A Very Old Boat

Series: Israel 2022

“Peter and James and John in a sailboat,
Peter and James and John in a sailboat,
Peter and James and John in a sailboat,
out on the beautiful sea.”

The Sea of Galilee. Boats & fishermen. If I had to guess, I would say that there have been fishermen and boats for as long as there has been a sea there in Galilee. And there were certainly fishermen and boats there when Jesus made Capernaum the center of his three-year ministry.

The sea of Galilee is where Jesus called four burly fishermen named Peter, Andrew, James & John to be a part of His ministry, to come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.2  Both Matthew and Mark in the Gospels state that Jesus found Peter and Andrew by their boat casting their nets3 and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, working in the boat of their father repairing their nets4 right there on the sea where they had been fishing.

When I sang that song in Sunday School so many years ago, I never thought that one day I would be able to visit Israel and stand on the shore of that great lake. Okay, I may have thought about it and wanted to go but never really thought I’d be able to do so. And, though I have read many articles about archaeological finds in the Holy Land, I never contemplated seeing one of the most amazing archaeological finds of the past fifty years – a boat.

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Imagine a simple wooden fishing boat stuck in the mud for just about two thousand years until a drought revealed its resting place in 1986. A boat that is thought to be exactly like the boats of those four apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

It is called the “Jesus Boat6 because it has been carbon-dated to @40 BC which puts it right smack dab into the time of Christ…the time when He walked by the Sea and sailed upon its waters in a boat like this. There is, of course, no proof that Jesus ever stepped foot in this particular boat, walked on the water anywhere near it, or calmed the stormy sea from its stern, but there is no proof that He didn’t use this boat either. So, people like to imagine that this very boat, no matter how far-fetched, is actually a boat that Jesus sailed in…so, it has been named for Him.

The “Jesus” Boat Remains

This ancient fishing boat was found by Moshe and Yuval Lufan5, two brothers, fishermen just like those four disciples of Jesus, who lived at Kibbutz Ginosar5 had been looking for such a boat during a drought when the waters of the lake were very low. The recovery of the boat was a bit of a miracle in and of itself and involved teams from the Kibbutz and from the Israel Antiquities Authority5. Since the mud had preserved the boat for so long, the wood was completely saturated with water and quite spongy and began decomposing quickly with exposure to air.  To prevent decomposition, they wrapped the ruins in fiberglass and insulating foam and floated it out to a restoration site where it was submerged in a wax bath for twelve (12) years.

Today the boat is housed in the Yigal Allon Galilee Boat Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar, which is where I saw it. The boat is 27’ (8.27m) long by 7.5’ (2.3m) wide with a maximum preserved height of 4.3’ (1.3m). It is made mostly of cedar wood but includes about 10 different types of wood which seems to indicate that it was in service for a long time (maybe 100 years) and repaired with whatever was available over that time period. It sounds like it was sort of scrapped together and just like I’d imagine a fisherman’s boat to be after many years on the water.  By the time it was “retired” (decommissioned??) as no longer useful and sunk into the sea, it was in pretty bad shape.  

Inside the boat, some nails, a cook pot, and a lamp were found. I really wonder why these articles would have been left in the boat. I can figure out the nails part…. having a few nails in an old boat would have been necessary just in case a few repairs were needed along the way.  But leaving a good lamp and a pot seems odd. Of course, it’s hard to tell when that pot got cracked like that so it might have been worthless at the time.

Bowl, Lamp, and Nails found with the boat.

The historian Flavius Josephus10 says that during the Jewish Revolt in 70 AD, boats were used on the Sea of Galilee by the rebels to escape the Romans and he indicated that there were about two hundred and thirty (230) boats operating on the sea at that time. Although the lake is good-sized, that number seems like quite a lot of boats, but I am reminded that boats were used for just about everything and not just fishing. Commerce and trading goods would be more easily transported to cities across the sea and way more convenient than hauling goods overland. Besides making work easier, taking a ferry boat across the lake would be much more practical and much quicker than walking all the way around along the shore.  From scriptures, that is pretty much what Jesus did…. many times He took a boat. Boats are mentioned at least fifty (50) times in the Gospels and were an integral part of Jesus’ ministry in the area.

