Phoenicia Expedition - Six months waiting for wind

Phoenicia back in the water in Port Sudan
Abdul Aziz
'Just like the Phoenicians, we will have to secure the ship and wait for the prevailing winds which will turn in August 2009.'

These are the words of Philip Beale, leader of the Phoenicia Expedition which is recreating the first circumnavigation of Africa, believed to have taken place some 2500 years ago.


However, Beale and his multi national crew are still on course to beat the original Phoenicians - Greek Historian Herodotus recorded that the original voyage took nearly three years to complete with mariners planting crops enroute and waiting for the harvests.

The organisers of the Phoenicia Expedition have announced they will put a six month break in the voyage in order to meet the crucial 'weather windows' for rounding The Cape of Good Hope as well as getting out of the Gulf of Aden.

In a 70 ft replica of a 600 BC wooden ship which was built in Syria, the crew have sailed to Yemen which is where the boat will stay for the next few months.

phoenicia map 470x300
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Expedition leader Philip Beale said: 'Given the delays during the first stage of the voyage we cannot now sail out of the Gulf of Aden.'

Most of the delay was caused when they made changes to the boat in Port Sudan. They had planned to stay for just 15 days, but it took two long months to make the changes to the ship that they thought necessary to continue the voyage.

First, they wanted to rebuild the aft end to insert a new and much larger thwart (a transverse support spreading the gunwales) to take the rudders. They also wanted to look at putting a small engine that would enable them to be less reliant on tows in and out of harbours. Compared to the ancients, the crew is quite small, and they lack the numbers to adequately row the vessel.

The crew overcame many challenges and frustrations during their time in Sudan but finally the new rudder housing was securely in place and a marinised 180 HP engine was installed into the ship to serve as an emergency/security back up and also help the crew to manoeuvre in and out of ports.

They left Port Sudan and sailed south through the Red Sea successfully to Yemen. However, as sailing is ruled by the seasons, they realised that time had run out for the onward leg.

Beale is philosophical about the delay, 'The whole point of the exercise is to discover how Phoenician mariners could have achieved this circumnavigation and it is only through a process of experiencing the problems and challenges of such a vessel that we can begin to realise this.

'However one thing is becoming clear and that is that the Phoenician’s voyage some 2500 years ago must rank as one of mankind’s greatest voyages of exploration, such are the complexities and difficulties involved.'

For further information on this expedition go to the website
http://www.sail-world.com/53425