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14th January, 2016

Funchal, Madeira

The voyage south was initially just a little uncomfortable, as yet another deep low sped up to the north east. Fortunately, as it went north we went south and by the second morning life was becoming more stable. By midday we had passed Finisterre and were out of the Bay, the wind died away and the sea swell became a very manageable two meters or so.

We had lost a few hours due to the weather so when we arrived off Funchal, Cunard’s ‘Queen Elizabeth’ was alongside and we had to go astern past her to get to our berth. It was an opportunity to wave the Saga flag, as it were, a certain smattering of patriotic British WW 2 film music over the deck speakers and all the passengers given a small Union Jack to wave as we went past. The ‘Cunarders’ waved back enthusiastically – now that’s what I call advertising.

Having completed my “chores” there was just enough time for me to take the shuttle bus into town and set off for the ‘Mercado de Lavradores’, that magnificent building where local folk sell local produce. I was after some ‘Belladonna’, they grow well in Cornwall if you pick the right spot and I believe we have just the place. When I’m at the market I cannot stop myself from taking a few photos, particularly of the Espada, the Black Fish that actually looks quite scary. Great big bulging eyes and ghastly looking teeth, brought up from the deep and looking quite angry about it.

Funchal always seems to be a bustling sort of place, and when I walked quickly back with my bulbs, and an Australian Tree Fern (quite small you understand, but with potential), I went passed the Ritz Café, a magnificent building on the main street opposite the botanical gardens. There were plenty of people sat outside in the sunshine, but as I passed I suddenly realised how many vintage glazed tiles showing old scenes from Madeira there were on the outside walls. Being a bit of a railway buff I also wasn’t aware that there had been, until around 1943, a steam rack railway running from town up to Monte. But there it was depicted in hand painted tiles, a rare find hidden in plain view.

We stayed a while longer to make up for out late arrival, departing just as the sun had set. Behind us the island was disappearing into shadow and, as all the street lights were coming on, Funchal was beginning to sparkle.

Captain Philip Rentell

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