After some back and forth, they let us know that we can stay for the time being until clarification, but that we have to stay on board. It could have become worse than that.
We may stay, but not on land
The national police GNR seems to be without a real plan in view of the new, apparently completely unexpected situation. Not only at the port, but also at the airport. After several hours of discussions with the marina and the police we finally get an exceptional permission. So after our fast ride before the wind from Porto Santo to Madeira we can now legally stay at the floating jetty in Quinta do Lorde.
Our ship is probably the last one that could still enter here and thus got a safe berth in Madeira. Late in the evening, a police chief visits us personally and explains that we are allowed to move freely again – after six hours in quarantine on board.
This was only possible because we could prove that we had been properly checking in on the archipelago more than two weeks ago. And that we had only started the day before from Quinta do Lorde to Porto Santo.
No entry, stay away! At sea?
NO ENTRY is, since 14 March 2020, the answer to probably all inquiries from cruising sailors at marinas in Madeira. So where to get provisions, diesel, water and, in case of emergency, medical help if you come from the Canary Islands or the Azores? If there are emergencies on board or technical defects? This still seems to be not clarified until today.
Various inquiries to marinas and authorities have remained unanswered to this day. No matter if marinas – like Quinta do Lorde, Funchal and Calheta – or port and tourism authorities are asked: Nobody seems to know anything about exemptions or about any “Safe Haven” regulations and procedures.
The German Embassy in Lisbon provides information on the general situation and the rules and regulations during the current state of emergency in German language. Formally and probably also in reality there is still an absolute prohibition of entry in all ports of the archipelago.
Stranded on Madeira
We are stuck – the one-handed sailor Heiner with his small 9.50 metre sailboat on Porto Santo as well as the skipper and owner of the 80 foot Sunreef mega-catamaran in the harbour of Quinta do Lorde. I leave our boat on schedule in order to organise my return trip to Berlin.
Just that… since the beginning of the corona crisis there are hardly any flights left to book. Since the middle of March, it has been possible to fly home only at extraordinarily high prices, if at all: for 1,600 euros, with 36 hours travel time and three stopovers instead of a direct connection for 300 euros.
Christian and Frauke, a sailing couple from Spiekeroog, a small island in the north of Germany, get the very last flight of BinterAir from Porto Santo to Madeira and then catch their actual flight directly to Germany. But they have to leave their ship in Porto Santo. A friend is now taking care of it. The onward journey of the couple to the Canary Islands is postponed without new schedule.
Before the complete lockdown, Cristiano Ronaldo arrives on his home island
Karl from our crew just reaches his flight with TAP to Lisbon. After a night at the airport and the connecting flight to Germany he safely arrives, after more than 24 hours, at home in Wiesbaden.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the eponym of Funchal airport, arrives on his home island under great media attention only a short time later. By then even the absurdly expensive international connections are cancelled without substitution.
Theo from France is skipper of a training yacht from La Rochelle, the ship is based in Porto Santo. His last crew can barely fly out, but the new crew members can’t land on Madeira anymore. Theo and the owners in France decided without hesitation: He and two remaining crew members want to leave directly for La Rochelle. 15 to 25 days at sea are ahead of them.
No better place to get stuck?
I actually want to go back to Berlin, but only with a direct flight from Funchal to Germany. But… that no longer exists, neither from the airlines themselves nor from the Foreign Office, which has organised the return of – as of early this week – 187,000 people from other parts of the world. But Madeira is just a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with about 250,000 inhabitants, and we are in low season.
“Wherever there are still opportunities to return home with your own resources, these should be used”, explains a speaker of the german ministry of foreign affairs at float’s request. “Where this is no longer possible, the Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad are working hard to find solutions. We cannot offer transport solutions for sailboats in this context.”