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The last journey begins

27 1-9 As soon as it was decided that we should sail away to Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were put in charge of a centurion named Julius, of the emperor’s own regiment. We embarked on a ship hailing from Adramyttium, bound for the Asian ports, and set sail. Among our company was Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. On the following day we put in at Sidon, where Julius treated Paul most considerately by allowing him to visit his friends and accept their hospitality. From Sidon we put to sea again and sailed to leeward of Cyprus, since the wind was against us. Then, when we had crossed the gulf that lies off the coasts of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we arrived at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us aboard her. . For several days we beat slowly up to windward and only just succeeded in arriving off Cnidus. Then, since the wind was still blowing against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete, and rounded Cape Salmone. Coasting along with difficulty we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which is the city of Lasea. We had by now lost a great deal of time and sailing had already become dangerous as it was so late in the year.

Paul’s warning is disregarded

10 So Paul warned them, and said, “Men, I can see that this voyage is likely to result in damage and considerable loss—not only to ship and cargo—but even of our lives as well.”

11-20 But Julius paid more attention to the helmsman and the captain than to Paul’s words of warning. Moreover, since the harbour is unsuitable for a ship to winter in, the majority were in favour of setting sail again in the hope of reaching Phoenix and wintering there. Phoenix is a harbour in Crete, facing south-west and north-west. So, when a moderate breeze sprang up, thinking they had obtained just what they wanted, they weighed anchor, and coasted along, hugging the shores of Crete. But before long a terrific gale, which they called a north-easter, swept down upon us from the land. The ship was caught by it and since she could not be brought up into the wind we had to let her fall off and run before it. Then, running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we managed with some difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it aboard they used cables to brace the ship. To add to the difficulties they were afraid all the time of drifting on to the Syrtis banks, so they shortened sail and lay to, drifting. The next day, as we were still at the mercy of the violent storm, they began to throw cargo overboard. On the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle over the side. Then, when for many days there was no glimpse of sun or stars and we were still in the grip of the gale, all hope of our being saved was given up.

Paul’s practical courage and faith

21-26 Nobody had eaten for some time, when Paul came forward among the men and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not set sail from Crete and suffered this damage and loss. However, now I beg you to keep up your spirits for no one’s life is going to be lost, though we shall lose the ship. I know this because last night, the angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, stood by me and said, ‘Have no fear, Paul! You must stand before Caesar. And God, as a mark of his favour towards you, has granted you the lives of those who are sailing with you.’ Take courage then, men, for I believe God, and I am certain that everything will happen exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run the ship ashore on some island.”

At last we near land

27-31 On the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were drifting in the Adriatic, about midnight the sailors sensed that we were nearing land. Indeed, when they sounded they found twenty fathoms, and then after sailing on only a little way they sounded again and found fifteen. So, for fear that we might be hurled on the rocks, they threw out four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. The sailors wanted to desert the ship and they got as far as letting down a boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to run out anchors from the bow. But Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay aboard the ship there is no hope of your being saved.”

32 At this the soldiers cut the ropes of the boat and let her fall away.

Paul’s sturdy commonsense

33-34 Then while everyone waited for the day to break Paul urged them to take some food, saying, “For a fortnight now you’ve had no food—you haven’t had a bite while you’ve been on watch. Now take some food, I beg of you—you need it for your own well-being, for not a hair of anyone’s head will be lost.”

35-38 When he had said this he took some bread and, after thanking God before them all, he broke it and began to eat. This raised everybody’s spirits and they began to take food themselves. There were about two hundred and seventy-six of us all told aboard that ship. When they had eaten enough they lightened the ship by throwing the grain over the side.

Land at last—but we lose the ship

39-44 When daylight came no one recognised the land. But they made out a bay with a sandy shore where they planned to beach the ship if they could. So they cut away the anchors and left them in the sea, and at the same time cut the ropes which held the steering-oars. Then they hoisted the foresail to catch the wind and made for the beach. But they struck a shoal and the ship ran aground. The bow stuck fast, while the stern began to break up under the strain. The soldiers’ plan had been to kill the prisoners in case any of them should try to swim to shore and escape. But the centurion, in his desire to save Paul, put a stop to this, and gave orders that all those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, while the rest should follow, some on planks and other on the wreckage of the ship. So it came true that everyone reached the shore in safety.