21-Dec-2003 -- The surface analysis, taken by radio from the Deutscher Wetterdienst (German Meteorological Service) of today shows a Low over the Azores and a High over Spain and northwestern Africa, causing a flow of air from the South in our area. Thus I decided to take maximum advantage of those for us favourable winds from aft (for landlubbers: from behind) and to set the track towards the island of Madeira. The wind from aft increases the ship's speed and helps to save fuel.
The Arquipélago da Madeira consists of Ilha da Madeira, Ilha do Porto Santo, Ilhas Desertas and Ilhas Selvagens. The total population is about 270.000, of which about 110.000 live in the capital Funchal on Madeira Island. The islands were discovered by a Portuguese in the fifteenth century, at which time they were uninhabited. Since then, with the exception of a period of Spanish domination (1581-1640) and also of temporary occupation by the British (early nineteenth century), the group has been under Portuguese Sovereignty.
The islands are of volcanic origin, and Madeira is entirely composed of igneous rocks ejected during successive marine eruptions, but the lavas are of great antiquity. The characteristic feature of Madeira is its great elevation, the picturesque outline of its mountains, the depths and grandeur of its ravines, the abundance and purity of water, the fertility of the soil and the extreme mildness and excellence of its climate. It is the climate which constitutes the chief recommendation of Madeira as a winter resort for invalids.
Owing to the mild climate the flora is very varied. When discovered, Madeira (meaning "wood" or "timber" in Portuguese), was entirely covered with timber, but the larger trees have all been cleared by fire, and in the low-lying ground cultivated plants replaced the old vegetation. Today the banana, strawberry, guava and pear tree are all growing side by side. Of the fauna, all animals have been introduced. Over 200 species of birds have been collected. The lizard is the only reptile.
10 nautical miles north of Madeira there is 33N 17W.
Coming from Brazil via the Cape Verde Islands we approached the westernmost tip of the island, Ponta do Pargo from SSW. A prominent lighthouse stands on this cape. Following the west coast in quite close distance towards NNE, we finally rounded Ponta do Tristão, the northwesternmost tip of Madeira, and Porto do Moniz came in sight. Off Porto do Moniz there are the dangerous Baixas do Moniz, on which the sea is breaking heavily.
Finally we went towards the Confluence, from where we took a view to SSE, South and SSW.
This visit fell into the watch of my 2nd Officer, Oleksiy Dubrov from Kertch (Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine). Here, in the vicinity of Madeira, he is immediately using the rare opportunity on an ocean passage where a GSM net is available for phoning home to his beloved ones. He is herewith introduced as a new visitor.
Information about Madeira obtained partly from Nautical Publication Nr. 1, Africa Pilot, Vol I, "The West Coast of Africa from Cabo Espartel to Bakasi Peninsula", 13th ed. 1982 and Supplement 7th
ed. 1999, British Admiralty, Hydrographer of the Navy, Ministry of Defense, Taunton, England)