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Tall Ships in Funchal Harbour

Tall Ships in Funchal Harbour

For our day in Funchal we had booked an excursion – ‘Levada Walk’. The levadas are a network of artificial water-channels which transfer water from wet parts of the island (basically, up in the mountains) to agricultural areas that might need it. The first levadas were made not long after Madeira was settled; the most recent was constructed in the early 1960s. Our guide thought that no more would be built: one result of the changing economy of the island is that the traditional small farms that relied on the levadas are dropping out of cultivation, so the levadas are no longer needed. (Tourism is now the most important industry on Madeira.) The walk was along a path alongside the actual lavada, which was a small channel no more than a foot across and perhaps 15 inches deep, of which just a couple of inches held water.


I’m not sure what I was expecting from the walk – perhaps something more open with wide views – but in fact we walked along an almost-level muddy track in a crocodile of 39 people, with the occasional shower of rain. It reminded me greatly of parts of the southern Highlands – I’ve seen seen forest tracks in Argyllshire like it, cut into steep hillsides of pine forest. Then there’s be a glimpse of a village or just a flower and it was clear that we weren’t in Argyll. It was pleasant enough, but on reflection I don’t think it was the best introduction to Madeira. Ah well.

This afternoon we just walked around the harbour. As I’ve mentioned the Funchal 500 celebrations have included a Tall Ships regatta, and there are about a dozen tall ships moored in the harbour. Most of them are open to visitors, so we spent the afternoon clambering on and off sailing vessels and wandering over their decks. It’s interesting how national characteristics are displayed: the atmosphere on the russian ships (two of these) is very serious, while there’s much more of a party feel on the Mexican and Uruguayan ships. The Portuguese ship seemed to be simply bursting with pride, while the English ship had an atmosphere of studies languidness. Best of all, I thought, was the Omani ship – carvings on the doors and a carpet at the top of the gang-plank. But they were all very impressive and interesting and I have the greatest respect for everyone (sailor or trainee) who sailed them to Funchal. The weather was kinder for a couple of hours this afternoon – the rain we’d had in the morning stopped, the sun shone, and for a while it was quite warm.

We’ve left Madeira now and are sailing south to Tenerife. It seems a bit windier than on previous passages, and I can feel the ship moving a bit more than before. I think we’re at sea….

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