Yigal Allon Galilee Boat Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar

I stood by that boat in the museum and marveled at the miracle of it having lain in the mud for those two thousand years and then, found, and then preserved. Who knew it would take 12 years in a wax bath? I wondered if this boat could, in fact, be the boat where Peter and Andrew were working when they looked up and saw the Messiah for the first time2, or the one where Jesus stood and rebuked the storm7, or the one where He walked across the water8 to catch up to the disciples who had gone on ahead, or the boat that was rowed to a spot off shore where Jesus stood and spoke to the crowds9…. a boat that featured so prominently throughout the scriptures. I think the experts are probably right – there’s just no way this could be the exact boat that Jesus used…. just no way.  But I looked at the boat knowing it was very similar to that boat (or those boats) and my heart…… well, my heart wanted very much at that moment to believe that it was and will always be “the Jesus boat6.

Scriptural Sources:

When I queried Biblehub.org for “boat”, I got a message saying 101 verses had been found and 25 were listed. I decided to omit the listing of scriptural sources for this blog and just included those I found to be most relevant in the blog itself and in the Resources section below.

Still fishing on the Sea of Galilee.


  1. Peter and James and John | Hymnary.org
  2. Holy Bible, Matthew 4:19 & Mark 1:17, NKJV
  3. Holy Bible, Matthew 4:18 & Mark 1:16, NKJV
  4. Holy Bible, Matthew 4:21 & Mark 1:20, NKJV
  5. Sea of Galilee Boat – Wikipedia
  6. Jesus Boat | The Jesus Boat | Galilee Boat | 1st century Galilee Boat | The Boat of Jesus | Jesusboat.com
  7. Holy Bible, Luke 8:24, NKJV
  8. Holy Bible, Matthew 14:25, NKJV
  9. Holy Bible, Luke 5:3, NKJV
  10. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book II, Whiston chapter 21, Whiston section 8 (tufts.edu); Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895.
Lunch after our visit featured fish. What else??

ICYMI (In case you missed it) – Previous blogs in the Israel 2022 series:

Israel 2022: Pinch Yourself – April 4, 2022

Israel 2022: Caesarea Maritima – Birding Boomers – April 11, 2022

Israel 2022: Contested on Mount Carmel – Birding Boomers – April 20, 2022

Israel 2022: In This Valley – Birding Boomers – April 30, 2022

Israel 2022: Sea of Galilee – Birding Boomers – May 9, 2022

A Good Box of Dirt

We met them while we were out walking looking for birds near our rental.

It was January and it was cold – had been in the 30’s since we had arrived. I hadn’t figured this part of Georgia to be this cold even in the dead of winter.  We were on our way to Florida where it was much warmer. Believe me, the sun in Florida is a much deeper yellow – not this tepid light barely yellow that we were seeing here in the lowlands of Georgia.

We stopped for a week to visit with our daughter who lives just up the road a piece. She was coming down for a few days and we were idling a bit, waiting, and taking the opportunity to check out the birds at the two refuges nearby. All in all, it was a good place to stop, a small condo complex in an out-of-the-way place on a salt water marsh just about halfway between Savannah and Brunswick.

On this particular afternoon, it was sunny outside and a bit warmer so we decided to take a walk around the complex so headed up towards the fishing pier just to see if any birds were about that might be fishing in the creek. That’s where we saw them – up by a big pile of dirt over in the back corner of the lot.

She was 87, he was 95.  She was shoveling dirt from the dirt pile into a cardboard box sitting on the back of her golf cart. He was sitting in the cart watching her work.  

We walked on over and Jerry offered to shovel for her.  Without a thought, he reached for the shovel to take over the job for her.  Oh, my goodness, she pulled that shovel away like he was trying to snatch one of her grandbabies right out of her arms.  Jerry stepped back and stammered out an apology of sorts and looked at me like he really didn’t know what to do at this point.

She politely told him, she didn’t need any help, thank you anyway, explaining that this was her exercise and that a person needs projects like this to keep healthy especially as they are getting a bit older.

As we talked, she continued shoveling. We told them what we were doing there, and she told us why she was shoveling dirt into the box on the golf cart.  I had assumed she might be dressing out her flower beds around their condo but that was not it at all.

She also explained that he had a pulled shoulder and couldn’t shovel and that’s why he wasn’t helping. She really seemed to want to make sure that we knew that he was not just some no-account husband who would just sit watching his hard-driving wife do all the grunt work. It hadn’t crossed our minds to question his watching her seeing as she had told us right up front how old they were.

All in all, she was immaculate, all the while shoveling dirt.  She was just about four foot nothing and wearing neatly ironed jeans with knife sharp creases down the front and back. People rarely iron jeans anymore let along crease them like that front and back.

