Sailing a 2,400-year-old Ship That Sank Off Israel’s Coast

by Luke Higgins

“Pull!” orders Yohai Palzur, and we pull the rope with all our might. Part of the square sail folds, its edges flap and the bow tilts a bit to the left. Anyone can see that we are not a trained crew, and for a moment, the usually calm and smiling Palzur looks almost desperate. But then he skips lightly between the ropes, fixes what we’ve spoiled, ties two ropes in a different place and returns with a hop to the stern, looking a little more pleased. Forty-two ropes dangle on the deck of the Ma’agan Michael II at that moment; only Palzur could figure out how to untangle them.

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We folded the sail after a five-hour cruise on this replica of a 2,400-year-old ship, on one of its first outings. It was launched earlier this year, and Palzur noted that the process of learning how to sail it is just beginning. When the original vessel sank in 400 BCE off the coast of what is now Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, south of Haifa, the Kingdom of Persia was still an empire, Ahasuerus was the Trump of the time and the Second Temple was new on the Jerusalem landscape. “We don’t know the first thing about how to sail ships like this,” Palzur said.

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