The merchant galley sliced smartly through the waves, a steady wind astern. Fair winds and following seas—that was the joy of sailing with the prevailing westerlies on the Great Sea. The successful missionaries had retraced their path to Perga and booked sea passage back to Antioch a year after they had departed their home in the city on the Orontes.
Paulos and Barnabas sat amidships along the port gunwale. Since the wind was also over the port side, they were on the high side of the slightly heeling ship with the starboard side lower and closer to the water. The northwest wind cooled their faces with salt spray, and flying fish darted between the sea swells.
With his tentmaker’s eyes, Paulos studied the billowed mainsail, a patchwork of odd colored pieces of linen. Massive yardarms near the top of the mast supported the rectangular mainsail, wider than it was tall. A thick rope forestay stabilized the mast, extending from the masthead to the bow. Running rigging attached to the foot of the sail controlled the angle of the mainsail to the wind; Paulos marveled at the sailors who knew just which line to pull and when.
The ship hugged the coastline, and the landform remained a comforting presence on the northern horizon. Paulos and Barnabas carried their own food, as did the other passengers. The two missionaries heartily ate their evening meal of bread dipped in garum. A few passengers pitched tents on deck for sleeping quarters as night descended upon the ship at sea, but Paulos and Barnabas slept under sky and stars. Paulos lay on his back, surveying the constellations and listening to the rhythms of the creaking ship. Like a mother coaxing a baby to sleep, the ship rocked gently as sea swells lifted her up, and she whispered a soothing shhhhh of rushing water as the swells set her down.
For three days, the ship raced forward on the friendly sea, triumphantly lifted atop swelling waves before rushing down their back slopes only to rise high again. During the daytime, Paulos stood in the bow of the ship, eagerly anticipating their return to Antioch.
All hail the conquering hero.
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