Well, what a difference three hours makes! We left Gatwick on an extremely wet and windy Sunday morning and three hours later had our first glimpse of the beautiful island of Madeira where we would be joining our home for the next three weeks, MV Minerva.
A very smooth journey escorted through arrivals by Swan Hellenic saw us being met by coaches to ferry us to the Port of Funchal where we embarked onto the ship. As always a very smooth and stress-free process so many thanks to the Swan Hellenic team!
The first leg of our journey takes us down the eastern side of the Atlantic to Sao Vicente, one of the western-most islands in the Cape Verde chain. Taking three sea days to arrive, this will give us plenty of time to hopefully sight some of the wildlife which make this area of the Atlantic their home.
We departed a very sunny Madeira at 18.00 as the sun was sinking accompanied by around 100 Cory's Shearwater outside the harbour entrance. All the passengers on deck watching departure were treated to a fantastic sunset, complete with Green Flash!
The first full day at sea marked the start of our education program to the passengers with an introductory presentation to the work of the charity and the wildlife we aim to encounter during the course of their cruise - with such productive seas around the islands; we really want to ensure the passengers were fully prepared. The presentation was very well received and the passengers couldn't wait to start looking for wildlife - many had not realized that the waters we would be cruising through are home to so many species of whales, dolphins and seabirds, but were delighted that experts were on hand to help them spot and identify the animals. One passenger had not quite heard us correctly saying she was sad that "the arching of the back of a whale is a sure sign that is was going to die" - We reassured her that this was a sign that the whale was going to dive, not die…..
Our first day at sea saw us sailing past the westernmost Canary Islands, a fantastic hotspot for cetaceans. However, unfortunately we woke to a force 7 sea which stayed with us all day apart from when we were in the lee of the land. Most of the day was spent close to La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, but weather conditions really hampered our observations. Seabirds were keeping us very busy however, and we came across several large congregations of feeding Cory's Shearwater close to La Palma and El Hierro. We did have one report of a dolphin species by a passenger, but this was not seen more than once.
La Palma, Canary Islands
Hopefully, tomorrow will see the wind ease back and the sea state calm which will make it much easier for us to survey. We have another two days at sea heading towards Cape Verde and hopefully a busy time ahead for sightings!
Best regards, Emma and Clive