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Feedback: Did the Ark Have a Sail?

by Tim Chaffey on June 6, 2013

Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., explains the reasoning behind the bow fin on our Ark design.

Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis with your observations. Let’s work through your comments to clear up a few misunderstandings.

I noticed the design of the Ark has a wooden sail. As far as I know the Bible doesn’t specifically say that it did or didn’t have one.

It’s true that the Bible doesn’t specifically say whether or not the Ark had a sail. Here are the instructions given to Noah preserved in God’s Word for us:

Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. (Genesis 6:14–16)

Since the Bible does not give us detailed blueprints for the structure, we are left to speculate on how it may have looked. Throughout the years, the Ark has been depicted in various ways. One of the more popular portrayals is the box-shaped Ark based on the dimensions in Scripture. But as we have previously explained, this is not a necessary conclusion. Our Ark design is based on the biblical data and extensive research into ancient shipbuilding.

My only concern with the sail is that it gives the message that Noah guided the Ark through the treacherous waters.

The “sail” on our Ark is a rigid wooden structure rather than a traditional sail that can be moved for propulsion purposes. Rather than calling it a “sail,” it would be more accurate to call it a stem post projection or a bow fin. This design is reminiscent of many ancient ships.1

A bow fin would have served as an obstruction to the wind, pushing the bow away from the wind and into the waves, which would prevent the Ark from capsizing. In tandem with the bow fin, a “stern projection” would have reduced the swaying of the Ark’s stern, thus preventing the Ark from being pushed side-on by the wind. So these additional structures on the top of the Ark were designed to provide stability instead of giving Noah the ability to steer it through the waters.

Obviously [guiding the Ark] would have been humanly impossible!

If the “sail” were a traditional sail used for propulsion (or perhaps even steering), then we would agree that it would have been virtually impossible for a human crew to guide a ship through cataclysmic waters for months on end. But the Ark was not built to be a ship to travel from one point to the next. It was designed to stay afloat during the Flood, so navigation may have been of limited concern.

Certainly God’s angels were there guiding the Ark or it would have undoubtedly sank.

Scripture does not tell us what all of the holy and fallen angels were doing at the time of the Flood, but since every living human was on board the Ark, I have little doubt that spiritual forces were focused on Noah and his family.2 However, it would be wise to be cautious in saying what the angels were doing at that time since God has not revealed that information to us.

Furthermore, why assume that the Ark would have sunk if angels weren’t guiding it? It would be safer to trust that God could have given Noah instructions to build an Ark that was able to survive for the duration of the Flood. God is fully capable of giving man instructions and empowering them to accomplish the tasks He called them to do, and we know that Noah was faithful to do all that God commanded him (Genesis 6:22).

I would skip the sail and have an exhibit about how God guided and protected the Ark instead. God Bless.

We are not dogmatic about how the Ark looked—maybe it didn’t have a bow fin—but our design is consistent with the limited biblical details of the original Ark and research into the historical details of other ancient ships.

We will certainly include an exhibit about how God protected Noah and his family. As a result of this divine preservation, Jesus Christ, the “last Adam,” was able to become a descendant of the first Adam (and Noah too) so that He could be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Noah and his family were physically spared from the divine judgment that fell on the world because they were in the Ark—the only means of physical salvation for any land dwelling creature at the time. In a similar manner, the only way to be spared from God’s wrath and the eternal consequences for our rebellion against Him is to be “in Christ.” Only those who turn from their sin (repent) and place their faith in the risen Lord and Savior will be forgiven of their sin and dwell eternally with their Creator (Romans 10:9).


  1. Tim Lovett, “Proposed Hull Form,” See also Larry Pierce, “The large ships of antiquity,”
  2. We should refrain from saying that angels “certainly” guided the Ark since the infallible account of this event, the Bible, does not reveal this information. God’s Word clearly speaks of the reality of our battle against the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), but it can be dangerous to either underestimate or overemphasize the amount of interaction between the supernatural and natural realms. For example, some Christians tend to think that angels and demons have virtually no role to play in this world while others act as if almost everything that happens is a result of angelic or demonic activity. The truth is likely somewhere between those two positions.
    When we interpret Scripture, we need to be careful not to ignore the supernatural elements described in the text, and we must also resist the temptation to say what angels and demons were doing when the Bible is silent on the issue. We readily admit that the Bible does not tell us whether or not the Ark had a bow fin, so our design should be understood as portraying what could have been rather than a claim about how it actually looked.

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