We were woken in the morning by a ship-wide announcement that the Captain had diverted the ship’s course and was now involved in a rescue operation. Apparently a Madeiran fishing boat with eight men aboard had a leak in the engine room so they had gathered their possessions and abandoned ship in the lifeboat. Four ships responded to their distress call. A freighter arrived first which, by the ‘rules of the sea’ makes them the rescue ship. However, the Prinsendam is a cruise ship and has lower deck access. We were asked to bring them aboard until they could be airlifted via a helicopter from Madeira. Now times have changed drastically in the past few years. At one time the captain would have moved close to the lifeboat, cut the engines and had the fishermen paddle over to the ship where they would be assisted aboard.
This does not happen in our world today. The captain cut the engines, yes, but the lifeboat was not allowed near the ship and no crew members from our ship went to their boat. When the army helicopter from Madeira was directly over the ship, the lifeboat was brought alongside and the fishermen were assisted aboard by security crew. All of the upper decks were evacuated of crew and passengers. The fishermen were to be hauled up on a winch line from the open pool deck into the helicopter. The ship’s firemen were standing by with charged hoses in case of any accidents that may happen. John, of course, had to check out the preparations by the fire crew and was able to do an adjustment to this fellow’s twisted air hose line. The fishermen were take directly to the lower deck elevator, brought up to the pool deck without stopping and assisted one by one into the harness for the dangling ride up to the helicopter. When all the men were aboard their belongings were sent up after them. As we sailed from the area the fishing boat was still afloat, but much lower in the water and listing to one side. The captain announced later that the men had arrived home and all were safe and sound. A boat would be sent from Madeira to collect the lifeboat and check on the fishing boat. Never a dull moment at sea!
We were scheduled to dock in Portimao, on the Algarve coast of Portugal the next day. However the Captain warned us that predicted high winds may prevent our going up the dredged river channel to the village. His concern was realized when the port pilot came on board the next morning and advised against trying to navigate the narrow channel due to gale-force winds. Portimao is considered a ‘fair weather’ port and the Prinsendam would have been the largest ship to anchor there. Since the passengers would be tendered to shore the strong winds would also have made getting into and out of the boats dangerous. So…our second port-of-call was cancelled and we continued along the Iberian south coast to our next port, Cadiz, Spain.
We had been scheduled to arrive in Cadiz (pronounced Kaa deez) at 8 am on March 24 but docked instead at 5 pm March 23. The port is right ‘downtown’ in Old Cadiz so you just had to walk across the street and look around. By the time we finished dinner though it was too dark to be wandering unfamiliar streets in a foreign country. One of the crew told us the next morning that he had gone out, walked a few streets and gotten totally lost. Took him several hours to find his way back to the ship.
The early arrival meant the ship spent three nights instead of the scheduled two docked at Cadiz. Cadiz is the gateway port to Seville which is about an hour and a half’s drive inland. We had tours booked each of the next two days, the first was a four hour tour in the countryside where we visited Los Alburejos Farm. They raise Andalusian horses and bulls for the fights. The day after that we did an all-day tour into Seville to see “The Palaces of Seville.”