Acts 27:16-20
Acts 27:16 (KJB)
And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
The wind had continually drove the ship southwest and after a certain amount of time, the ship came around the south side of the Island of Clauda. The Island is about 7 miles (11 km) long and 3 miles (5 km) wide. Today it is called the Island of Gavdos. They had gone 23 miles (37 km) from where they first encountered the storm. In the lee of the island, the part which was sheltered from the wind, they were able to temporarily secure the small boat which they were towing.
Acts 27:17 (KJB)
Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven.
Then once the small boat was hoisted on to the deck, it was used to go back and forth to land when the ships were out in the harbor, some distance from land, they then took ropes and cables and fastened them vertically around the ship to prevent the timbers from straining too much which could cause a break and ultimately the ship would break up. So while the storm continued, they feared they would be driven off their course toward Syrtis in North Africa which was a quicksand area. These were a terror to the sailors in ancient times. So they took down the topsail because if they left it up, the wind could cause it to break in half and then they would have no sail when the storm finally ceases and this caused them to be driven at the mercy of the sea in the northeast wind.
Acts 27:18 (KJB)
And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
Exceedingly - Violent
This storm showed no sign of letting up and even on the next day they were being violently tossed about. They had decided to start lightening the load of the ship so it would ride higher above the waves and would not be swamped with water on every toss. Normally they would start with some of the cargo but this cargo was too important to Rome so they probably started with furniture and maybe with personal belongings.
Acts 27:19 (KJB)
And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
Tackling - Rigging, gear, or equipment
The third day from the time the storm hit them, they were still in its grips and then Luke states that they began to throw the tackling of the ship overboard. It may have been comprised of anything they could get their hands on like rope, cables, furniture, and whatever was not nailed down to lighten the ship as much as possible.
Acts 27:20 (KJB)
And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
Since this storm was not letting up, they were unable to see the sun nor the stars which meant they were unable to know where they were. They could not see the sun rise or set and they could not see their location at night by the stars. At this point despair had taken over the ship and they began to think that none of them would be saved alive from this storm. They probably never encountered a storm of such magnitude and length of time. The crew was probably all exhausted at this time since they continually tried their best to keep the ship afloat but with everything being thrown overboard and the ship secured with ropes, there was nothing else which could be done and that is why it seemed to them that their lives would be lost. This situation with the boat should be a lesson to all Christians that when we are given good advice we should heed it. Israel believed the 10 spies over Joshua and Caleb and it cost them 40 years in the wilderness instead of just 11 days plus all the loss of life. Here an entire boat of life sustaining wheat will be lost because of not following good advice. It was already a month past the time when good sailing weather could be expected and yet they chose to disobey even what they learned over the years.