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Fair Havens

Places100Luke’s record of Paul’s journey to Rome include these statements: “Sailing slowly for many days, we came with difficulty as far as Cnidus” (Acts 27:7). Cnidus was a coastal city in the southwest part of the province of Asia. Luke continued, “Since the wind did not allow us to approach it, we sailed along the south side of Crete off Salmone. With yet more difficulty we sailed off the coast and came to a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea” (vv. 7-8).

Crete is an island situated in a south-southwesterly direction off the mainland of Greece. The island is approximately 170 miles long running east to west; but it also is narrow—35 miles wide at its widest point. In northeast Crete sits Salmone. Salmone is an elevated location resting on land that extends out into the sea. Luke indicated that he and those on his ship sailed along the southeast coast of Crete to Fair Havens, located roughly in the middle of Crete’s southern coast near Lasea. An open bay with only small islands nearby to provide protection, Fair Havens did not appear a suitable place to spend the winter. Paul spoke against leaving Crete and continuing the journey to Rome at that point, but the centurion, the ship’s captain, and the ship’s owner decided to venture out anyway (vv. 9-12). It’s true that initially they planned to try to make it to Phoenix on Crete’s southwest coast, a much better place to spend the winter. Then “a gentle south wind sprang up” and “they thought they had achieved their purpose” (v. 13); apparently they thought they could get to Phoenix without difficulty.   They sailed along Crete’s southern coast for a while, but soon “a fierce wind called the ‘northeaster’ rushed down from the island. Since the ship was caught and was unable to head into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. After running under the shelter of a little island called Cauda [near Phoenix], we were barely able to get control of the skiff” (vv. 14-16). The days ahead were difficult as they sailed through stormy waters toward Rome, but at last they came to Malta, an island south of Sicily. The ship broke apart, but since everyone followed Paul’s instructions to stay with the ship, no one lost his life (vv. 30-44). Soon Paul would arrive in Rome (28:14).

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