SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
October 30, 2015
An early arrival in Madeira!
32° 38.5’N x 16° 54.9’W
Docked in Funchal, Madeira
A little bit of rain, but mostly sunny
After a little over a week of sailing away from mainland Spain and out into the open Atlantic, we’ve arrived at the town of Funchal, in Madeira! We encountered some big swells sent our way by a large storm a thousand miles north near Scotland, and while they tended to make daily life a little more difficult than normal, this rollercoaster of a ride also added fun and amusement at times, too. The tables in our dining area are “gimballed,” meaning that they are weighted on the bottom and hang free so that they swing and always stay upright when the rest of the ship moves – and trying to eat dinner with all this motion going on can be both challenging and hilarious. Just don’t rest your elbows on the table!
We were scheduled to arrive in Funchal this morning, but because there were three big cruise ships that would be arriving at the same time as us and we were simply hanging out and waiting near the harbor yesterday afternoon, we were asked to come in and dock then instead, at around four o’clock. So we’ve had an extra half a day of time in Madeira already, which is really nice, both for seeing more of the island and also for getting some homework done. This has become a bit more of a pressing concern as our voyage is beginning to wind down and various due dates approach. Time passes strangely on the ship, as some more challenging sailing days can feel long, while other fun ones pass quickly, and it somehow feels as though we’ve been here forever and also like we’ve just arrived. We find it hard to believe that we’ll be leaving in just over a week.
I knew almost nothing about Madeira before this trip, so it’s been fun to learn more about it as we sailed towards it. It’s a volcanic island, formed about 19 million years ago by a hotspot where molten lava escaped through an opening in the earth’s crust. The island doesn’t exist in isolation in the eastern Atlantic, but is actually part of an archipelago. Another island, the first that we could see in the distance as we approached a couple of days ago, is called Porto Santo and is characterized by several triangular peaks that allowed us to spot it from far off. I was on evening watch while we were making this approach, and it was an exciting moment to be able to see land again with Madeira and the smaller Porto Santo all lit up with the glittering lights of the towns. What was also interesting, though, was to see the other three islands southeast of Madeira that loomed darkly in the night and had no lights on them at all. Known as the Ilhas Desertas, they are all deserted. This created a stark contrast to the other brightly lit islands, and we wondered about how these similar seeming islands could have developed so differently over the years.
It’s sometimes easy to forget this detail when we spend most of our time on the ship and just pop into various ports periodically, but we’re in an entirely different country now—in Portugal instead of Spain. With this comes a few differences, the most notable of which is the language change! I know neither of languages of these two nations, so this doesn’t actually make that big of a difference in my life, but some of my shipmates who are Spanish speakers will probably notice the change a lot more. Last night after dinner we learned a few Portuguese phrases thanks to Rita and Filipe, and that was fun. We have almost the whole day off today to explore the town of Funchal and other nearby areas, so maybe we will get to try out a bit of Portuguese! We’re all very excited to be in a new area that almost all of us have never seen before. It’s been a little rainy as of late but other than that it’s been mostly warm and sunny – we’re at roughly the same latitude as Casablanca in Morocco, which has been making this fall feel almost like an extension of summer!
PS: Thanks to my sister for carving me a nautical themed jack o’lantern – it’s awesome! And hi to all my other family/friends too, I miss you guys! See some of you in just a few weeks. I heard it was in the 20s back in Maine… just in case you were wondering, we’ve been in shorts and t-shirts and some sun here!