SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
Whale, whale, whale…a Farewell to Funchal
Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal
Sunny and 75
Our last full day in Madeira and the commencement of our final full week of the program was an adventure to say the least. After waking up to a surprisingly crisp morning and fueling up with eggs, biscuits, gravy and a vigourous set of chores, we all set off with our Maritime Studies professor by city bus to the town of Caniçal. The city bus was an interesting and informative change of pace from our usual private bus tours. Not only did we get an impressive tour of the coast of Madeira as we careend around cliffs and wove our way up and down mountains, but also we got to interact with more local Madierans.
After an hour of relishing the small creature comforts of bus naps and listening to music with two headphones in, we reached our destination. A quick walk through the town confirmed that we were a long way from the cruise ship hub that is Funchal. Quiet streets lined with modest houses led us to the Museu da Baleia, the whaling museum of Madeira. We were given a short presentation on the museum’s mission and activities by a director of the museum and spent a long while wandering the exhibit that was chocabloc full of not only whaling history from Madeira’s whaling era of 1940-1980, but also biological information concerning the whales of the region. We learned about the different types of boats and tools Madieran whalers used, as well as the unique evolution of cetaceans themselves. Our group especially enjoyed this expansive view afforded from one of the many museum balconies.
We then relaxed and had a leisurely lunch along the waterfront. Some of us sampled local seafood delicacies, while others stuck to tried and true staples of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. The Americans among us practiced the few Portuguese words we know as we also got the opportunity to wander a few gift shops featuring whale-bone treasures.
The afternoon took an interesting turn when we realized our bus back to the ship was not coming around again for another few hours, much later than expected. All of a sudden we found ourselves facing an extension of our stay in the small used-to-be-whaling town in rural Madeira. Many options and troubleshooting plans were discussed, however we ended up hunkering down in
a quaint café to wait for our transportation. Luckily, our café had many valuable amenities such as a pool table, outlets, free WiFi and a snack bar. An unexpected change in our schedule turned out to be a great stretch of time to work, read, call loved ones at home or just hang out and have some fun.
We are scheduled to depart bright and early tomorrow morning at 0600 to make room for (surprise!) a cruise ship coming in to the port. As the final port departure approaches, I find myself wistful and nostalgic already. With less than a week of sailing left I am determined now more than ever to try to live fully in the moment and appreciate this incredible experience while it’s happening. Wish us one last bon voyage and we can’t wait to see you all soon!
P.S. Happy 23rd birthday to my best older brother! I hope your day was full of strawberry cheesecake, classical music and heated debates with our father.