25th January, 2019
On departing the City Cruise Terminal in Southampton on 21st January, we completed a 360’ full pirouette off the berth so we could have our Magnetic Compass adjusted. There is a requirement to have this done every 2 years and after a major dry-docking. Having completed the swing, we headed out through the Needles Channel for the start of our 1315 mile passage to Madeira. We had some pretty challenging weather whilst crossing the Bay of Biscay, however I was reminded what a great Sea Ship Saga Sapphire is. Cutting through the sea and swell like a fine cruiser we were still able to make an on-time arrival into Madeira on 25th January.
I have always enjoyed arriving in Madeira as it’s such a spectacular setting and this lunchtime was no exception. As we approached the pilot station at 1145 the seas were calm, the sun was shining and lots of Guests were on deck to watch our arrival into Funchal. As the seas had been a “little” rough on the way down Saga HQ agreed that we should stay in overnight.
Formed by a volcanic eruption, Madeira lies in the Gulf Stream, about 500 miles due west of Casablanca. Discovered by Portuguese explorer Joao Goncalves Zarco in 1419, this beautiful Island became part of Portugal’s vast empire and was named for the dense forest which cloaked it - Madeira means wood in Portuguese.
We were alongside at 1205 and by 1230 our Guests were heading ashore to sample all the delights of this great port. Our Shore Excursion Team headed up by Nat and Jacqui offered a variety of tours including the light and easy excursions “Towering Cabo Girao Sea Cliff”, “Scenic Madeira” and by contrast the more active ‘Levada Trail Walk’. In the evening we arranged a “Star Gazing” tour and I personally headed ashore for Dinner with a couple of members of the Blandy family who over several generations have been on the Island for over 200 years. After a few days at sea its even good for the Captain to put his feet on terra firma!
Staying in port overnight always feels very relaxing and I like the thought of waking up in the same place for a change!
With clearance to sail and the pilot aboard we slipped our lines at 0800 having tasked the Safety Officer with the departure with the added pressure of only minimal use of the bow thruster. Once clear of the port and with the pilot away we set a southerly course for our arrival into Santa Cruz, Tenerife.
Captain Julian Burges
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