Sailing Acts: Following an Ancient Voyage

by Linford Stutzman (Good Books, 2006; 330 pages; $14.95 print, $9.99 Kindle edition)

Review by Gregg Bruff

This book is amazing on several levels. Not only is it filled with sailing adventures, but the adventures are in the context of a rich biblical and historical backdrop. The author-captain and his mate cruised the Mediterranean, but did so following the sailing routes of the apostle Paul during the height of the Roman Empire.

The author’s dream of following Paul’s travels began when he was a little boy in 1955, while looking through maps in the back of a Bible. Fast forward 50 years, and Linford was still dreaming of biblical maps and places to explore.

Encouraged by a sabbatical, the 54 year-old professor and his wife, Janet, found themselves planning a Mediterranean study trip that would culminate in not only better course material to teach from, but also this book.

Their story is atypical. They neither knew how to sail nor owned a boat when they hatched their plan. With the clock ticking on Linford’s sabbatical calendar, the couple finally located a Westerly 33’ in Greece that seemed to fit the bill and bought it sight-unseen.

Linford and Janet traveled Paul’s route in reverse, setting out in 2004 from Volos, Greece, then wintering over in Israel the first year. At various ports of call they visited all the anchorages and landmarks that match those Paul visited in the book of Acts during three voyages he made from 45-61 AD. It amazed me that many of the landmarks referenced 2,000 years ago were still visible.

Along the way, the couple encountered the challenges common among blue-water sailors: rapidly rising bilge water, shredded sails, inflated fees for transit logs, and learning to back into moorings as required in that part of the world.

Though the two-year journey depicted in this book ended in Rome, the couple is still exploring. Linford, having returned to his position as Director of Coffman Center and Adjunct Faculty at Eastern Mennonite University in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recently returned, with Janet, to the Mediterranean to resume their sailing exploration and cultural study. If you are interested in sailing the Mediterranean, and enjoy connecting human history, landscape, and seascape, this book is for you.

Reviewer Gregg Bruff is a retired National Park Service ranger who relocated from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan and the “banana belt.” He and his wife, Mimi, sail a Columbia 8.3 they call Arcturus. Gregg is a landscape painter, writer, avid reader, and enjoys all things outdoors. When not sailing, he enjoys teaching classes and working with students on the high ropes challenge course at Clear Lake Education Center where Mimi is the director.

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