Today’s destination is a puddle jump away from Camara do Lobos’ port. Somebody important used to be on holiday here, probably drinking poncha, or something stronger, practicing watercolor painting and smoking big cigars. Yes, Winston Churchill liked to sit and stare at the sea.

The island is a huge volcano, so the fishermen don’t have to go far, there is a drop to the ocean floor in the vicinity. The port is tiny, but bustling with boats on shore leave, tourists, villagers playing cards, old women going to or returning from grocery shopping. The air is saturated with the laughter of seagulls, churchbells and low chatter from the waves lapping at the black stones on the shore.

Jorge approaches with his uncle, who will take us on a fishing trip. Uncle’s name is Peter. He has a big Cheshire cat grin that has seen better days. Everything about him has seen better days and decided to forget those as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning. I mean that’s how you look if you comb your hair with an angry cat, and your clothes were a chewtoy to your dog. I guess we’ve all been there. Well, he’s here beaming smile, and seemingly not a worry this morning.

Peter’s boat is called “Insanity”. I swear we didn’t make that up. You have to be insane to still try to live off of the sea, he tells me. It would be equally insane to try to smuggle drugs to Madeira. But everybody does it anyway. He winks. Okay. Maybe I’ve seen that one coming.


Insanity takes us out of the port with a steady buzz and some other questionable noises from below the deck. Peter waves goodbye to some men standing on shore, and most of us start smoking. We aren’t going far, just around the corner, whatever that means

The sea is churning, but not only the sea. I am told, the sea will get nicer when we’re further out and nobody’s watching. Peter knows. “Just like women. Women get friendly when you’re alone with them. There are goddesses here.” They’re gorgeous, I can tell.

Jorge chimes in. “They are like the sea, giving freely, wholeheartedly, but God-have-mercy-on-your-poor-Soul, if you disappoint or infuriate them. No man survives the rage of Madeiran women.” Jorge says so, and I’m compelled to believe him. “They are like the wind, like the sea, like the fires in the hearts of the Laurisilva. A force of nature,” he chuckles, “and this terrible force allows you to hold her, to call her pet names, to kiss her lips, to drown in her black eyes…” I get the impression Jorge is very much in love, he nods and blows his smoke. “All fishermen must be in love, or nurse a broken heart.” That’s when Peter breaks out the rum.

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