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Published: April 29th 2011
Thursday April 28th, 2011
Atlantic Ocean East of Funchal, Madeira
Latitude 32 degrees 42 minutes’ north- Longitude 16 degrees 02 minutes’ west
Oh, the romance of it all. How can there be an island so fair and yet uninhabited and unclaimed until the 1400s? Sitting there about 500 miles off the coast of Africa is a lush, beautiful island that remained completely untouched until the Portuguese claimed it in 1419. It was mentioned in ancient Phoenician and Roman texts and yet no one had “claimed” it until a Portuguese sailor blown off course landed there and set the flag of the King of Portugal. No natives to subdue or abuse, just set up your colony and start from scratch. And for 600 years they have done just that. It is clean, well organized and quite nice. The mainstay is the famous Madeira wine which they have been selling to passing ships for hundreds of years. We tasted, we savored, oh yes, we enjoyed. In the cellar they had bottles behind chicken wire enclosures that were dated 1963. Too pricey for my wallet, I had to settle for stuff only twenty years old. It was quite a rainy day,
and the brown water runoff in the harbor was quite noticeable. We toured the entire island and on the foggy 5000’ mountain top you can just make out the hikers on the ridgeline. The roofs were all red tile, the roads were steep and the people were all friendly and content. The temperature has moderated from the tropics; we are now at the same latitude as Bermuda and the Carolinas. Cool, clean and crisp, Madeira is a wonderful change from the dust and grind of West Africa. I can see why this has been a favorite stop for traveling sailors for centuries. Including a famous one, Christopher Columbus. We saw a replica of one of his ships that was doing tours in the harbor.
Eastward, back to Northern Africa and the country of Morocco, we have set our course and we press on in calm, tranquil seas. The seas are calmer than the situation in Marrakesh. A bomb went off today and killed several people, so it is uncertain if we will go there on Saturday. All of Northern Africa is in turmoil and I am sure we will detour if the stop is too risky. I heard the
other day that we had three approaches by suspicious vessels while we were in “Pirate Waters” off the coast of Somalia. We had a special security crew with us during that time and they left once we reached Cape Town. The cruise ship company seems competent, prudent and proactive; so we will rely on their judgment.
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