Last stage for Phoenicia

Posted: Sep 09, 2010 06:48 pm EDT

The Phoenicia is surfing eastward in the Mediterranean and are close to finishing the full circle of Africa. The 21 meter replica of a 600BC Phoenician cargo ship has battled heavy shipping in the Gibraltar Strait and gale force wind in the Med the last couple of days.

Phoenicia used 27 days from the Azores to Gibraltar. After a week with some well-earned rest they started on their last leg in to the Mediterranean. The 21 meter vessel, a traditionally built replica of a 600BC Phoenician cargo ship, is on the last stage of recreating the epic first circumnavigation of Africa some 2,600 years ago.

- We have had a good 24 hours during which we have covered some 108 miles. The strong westerly winds, which were forecast, have duly arrived and we are now sailing in force 8, gale force conditions with winds of between 34-40 knots according to the local security issued by the coast guard. The seas are quite large at between 5-6 meters with large foaming "horses heads" and bright sunshine.

- The winds built gradually overnight and by breakfast time at 0730 hours we were doing close to 7 knots. As the winds were expected to (and indeed did) get stronger, we took the opportunity to get the main sail down before breakfast and hoist our trusted green storm sail, which we had prepared yesterday evening. The operation to change sails took about 30 minutes and went smoothly. Even with the storm sail, which about a third of the size of the main sail, we are now making some 6-7 knots. This is testament to the strong winds as we are now out of the main current and heading across to the Algerian coast. Fortunately the winds are so strong that there are few large ships coming towards us and only one or two coming with us and overtaking.

This is just as well as we are relatively constrained, in terms of our course/direction, by the large waves. Fortunately there is plenty of sea room ahead and in any event the strong winds are forecast to drop somewhat later this evening, the crew write on their blog.

Their next port of call is Carthage in Tunisia, and before autumn set in they are to dock in their final destination; Tartous, Syria.

Captain Philip Beale and his crew started their circumnavigation of Africa from Syria in August 2008. Next year they plan to sail to the UK.

The Phoenician Ship Expedition is attempting to recreate the first sail around ancient Africa accomplished by Phoenician mariners in 600 BC in a replica Phoenician/Mediterranean vessel.

The ship was built according to specifications based on archaeological data from shipwrecks of the Phoenician era. It has one mast, is 21.5 m in length with 20 rowing oars (10 per side).

The expedition leader and skipper is Philip Beale. In 2003-04 he built an 8th century BC Indonesian ship and sailed it to West Africa to demonstrate that early Indonesian seafarers could have reached West Africa by sail rather than by land.

The expedition crew consists of a core expedition and an international crew of up to 14 people at any one time. The international crew members will rotate at port stops.

The Phoenician Ship Expedition plans to sail in three phases:

The expedition was launched from Arwad, Syria, in August 2008 and sailed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea to complete phase one when the ship reached Aden. The main ports that were visited during this phase were Port Said (Egypt) and Port Sudan (Sudan).

Phase two was launched in August 2009. Phoenicia sailed round the Horn of Africa and down the East Coast.

The circumnavigation will be followed in the third phase by another voyage to bring the ship to the United Kingdom in the Summer 2011; in all 17,000 miles and 10 months at sea, stated the website. Ports to visit during this phase are Malta, Gibraltar, Falmouth and Portsmouth (UK) and exhibiting the vessel in London.

The Phoenicians were regarded as 'rulers of the sea' (Ezekiel 26:16 cited by McGrail 2001 pg 129); occupying what is now modern day Lebanon and the coastal parts of Syria and Palestine from circa 1,200 BC for approximately one thousand years.


Phoenicia on her way in to Gibraltar
Image by Phoenicia courtesy Phoenicia, SOURCE