Captain Philip Beale and navigation equipment (click to enlarge)
We dont want to see any more [approaching lights at night] as they are not good for the nerves, All images courtesy of (click to enlarge)
Phoenicia update: Pirate drill in the Somali waters

Posted: Nov 18, 2009 11:50 am EST
( The ship left from Salalah, Oman to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and sailed through the Somali Pirate Waters. To avoid facing the pirates Captain Philip Beale planned taking a long way around the Horn of Africa to the east, but it was not always possible. They had some nerve wrecking incidents in the Pirate Waters.

Sailing east to avoid pirates

The Phoenicia tried to make progress to the east to avoid the pirates. However this has been difficult said the Captain.

As everyone one knows, Phoenician ships couldn't sail close to the wind, anything under 90 degrees is considered good. And with light north easterly winds we have only managed to go due south or worse these last couple of days.

We are therefore sailing close to the wind in the metaphorical sense, as we are just some 450 miles from the Somali coast and the security advisers recommend a minimum distance of between 600 and 900 miles offshore because of the almost daily attacks taking place.

Pirate attacks

A week ago pirate attacks took place just over 200 miles south east of their position and would indicate a pirate mother ship in the area.

What made matters worse was that the location was directly on Phoenicia's intended course. We took immediate action and diverted course, reported the Captain.

The crew had quite a scare one night when they spotted a light approaching them on the starboard side. They had the necessary preparation in case of an attack. Commands were given and action was taken:

Yuri can you get the generator started and the LRAD plugged in. Nicolas can you check the satellite phone is ready and switch on our navigation lights.

Darken ship and get our navigation lights off. They will know we have seen them but if they are coming for us it will be more difficult for them to find us as it is pitch black right now and the full moon wont rise for an hour or so.

Fortunately it was a lonely fishing boat. We dont want to see any more of them as they are not good for the nerves, said a relieved crew.

Food and water

For the 4-5 weeks, 2500+ mile voyage the crew has taken on board some 3 tons of water, 30 kilos of potatoes, 10 kilos of onions, 30 kilos of rice, 20 kilos of pasta, 200 packets of Mi Indonesian noodles, 100 apples and oranges and a good range of other supplies.

And some 10,000 tea bags just in case we get caught short! We have ample instant coffee which has now been supplemented with some of the best blow your brains out traditional Omani coffeeso there are no excuses for not keeping awake on watch! said Philip


In terms of crew they have 5 members of the Royal Navy of Oman on board. They are Salah Al-Khatari, Khalifa Alzaabi, Abdulla (Ali) Al-Balushi, Youssof Al Agbri and Rashid al Ghuzaili.

So we now have more Arabic speakers than any other language group on board, and with Sulhan, Dirman and Aziz (from Indonesia) the majority of the crew are Muslims for the first time. The rest of the Crew are made up of Yuri from Brazil, Nicholas from Sweden and Philip (captain) from the UK.

Possible water shortage

Although the ship carries three thousand litres water it has become a major issue reported the Captain.

We didn't calculate the need of eight Muslim crew members to wash with fresh water five times a day, before they put their rugs towards Mecca to pray.

They could use up to 1/3 of our total supply just to fulfil their religious obligation. So, as good comrades, we all are adapting to this new situation, and agreed to save more water, maybe by using more seawater for cooking and washing.

Current position

The Phoenicia is currently passing through the Inter-Tropical Coversion Zone (ITCZ) where the weather systems of the north and south meet just slightly below the equator.

The Phoenician Ship Expedition is attempting to recreate the first sail around ancient Africa accomplished by Phoenician mariners in 600 BC in a replica Phoenician/Mediterranean vessel.

The ship was built according to specifications based on archaeological data from shipwrecks of the Phoenician era. It has one mast, is 21.5 m in length with 20 rowing oars (10 per side).

The expedition leader and skipper is Philip Beale. In 2003-04 he built an 8th century BC Indonesian ship and sailed it to West Africa to demonstrate that early Indonesian seafarers could have reached West Africa by sail rather than by land.

The expedition crew consists of a core expedition and an international crew of up to 14 people at any one time. The international crewmembers will rotate at port stops.

The Phoenician Ship Expedition plans to sail in three phases:

The expedition was launched from Arwad, Syria, in August 2008 and sailed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea to complete phase one when the ship reached Aden. The main ports that were visited during this phase were Port Said (Egypt) and Port Sudan (Sudan).

Phase two was launched in August 2009. Phoenicia will sail round the Horn of Africa and down the East Coast. Ports that will be visited are Salalah (Oman), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Beira (Mozambique). Richard's Bay and Cape Town (South Africa), The Azores, Gibraltar, Carthage (Tunisia), Alexandria (Egypt), Beirut (Lebanon) and Tartous (Syria).

The ship left Salalah port, Oman at 1800 hrs local time on Sunday 25th October 2009 to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

The circumnavigation will be followed in the third phase by another voyage to bring the ship to the United Kingdom in the Summer 2010; in all 17,000 miles and 10 months at sea, stated the website. Ports to visit during this phase are Malta, Gibraltar, Falmouth and Portsmouth (UK) and exhibiting the vessel in London.

The Phoenicians were regarded as 'rulers of the sea' (Ezekiel 26:16 cited by McGrail 2001 pg 129); occupying what is now modern day Lebanon and the coastal parts of Syria and Palestine from circa 1,200 BC for approximately one thousand years.