03 May 2012

The ending of the season

That's it. The Winter cruise season in Madeira, for the present year, is nearly over. In great truth we don't, actually, have a cruise market in Madeira. The fact is we don't have a true cruise market in the Macaronesia islands. At least like we see in the Caribbean, in South America, in Scandinavia and the Baltic basin and in the Mediterranean. In these geographic areas, the cruise ships stay stationed for several months in a row, making round cruises around the same ports of call. In seven years of pilotage in Madeira the only two exceptions to this rule that I have known are the Aida Cruises and the TUI operator. Each one of these companies has the habit of placing one of their vessels in the Madeira waters, in a period that normally goes from the beginning of October until the end of March. So, during the Autumn and Winter season, we are graced with the regular and weekly visits of the Aida Bella (or Blue) and with the Thomson Destiny (or Celebration). Besides that, all the other cruise ships (and they are a lot!) that call our lovely port of Funchal behave, somewhat, like migration birds.
We are, mostly, a passage port. A stop in transit for the many cruise ships that are relocated, twice per year, in the regions that I've said before. So, we, in Funchal, basically, have two periods per year that we can call "cruise season". One starts in the end of September and goes all the way to the beginning of January. During these three and a half months (the end of Summer in the Northern hemisphere) all the cruise ships depart from the Scandinavian and Mediterranean waters and head on to the more warmer markets of the South Atlantic (mostly Brasil) and the Caribbean. The second one is exactly its contrary. Begins at the end of February and goes all the way 'till now, in mid-May. During this time, most of the cruise ships operating in the Atlantic leave the Winter waters of the South hemisphere and return to our Summer season, in European waters.
And almost all of them call Funchal, during their twice-a-year migratory movement. Just to give you an idea of the numbers involved, we normally end up each one of the seasons with 150 cruise ship calls in Funchal. However, the total yearly value is much more than the double of this amount. And I'm not counting with the regulars and with the mega-yachts that call on us normally for bunkers, fresh water and provisions.
These numbers makes us, presently, the busiest port of Portugal for the cruise industry, seconded by Lisboa. Meanwhile, year after year, the number of calls is increasing. And that is good news for our economy, but also for us, Pilots. It's good to see that, in a world dominated by a present economic recession, there are some markets that seem untouched by the crisis. One of them is certainly the cruise industry. The ships keep on arriving to Funchal with (most of the times) nearly full occupation. So you can easily imagine that when we have (and in some days we do) four cruise ships alongside in Funchal, the city's population increases by a number of ten thousand. And that, to say the least, is funny.
A regular visit to Funchal, since her younger days, the M/V Aurora, from P&O, also called us a few days ago, on her crossing to Southampton.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: Aurora
IMO number: 9169524
Type: Cruise vessel
LOA: 272.10 mts
Beam: 32.20 mts
Summer displacement: 43405 t
Max draft on manoeuvre: 8.50 mts
Propulsion: Diesel-electric - Two propeller shafts - two fixed pitch propellers - Inward turning - 40 Mw total propulsion power
Pitch: N/A
Rudder: 2 - Independent
Bow thruster: 3 (total power: 4500 Kw)
Stern Thruster: 1 (total power: 1500 Kw)

Worldwide there are only a hand full of women that have the privilege of being a cruise ship's Captain. I guess you'll have more luck finding a woman as a head of state than in this particular function. This make it, probably, the most elitist job in the world. So imagine my pleasure in finding aboard the Aurora Capt. Sarah Breton as her Captain. I couldn't resist to ask the Staff Captain to takes us a picture. Always safe waters and calm winds to you and all your crew, Captain Breton.

Also a frequent visit to our waters, here's the M/V Aida Bella on arrival to Funchal, coming from Arrecife.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: Aida Bella
IMO number: 9362542
Type: Cruise vessel
LOA: 251.89 mts
Beam: 32.20 mts
Summer displacement: 37375.7 t
Max draft on manoeuvre: 7.20 mts
Propulsion: Diesel-electric - Two propeller shafts - two fixed pitch propellers - Inward turning - 25 Mw total propulsion power
Pitch: N/A
Rudder: 2 - Independent
Bow thruster: 2 (total power: 4600 Kw)
Stern Thruster: 2 (total power: 3000 Kw)

The vessels of Holland-America Line are not the most common presence in Madeira. However, it's always a pleasure to manoeuvre one of them. In a time where the box-shaped design is dominating the world market of ship building, making, therefore, the modern cruise ships resembling more with floating hotels than with actual vessels, the fluid lines of the Holland-America vessels still try to bring to the present the elegant shapes  of the Atlantic liners.
The use of noble materials and finishing and the elegant interiors adds to this nostalgic sense and sends us to the golden age of passenger transportation by sea. Long before the commercial aviation, with their fast, but aseptic service, started to rule the world.
Here's Rotterdam alongside, by Starboard, on the pier nº2 of Pontinha breakwater, after the early morning manoeuvre of the past 26th of April. Passing by is the NRP Schultz Xavier, from the Portuguese Navy.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: Rotterdam
IMO number: 9122552
Type: Cruise vessel
LOA: 237.90 mts
Beam: 32.25 mts
Summer displacement: 33872 t
Max draft on manoeuvre: 8.20 mts
Propulsion: Diesel-electric - Two propeller shafts - two CPP propellers - Inward turning - 37.50 Mw total propulsion power
Pitch: N/A
Rudder: 2 - Independent - Seal Spade
Bow thruster: 2 (total power: 3440 Kw)
Stern Thruster: 2 (total power: 3440 Kw)

The Sea Cloud II is one of the few cruise sailing ships existing in the world. And normally we are graced with her visit twice per year. Here she is, moored by Portside, alongside the key nº2 of the Pontinha breakwater, on the 25th of April.

Pilot Card:
Ships name: Sea Cloud II
IMO number: 9171292
Type: Cruise sailing vessel
LOA: 117 mts
Beam: 16.15 mts
Summer DWT: 379 MT
Max draft on manoeuvre: 5.80 mts
Propulsion: Two main diesel engines connected to a single shaft by gear box - One variable pitch propeller - 2480 HP total propulsion power to the shaft. Sailing rig: three masts, 23 sails, 3000m2 sail area.
Pitch: Left-handed
Rudder: 1 - Conventional
Bow thruster: 1 - 500HP
Stern Thruster: N/A

During the last week of April we received the visit of several mega-yachts in Funchal. These smaller vessels also behave, somehow, like the bigger ones. So they normally spend our Winter in the Caribbean sea and are relocated during our Summer in the Mediterranean. Some of them travel on the deck of large mega-yachts carriers, but many also cross the Atlantic by their own power. However, Madeira is not exactly on the cross-Atlantic route of these vessels. Normally they sail thru a higher latitude, eventually calling Açores ports (namely Horta, in Faial) for mid-Atlantic stops, looking for bunkers, water and provisions.
However, in the last week of April several low pressure systems were complicating the navigation, making the ocean, near the Açores, difficult to navigate with such small crafts. Avoiding rough conditions and more than certain damage, the Skippers choose southern routes, navigating further away from the gale centres.
So, in the space of about a week, the following yachts payed us a visit: the M/Y Audacia (pictured, arriving to Funchal), the M/Y Pink Gin, the M/Y Gladiator, the M/Y Happy Days and the M/Y Seanna.