A harbor near the city of Lasea identified with the bay on the S coast of Crete that still bears the same name in modern Greek, Kaloi Limniones. (Ac 27:7, 8) This bay is located about 8 km (5 mi) E of Cape Matala (Akra Lithinon), the southernmost point of Crete.
In about 58 C.E. the apostle Paul, as a prisoner, was sailing from Myra (on the southern coast of Asia Minor) via Cnidus en route to Rome. The more direct way from Cnidus to Rome would have been to the N of Crete. But evidently adverse winds, probably from the NW, forced the mariners to take a southerly course from Cnidus to Crete and then sail under the shelter of the island’s S coast, finally reaching Fair Havens with difficulty.—Ac 27:5-8.
When consideration was given to leaving Fair Havens “considerable time had passed,” perhaps in waiting there for the wind to abate or because of the slow and difficult journey. It was already past the Atonement Day fast (late September or early October), and hence navigation was hazardous.—Ac 27:9.
Paul, who had often been in dangers at sea and had personally experienced at least three previous shipwrecks (2Co 11:25, 26), wisely recommended that the boat winter at Fair Havens. (Whether his advice was inspired on this occasion is not revealed in the account.) However, the army officer, evidently in control of matters, heeded the advice of the pilot and the shipowner instead. Fair Havens was an “inconvenient” harbor for wintering; so the majority advised leaving there, and the mariners set sail for Phoenix farther down the coast. The softly blowing S wind was deceptive. Soon thereafter the ship was seized by a tempestuous wind and finally was wrecked on the coast of Malta, about 900 km (560 mi) to the W.—Ac 27:9-15, 39-41; 28:1.
Regarding this account in Acts, James Smith writes: “It is interesting to observe how each addition to our knowledge of the scene of the narrative confirms its authenticity and accuracy. It now appears, from Mr. Brown’s observations and the late surveys, that Fair Havens is so well protected by islands, that though not equal to Lutro [thought to be Phoenix], it must be a very fair winter harbour; and that considering the suddenness, the frequency, and the violence with which gales of northerly wind spring up, and the certainty that, if such a gale sprang up in the passage from Fair Havens to Lutro, the ship must be driven off to sea, the prudence of the advice given by the master and owner was extremely questionable, and that the advice given by St. Paul may probably be supported even on nautical grounds.”—The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul, London, 1866, p. 85, ftn.
[Picture on page 803]
Fair Havens, Crete, where the ship taking Paul as prisoner to Rome stopped