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5th April, 2014

Funchal, Madeira.

We have been extremely fortunate with the weather for the last few ports. Arrecife, although sunny and warm, was rather windy as a cold front passed through and this resulted in a certain amount of ‘selective manoeuvring’ when taking the ship off the dock as we departed. Taming nature is rarely easy. Las Palmas and Tenerife though were fine, the latter benefitting from ‘God’s Tug’ as we left shortly after lunch. (An offshore breeze) That afternoon was idyllic as we sailed through clear blue waters, the sun reflecting from the waves created as the bow sliced through the low swell. We left the Salvagem Islands over to starboard, once an unmarked hazard to all vessels passing from Madeira to the Canaries. In my early days at sea, even with radar, they were often difficult to detect until rather to close for comfort. The night was full of stars and the gentle sounds emanating from our wash.


I had recommended that passengers might consider rising early to observe our approach to Madeira and my predictions of splendid views as we approached turned out to be correct. Regrettably the remaining vestiges of slumber seemed to be the priority for most of the guests and few saw the many thousands of lights above Funchal or the mountains emerge from the darkness as twilight replaced the darkness. Apart from a Polish sailing training ship berthed astern we were the only ship alongside and, being a Saturday, the locals were very active on the water. The deck officers had to be particularly careful during our crew boat drill to ensure lifeboats were not lowered into the water as kayaks came racing past underneath. They seemed to be on a mission and the fact there was a large cruise ship in the way wasn’t going to change things. Around the same time the odd deep sea fishing boat left the harbour along with a number of large catamarans with tourists clad only in their swimming gear lying over the forward netting. For sure there would be some seriously sore people the next day, but I’m sure none would be any of our guests who chose slightly more sedate excursions. Having said that, those that took the 4-wheel drive tour came back with big smiles after an adventure they said was far better than they had expected Saga would provide. Just goes to show.

Funchal was our last port of call for this cruise and I can say with certain confidence that it was a superb finale, the island is not only charming, but spectacular for those that venture further afield. A firm favourite of mine. We sailed before dinner into calm waters, taking a small diversion to pass within a mile or so of the amazing airport that has a runway extension of well over half a mile built out over the cliff on concrete pillars several hundred feet high. Porto Santo passed down our port side as sunset approached, a rarely seen pleasure as our usual itinerary would have meant passing during the hours of darkness.

Three days at sea before Southampton and the forecast is good. How splendid is that?

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.