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2nd November, 2016


The run up to Madeira was 274 nautical miles and we made good time against the adverse current. The island, in the remarkably clear visibility, was visible for many hours before we picked up the pilot, a gradually enlarging ‘pyramid’ as we drew closer. To starboard the barren slopes of the Ilhas Desertas, running basically north and south, protruded from the sea like some great sea monster.

As the island gained form and colour I noticed an unexpected difference in the shade of the mountain vegetation above Funchal, it was distinctly brown and spartan. Docking was completed before midday and when I met with our agent shortly after he explained that the island had suffered devastating fires during the summer during which, sadly, there was some loss of life and many homes were destroyed. Even in the closer environs of the city many people had left their homes. A tragedy for this wonderful island, but life is gradually returning to normal and replanting is taking place up on the hills.

With a long afternoon to enjoy our port call the passengers were soon on their way; taking scenic tours, Levada walking, RIB adventuring, 4-wheel off road driving or just the shuttle bus along the quayside for the short journey into town. Ship board matters kept me to the confines of our floating home, but I was very pleased to receive from the good Mrs R upon her return, a variety of small orchid plants bought at the charming traditional city market, a building I will always visit when time permits. The challenge will be, of course, to see whether they will survive the next four weeks of sea voyaging and subsequent re-birth in a Cornish conservatory.

We departed shortly before 8pm, the darkness having taken over after a spectacular orange sunset behind Reid’s Hotel. On shore the lights in the city and on the hills sparkled, giving no hint of the painful experiences of the summer. The land, and the people, are resilient. Madeira will always remain, to me at least, one of the most beautiful destinations, particularly when arriving by sea. 

Captain Philip Rentell

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.