“Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land.
And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.
Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.”
Acts 27:13–19 ESV
Paul said they shouldn’t, but for a little bit, their circumstances said they should. It’s like the gentle breeze was saying “come on little sailors, come out just a little bit more into the winter sea.”
Only madmen would sail from about November to April. Because of that Rome would suffer shortages of wheat. To prevent famines and hunger, the emperor would offer higher bonuses and payments per pound of wheat delivered during the dangerous winter. If a sailor braved the rough waters and unpredictable winds of winter, he would get paid handsomely.
These guys don’t listen to Paul but instead try to get to another city, just a little closer to Rome. Remember, these boats are not modern cruise ships. They are kind of like barges with big square sails.
The ‘tempestuous wind’ is a technical term like our word for ‘tornado’ or ‘straight line winds’. It is terrible. They didn’t stand a chance to control themselves through it. They secure the lifeboat and drop their anchors, but that doesn’t keep the wind from blowing them way off course.
You get a real idea of how hopeless they are when they start throwing away cargo. The whole point of this ship was to carry wheat from Alexandria or maybe even Egypt to Rome. The other cargo and the passengers were a bonus. The cargo represents a huge loss of income for the whole crew.
But that isn’t the worst.
When the third day of storming comes, the crew throws the tackle overboard. That’s like cutting the motor loose on your ski-boat just to keep it from sinking. Their best hope at this point is to wash up on the shore of an island.
They could let ropes off of one side of the boat and then grab them when they washed across underneath to the other side. This could tie up the bottom of the boat to hold it together.
God isn’t mentioned anywhere in this trial. We don’t read about His hand doing anything to help them out. Paul wrote that he was shipwrecked 3 times before this adventure ever started, so for him it’s another happy sea cruise.
For the whole crew that didn’t listen to Paul before, they are at their most desperate hour.
You can get the Daily Bible Readings to your inbox via email every day by subscribing on our home page. Join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.