This book follows an American couple sailing the Mediterranean Sea as they retrace some of the Apostle Paul's journeys by sea. The premise is a good one, and there are lots of color photographs to help with the storytelling, which switches between discussions of the boat, visiting various sites by foot or moped, talking with local people about their knowledge of St. Paul, overwintering in Israel, and other musings. The book starts with
author Linford Stutzman's purchase of a boat, a British-built Westerly 33 ketch, with the inevitable difficulties with language and registration for an American buying a boat in Greece and registering it as a U.S. boat. However, the book soon moves on to the actual journeys in the newly-christened yacht,
The travels of the author
are always interesting, and for an armchair sailor or tourist they evoke wonderful images of sun, sea, ancient ruins and exploration. The links to the journeys of Paul sometimes seemed rather tenuous - for example, "Today is my birthday. I have a feeling I will not forget this one for a while. Paul had a number of birthdays in the Aegean. Who knows, maybe even his 54th." It feels like he has to mention Paul whenever possible because that's the purpose of the book and his Sabbatical, even when it seems rather contrived.
There are many interesting comments where he talks to the local Greek and Turkish people about the journeys of Paul and whether they knew of the Apostle; it's clear that the Greeks are very proud of Paul's part in their history and heritage, although the Turkish people
are generally unfamiliar with Paul, which is not too surprising for a Muslim country.
There isn't that much about actual sailing in this book, although Stutzman does include information about the various maintenance headaches consistent with an older boat such as this, so this isn't a book that would appeal to a sailor who had no interest in Paul. Equally, there
aren't any great theological explorations or biblical insights, but I did find his discussions with local people about the position of Paul in their culture illuminating. The book
isn't even a real travelogue, not giving very much detail about the individual places he visited on land, most of the Greek and Turkish villages merging into one another within the narrative. It works more as a general book for those interested in both Paul and in sailing, and who enjoy imagining life on a boat, then and now.
This book would have benefited from more stringent copy editing. In the first few chapters, the boat manufacturer Beneteau is spelled
"Benentau," the CQR anchor is called "CRQ" throughout, a British person says a sentence using American English, the Areopagus is spelled
"Aeropogus" in some places but correctly elsewhere, and there are several more errors of this kind that
are rather irritating. I was, however, impressed by the author's cosmopolitan and broadminded attitude, one not often found in American travelers to Europe; he was able to put aside (most of the time at least) his American worldview and culture to try to understand the cultures in which he was traveling and appreciate the good things in the different countries. This is a book that would appeal to sailors who also have an interest in Greece or in the journeys of Paul, but it doesn't work entirely well for those who are just interested in one of those items.
Overall, however, it shows how tempting it is to voyage in the Med and made me wonder if one day we'd take our boat down there.