he answered for the entire company. What should he do? Then suddenly he remembered his mother’s words of long ago: “Pray to God. He saves people everywhere.” And the words of his grandfather, an old sea dog: “Whoever has not been to sea has never prayed to God.” The captain had not gone to church since childhood—first there was the young pioneers, the komsomol, and then his service. He did not know how to pray. But inside, in his soul he was shouting, “Lord, save me! Lord have mercy!”
Suddenly, a miracle happened. He saw an old man walking right on the waves, wearing the garments of a priest. The captain even had time to look at his face—regular features, a small beard, and a clear gaze. The old man blessed the ship with both hands and immediately the wind died down. The sea went flat. The storm was over. The Captain caught his breath.
Returning, he promised to himself to go without delay to a church and place a candle as a sign of thanks for his deliverance and the salvation of the crew. But in the Far East during the years of persecution, nearly all the churches had been destroyed.
Nevertheless, an opportunity soon presented itself. He was sent on an assignment to Leningrad. While travelling along the Ring Road, the captain noticed a beautiful five-domed cathedral. He left the tram and walked over to it. It was the St. Nicholas Cathedral, of naval glory. But the captain did not know about this. He went into the half-dark lower church, bought a candle for two rubles and fifty kopecks and looked around for a candle stand to place it on. He noticed an icon with the image of a pious elder in the garb of a bishop and decided, “I’ll place a candle before this grandpa.” The captain walked closer, looked at the icon, and froze. The facial features corresponded exactly to those of the amazing elder who had stopped the storm on the Pacific Ocean! “Whose image is that?” the captain asked a church-worker in a dark apron. “What do you mean, whose? It’s the holy hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, defender of those who sail the sea,” she replied.
This incident was written down in slightly different word by Fr. Theophylact in his collection, This Happened in Our Time. Twenty-seven years have passed since I read it. Much has been erased from my memory, but the main thing remained: the image of St. Nicholas, the merciful, miraculous deliverer of those who are perishing.