Since Jonah made his short and ignominious voyage along the Syrian coast, mariners have had the same difficulty in getting ashore that the sailors experienced who attempted to land the prophet; his tedious though safe method of disembarking was not followed by later navigators, and the landing at Jaffa has remained a vexatious and half the time an impossible achievement.
The town lies upon the open sea and has no harbor. It is only in favorable weather that vessels can anchor within a mile or so from shore, and the Mediterranean steamboats often pass the port without being able to land either freight or passengers. In the usual condition of the sea the big fish would have found it difficult to discharge Jonah without stranding itself, and it seems that it waited three days for the favorable moment. The best chance for landing nowadays is in the early morning, in that calm period when the winds and the waves alike await the movements of the sun. It was at that hour, on the 5th of April, 1875, that we arrived from Port Said on the French steamboat Erymanthe. The night had been pleasant and the sea tolerably smooth, but not to the apprehensions of some of the passengers, who always declare that they prefer, now, a real tempest to a deceitful groundswell. On a recent trip a party had been prevented from landing, owing to time deliberation of the ladies in making their toilet; by the time they had attired themselves in a proper manner to appear in Southern Palestine, the golden hour had slipped away, and they were able only to look upon the land which their beauty and clothes would have adorned. None of us were caught in a like delinquency. At the moment the anchor went down we were bargaining with a villain to take us ashore, a bargain in which the yeasty and waxingly uneasy sea gave the boatman all the advantage.