She had on a sweater set like a good Southern woman of her generation would wear (or, maybe any generation for that matter) – a print blouse with a nice pastel tropical print and a color matched sweater. Tropical but tasteful; you know, light yellow hibiscus rather than bright red ones. Her hair was beautiful – naturally white with soft curls framing her very well-made up face. One should always look one’s best when going out to work in the yard, I always say. (Okay, not really. I work outside in torn jeans and stained t-shirts.)

As noted above, I had assumed that she was getting that good dirt for her flower beds or, maybe to fill in a hole or two in the yard. She said no, that wasn’t it and, just to make sure we knew she wasn’t taking the dirt without permission, told us that the HOA folks brought the dirt in here, dumped it, and said that anyone could use it to fill up holes and all in the yard.

He laughed right out loud and said she wasn’t gonna be filling up any holes with that dirt. She was bound and determined to go building a ramp down to the creek from her back yard so she could get down to the creek to go fishing.

‘Need mind that she could ride her golf cart up to the pier – about ¼ mile all told from her doorstep – and go fishing in the creek anytime she felt the urge.

And, ‘need mind that the tide coming and going turned that stretch of water into a mud flat at least twice a day. 

And, ‘need mind that that same tide would wash away all her efforts at building a ramp just about those same times every day. It would explain why the bank was washed out in the first place.

But, never mind all that. She had a project to do. She had set her mind to it. And, she was determined to get it done. Pronto. No need to be messing around and jaw-boning all day about it.

Now, in my world, being who I am, I think I would just have run up to the big box store and bought one of those fancy pre-made concrete steps they make for mobile homes and such. I would have paid them an extra $35 and had them deliver the steps and plop them right down in place up next to the bank.  Project conceived; project done.

The box was about half full of dirt now (or still half empty depending on whether you’re an optimist or pessimist). I wondered how full she would go and who would be lifting that box off the back of the golf cart….being he is 95 and has that hurt shoulder and all. I didn’t dare suggest that we might follow them home and provide some bit of assistance.

He said she’d never catch any fish in that creek anyway. What fish were there came in with the tide and went out with it…..everyday. But I have to say, we knew there were fish in the creek because we’d seen the Hooded Mergansers and Great Egrets out there fishing. Okay, they were little fish…but they were fish, nonetheless.

She said she would too catch fish – she just knew it. How could anyone doubt her? She’d grown up fishing and I reckon she knew what she was doing.

We asked if she’d eat the fish that she caught. Well, of course, she would. Why would she ever go to all that trouble to catch a fish and then just throw it back? Why, that would be just crazy! Of course, she was gonna eat any fish she caught.

While we watched her work, he gave us the lowdown on other things. He said she’d lived there (at the condos) since her husband died about twelve years ago. She’d moved up from Darien down yonder to the south.  He said she’d had two properties and got tired of mowing and taking care of things at the big house where she’d lived with her husband and raised her babies. So, she was living up here now in a condo that was much smaller and easy to keep up.  

Her daughter lived just up the road – you could see her house from right there where we were standing. Looking out over the marsh to the southeast, he pointed out a blue house on the point where the creek curved its way out to the river.

The box was really getting full now. She was barely getting half a shovel of dirt each time she lifted so I knew she’d never lift that whole box of dirt off the cart. Maybe she would just tip it over dumping it into the yard and then work from there.

We asked how they’d met…they had both mentioned previous spouses that had died. She said – she had started doing most of the talking now – that they met in church. They had gone to the same church for years and had known each other only in passing when their respective spouses were alive. They had continued to sit in different parts of the church after they died and then, just like that, one day they started sitting together on the same side…he’d moved over to her side….and that was that. Make a long story short…. they became a couple.

Well, the box was full of dirt now and that ramp was waiting. They had to go. Nice to meet you fine folks. She plopped the shovel into the back of the golf cart, hopped onto the front seat and, with a last wave back in our direction, drove on off across the field.

Later, we spotted her working at the edge of the yard building her ramp. I wondered how long it would take for her to ramp up the four foot drop down to the water’s edge or how long before the incoming tide would wash it all away. It was a gonna be a crap shoot as to which thing happened first.

But a project is a project and you gotta keep at it or it ain’t ever gonna get done.

I was absolutely 100% sure that this was one woman that was gonna keep at it until she could take her fishing pole and march right down that new ramp to the creek and catch a fine big ole catfish just ready to be battered up and fried in the skillet with some hush puppies and cole slaw on the side. It’d make a fine meal for the two of them.

That was just how it was gonna be. I didn’t doubt it for one minute.