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15th January, 2017


Initial south westerly winds on our first morning at sea ended with a spectacular cold front racing over us bringing blue sky, showers and a north westerly gale. These winds actually started to subside by mid afternoon, but the swell continued to rise on our starboard side as we commenced our crossing of the Bay. The swell was several meters high during that night, but we rode it well and during the following daylight hours it eased.

And so we were able to hold the first of what will be many cocktail party occasions during this 66 night cruise to Central America and back. We have a considerable number of Britannia Club members on board and they were in good form, having taken the poor weather in their stride. The third day at sea, still cool and with the chilly wind still following, was far more comfortable, allowing me to reduce speed for our timely arrival in Funchal the following morning.

Sunrise was not until after eight and the south coast of Madeira was lit by the myriad of lights of the many hillside homes as we passed by. Only as we docked did the daylight take over and allow our passengers to see the magnificent sight that is one of my most favourite ports.

Perhaps it being a Sunday was the reason we were the only cruise ship alongside, and the town was far quieter that it might have been on a weekday, but by late morning there were plenty of people around. The tours went off as normal, but some of our regulars, who have been to the island before, decided to take the shuttle bus and take a stroll around.

The bus actually stopped close by the delightful Ritz Hotel with its wonderful blue and white tiled local scenes from many years ago mounted on the exterior. Across the main road is a charming park, and a shopping centre open on a Sunday just around the corner. One block down lay the sea front, much improved in recent years, with an esplanade where walkers could watch the water-borne activities of Sunday kayakers and young sailors in their dinghies battling against the fresh easterly breeze.

The passengers had a great day, perhaps made even better as the sun had come out during the morning. We stayed an extra hour to ensure one of joining entertainers, delayed in her flights, would not see the ship disappearing over the horizon as the taxi pulled up on the quayside. As we pulled out of the harbour the bow was swung into the direction of the setting sun, behind us the lights were beginning again to illuminate the hillside. Seven days and 2,667 miles to go before we will see our next landfall.

Captain Philip Rentell

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