A man sits along a wharf watching the ships come in. He sees an old sailing ship limp into port, a ship clearly hundreds of years old and in poor condition, so poor that the man wonders about its seaworthiness. It ties up to the pier and the crew disembarks; there appears to have been no passengers.
A crewman walks by. The man asks him, "What is this ship, and why do you have no passengers?"
"This ship is the Richard Charles," the crewman answers. "We never carry passengers into this port," he continues. "Only out."
"And to where do you sail?" the man asks.
"Across the sea," comes the enigmatic answer.
"I am not sure I would chance the sea in such a ship."
"Oh, we have made the voyage hundreds of times, and have always arrived safely. Perhaps you might wish to inspect the ship more closely?"
The man has no desire to go on a voyage, but is curious about the ship. He accepts the crewman's invitation. As he comes closer, he notices that the ship is in even worse shape than he thought. There are holes in the sails, the rigging is ragged, the paint chipped and there are obvious cracks in the hull. The crewman leads him belowdecks, and the man sees holes through which water is pouring into the ship. Several crewman are at work patching them, but with a leisure that belies the seriousness of the situation.
"Hadn't we better help them, before the ship goes down?", the man asks. "Where is the rest of the crew?"
"We need not worry; the ship may leak, but it will never sink," answers the crewman. "Let us continue our tour."
The man finishes his tour, and on his way out, takes a closer look at one of the holes. It is not recent; in fact it is so worn that there is no doubt that it has been there many years. Has water been pouring into the ship for all that time?
Back on the pier, the man notices that the ship has not settled at all in the water since he boarded it. The crewman again asks him, "Would you like to travel across the sea with us?"
"The ship will not sink?"
"No; the ship may leak and the voyage may be rough, but I can promise you that the ship will never sink and that we will succeed in the voyage."
The man believed him.