Madeira – A Stately Queen, an Intrepid Explorer and the Beatles

Madeira’s position in the Atlantic Ocean made it an ideal stopping off point for travelers throughout the ages. From the Portuguese navigators who opened up the sea lanes to Africa, South America and the Far East and the cocktail set of the roaring twenties to today’s package cruiser the island has welcomed them all.

While we were walking along Funchal’s promenade I spotted some sails out to sea.

The Alexander von Humboldt.

It was the German sail training ship the Alexander von Humboldt, named after the German explorer and naturalist who visited South America at the tail end of the 18th century, who has amongst other things a species of penguin named after him. This ship oddly enough was originally built in Bremen as a Baltic light ship back in 1906. It was only in 1986 that she was converted into a three masted barque for the German Sail Training Foundation and very beautiful she is too.

We decided to get closer to where she was moored to get a better look . As we were approaching our vantage point we heard a cruise ship’s horn. Well nothing unusual in that , after all Funchal is a popular stop off for most Atlantic cruise ships, but this one was a bit special.

Creeping up from behind

It was the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth. sadly not the Queen Elizabeth 2 that I remember being launched on the Clyde in 1967, she’s presently berthed in Dubai awaiting someone to determine her fate. This new Queen Elizabeth was launched in 2010.

The Stately Queen makes a pass at the German Explorer

She still looked pretty magnificent, even if the band was playing Achey, Breaky Heart as she steamed into Funchal’s harbour

Approaching Funchal Harbour

However the stately queen was being stalked by a smaller vessel, the Santa Maria de Columbo,

The Santa Maria de Columbo

a replica of the Portuguese caravels that were used by explorers such as Vasco de Gama.

The previous night we had a drink on another famous vessel, moored in Funchal,  The Vagrant.

Rainbow over The Vagrant

This boat was briefly owned by the Beatles back in the 1960s and later by Donovan. It’s now a floating bar and restaurant.