Distance from Lisbon: 265nm (490km = 305 miles)
Distance to Canical: 250nm (463km = 288 miles)
Distance to continental Europe: 215nm
Distance to Africa (Morocco): 275nm
(I’m typing this far away from the coast, in the Atlantic Ocean, where there’s obviously no internet connection, so I shall post this tomorrow morning as soon as we approach Madeira enough to get the signal.)
All crew members, including the captain, and I as the only passenger, eat three meals a day together: breakfast at 7.30am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 7pm. Today for lunch, we had vegetable soup, salad, and bacalhau (codfish cooked in various ways – all of them your absolutely favorite meal if you are a real Portuguese). I’m still getting acquainted with the taste of this super salty, quite dry, and a bit smelly fish – even though I generally really love my fish and I love salty food, this combination is still a bit too much for my palate. But, with time, I’ve been actually becoming more fond of the bacalhau, albeit very slowly.
Anyway… We are past the halfway point on this voyage, at the more or less equidistant spot between the coast of Africa, continental Europe, and Madeira. After lunch, I approached the captain and asked if it was against the shipping company rules if I took some photos and wrote this blog about my journey. The reason I asked him is that someone had mentioned in a group chat of which I’m a member that passengers were not allowed on cargo ships, which sounded wrong, but I wanted to double-check. The Captain gave me his permission to write about the journey, so I suppose it means that I am not an alien aboard this ship after all. 😀
This voyage is one of my absolute favorite and unique experiences ever. I love it. There isn’t much going on; I’m resting, working on some long-overdue puzzles, and writing. But I simply love the experience of the long passage and of being aboard a cargo vessel. However, I must give you at least 3 reasons why this kind of trip may not be for everyone:
- I am a licensed skipper of almost 15 years. Before moving to Portugal, I would go sailing in Greece for about a month and a half every year. I’ve done several relatively long passages in the open sea – although all of them in the Mediterranean and never in the open Ocean. And I’ve never been seasick. On the other hand, I’ve seen people get seasick even in zero Beaufort conditions (calmest possible seas) on more than one occasion. What I’m saying is that it is a very personal thing whether you’ll get seasick, and in my view, you should not attempt a voyage like this one if you don’t have any maritime experience, at least of sailing for a couple of weeks or something alike.
- The weather is a bit cloudy but very fine and stable. The waves are long and rolling, so a 127 meters long M/V „Funchalense 5“ is riding them smoothly, with a bit of rocking but in a very stable and gentle way. If the waves were bigger and shorter (higher frequency), the predicament would’ve been much more difficult to handle. The captain has told me that on occasion they do get even 10-meter waves. In all honesty – I do not know how I would handle that, as I’ve never experienced it. You simply can’t know until you get caught in the bad weather with big choppy waves for the first time.
- You don’t know how your dog will react to the new environment. Cash is not handling it very well. Minutes before I started writing this post, he peed for the first time in about 22 hours! The deck where I’m supposed to „walk him“ is a steel deck of about 5 meters by 5 meters. And Cash hates steel surfaces – including the steel pedestrian overpasses above the trains, which there are a few in Lisbon along the river. I guess he hates the lack of grip, and the gentle rolling of the ship isn’t helping. Also, steel is not the most inviting environment for dogs to pee – normally they first like to smell something natural and organic so that they’d know they were leaving their scent mark. Anyhow, my biggest concern since we boarded – Cash not peeing – has been resolved, thankfully. He also hasn’t eaten yet, which I was actually expecting and that’s fine, dogs can go without food for several days. Aaaand… Ta da!!! He hasn’t pooped yet either. I guess that’s okay. He’s been generally very calm since we boarded, sleeping a lot, and I know he feels safe when I’m there next to him, but I can see it in his body language that he is not happy to be here. When he was a year old I took him sailing – and he didn’t enjoy it – and my explanation was that it was too hot for him with all that fur he’s got. But now that’s certainly not the case… I just don’t know anymore. Perhaps Cash, being a Border Collie, simply belongs to the mountains and not the seas. And on the covers of my books.
Okay, I guess the time has come to explain the title of this post. You might think that the „poop deck“ from the title is the 5×5 steel deck that I just described where Cash had finally peed. But, you’d be wrong to think that! The „poop deck“ on a vessel is actually the cantina, the place where the crew and the passengers eat! It comes from the French word “la poupe” which means “aft cabin”. Why is it transcribed like that? I don’t know. Was someone just being bored while eating or while being „seated“?
P.S. I just tricked him into eating… first gave him the dog biscuits to entice the appetite and then continued with his actual food. Or, so I think that I tricked him. What if he tricked me into starting with the biscuits? You know the quote from the „Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“: „and thank you for all the fish“. Now, one more task is left… you know… the big one.