We are grateful to philanthropists Thomas G. Abraham and Norma Jean Abraham of The Anthony R. Abraham Foundation for bringing the Phoenicia to Miami. The replica of a 600 BC Phoenician merchant ship arrived February 10 under sail at Shake-A-Leg Miami, the sailboat’s only Miami-Dade County port of call after a five-month, 6,000-mile maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean under the auspice of the Phoenicians Before Columbus Expedition.
Mother nature almost spoiled the day’s fun. The 66-foot wooden sailboat tried every means to master high wind and strong tide to escape the Fisher Island dock where it sought shelter the previous evening from a choppy Atlantic. Four boats, including two Sea Tow tugs and a fire boat, took on the challenge. Together they worked for hours until finally modern technology prevailed to free the Phoenicia from Scylla and Charybdis and allow a smooth sail into Biscayne Bay.
A special welcome celebration awaited the ship and crew at the Shake-A-Leg dock, where the boat came to rest after sailing in under a fabulous fire boat water salute. The Abrahams sponsored the waterfront party and provided music, food and refreshments for crew and guests from the local and Lebanese community. Shake-A-Leg is honored to have the opportunity to work with them to bring the community together on this historic moment. Local TV news channels provided coverage of the event.
“Shake-A-Leg Miami is a relevant port of call for the history being created by the Phoenicians Before Columbus Expedition. The success of this voyage clearly proves it was possible for the ancient civilization to sail the Atlantic and reach the Americas 2,000 years before Columbus. The Phoenicians were known for their seamanship, which is among the skills taught at Shake-A-Leg to the underserved and the disabled in our community. I am proud as a Lebanese descendant to have a role in making these weeks of education and celebration happen for these amazing organizations,” said Thomas Abraham, chairman of the Anthony R. Abraham Foundation.
The ancient Phoenicians, who occupied modern day Lebanon and the coastal areas of Syria and Northern Palestine, were recorded for their sailing abilities and credited with inventing the keel, the battering ram on a ship’s bow, and caulking between planks. The expedition is endorsed by the Ministries of Information and Tourism of the Republic of Lebanon. The project was designed with the help of the U.S.-based Phoenician International Research Center.
The replica ship was created in 2005 by British adventurer Captain Philip Beale, who commanded the maiden voyage. His original intent was to recreate the first circumnavigation of Africa. It is said the Phoenicians were the first people to accomplish this, but most evidence of the adventure has been lost to history. Once he accomplished the journey, he set his eyes on the Americas.
The ship was displayed at the Shake-A-Leg dock for two weeks and accepted visitors from nearby schools and members of the community for educational tours. We appreciate the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County Fire Departments for giving a water escort, Christopher Columbus High School Band, and others who made the event possible.
To learn more about the journey of the Phoenicia, click here.