Meet Henrique the Pirate from Madeira

As a port town, Walvis Bay is the stopover for many world travelers. A very unique visitor at the moment is Henrique Afonso (pictured right), also known as the Pirate from Madeira.

He hails from the island of Madeira and is sailing around the world in a nine-metres yacht named after his young daughter, Sofia do Mar.
Afonso has been warmly welcomed by the local Portuguese community of Walvis Bay, many of whom are from Madeira or are descendants of Madeirans.
The adventures of Henrique the Pirate from Madeira appears on page 3 of today’s edition. Read more about two very special “passengers” aboard the vessel – two barrels of Madeiran red wine, also known as Roundtrip wine.

It all started in a small tavern on the island of Madeira. Henrique Afonso and a few friends were enjoying drinks and he told them he wants to sail around the world.
“Do that and take Madeiran wine with you on the trip and continue the legend of Vinho da roda”, his friends suggested as they were discussing Henrique’s idea.
Madeira has produced and exported wine for centuries. In the days of the old seafarers and the trade routes, wine was traded for spices and other commodities needed by the Madeirans. Wine that did not sell had to be returned to Madeira. It was discovered the wine that was returned to the island tasted better, as it matured differently in the wooden barrels during the months and often years at sea.
Vinho da roda can be directly translated as “Roundtrip wine”.
Henrique Afonso left Madeira on 15 January 2019 in his nine metres long yacht, “Sofia do Mar”. Sofia is his little daughter. The yacht was con-structed in the 1980’s, originally as a “weekend sailor”. Detailed preparations went into adapting this little boat for crossing two mighty oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Neatly tugged in the yacht’s storage room are two French oak barrels of Madeiran wine. In total two hundred liters of sweet wine produced with Mal-vasia grapes by one of the leading wine producers in Madeira, Barbeito Wines.
When the 59-year-old Afonso’s set sails for his first destination, the Canary Islands, little did he know that the life experiences laying ahead in the many months to come, the many ports he would visit and the many people he would meet would also mature his spirit in a very unique way. In the same unique way as the Madeiran wine would mature in the two French oak barrels below in the storage hold of his boat.
Little did he also know he would become a celebrity with 45 000 followers on his Facebook page, the subject of much attention by the media, both print and also television. Little did he know he would become known as “Henrique the Pirate from Madeira”.
Due to the limited space onboard, navigation equipment consists of a cell-phone based navigation program, a VHF-radio and AIS. The boat has no water tanks, and fuel storage aboard cannot go beyond 100 litres. Every space on the boat had to be utilised to the full to achieve as much as possible with as little as possible.
When Namib Times visited Henrique the Pirate from Madeira aboard Sofia do Mar on Wednesday morning, a story unfolded of his remarkable experiences sailing around the world. He sets sails for Brazil on Sunday (28 February 2021). From Brazil it is the Azores and then back to Madeira.
“I am only interested to arrive. The time it takes and what it requires to arrive is not important to me. I want to arrive”, he explained on a question when he would be back in Madeira. Adding in perfect conditions he would cross the Atlantic between Walvis Bay and Brazil in under thirty days. Changing conditions at sea can mean the trip could become fifty days.
Let us take a short journey with Henrique the Pirate from Madeira. The journey which enriched his life in so many ways.
Henrique the Pirate of Madeira: it is the wish of your friends of Walvis Bay that your journey continues to enrich your spirt. May you safely return to your beloved Madeira, where you and your friends must complete the cycle with a toast to your trip with a glass of Vinho da roda from the barrels on Sofia do Mar.

Henrique is passionate about life. He is passionate about being a Madeiran and shares the story of Vinho da roda with the people he meets.
Although the wine in the barrels will remain untouched throughout the journey, he took a few bottles of Madeiran red wine along.
One particular bottle of Madeiran wine took him a long way in Cape Town during December 2020. With his cash supply almost depleted, caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, his boat was badly beaten by the many days at sea and very urgent repairs were needed.
With no money to pay for the repairs, the bottle of Madeiran wine was auctioned during a festival with the Madeiran community of Cape Town. The bottle sold for R5000-00. In the true Madeiran spirit, people opened their hearts and Henrique was donated more money to pay for the repairs to his boat.

As a young man Henrique was told his grandfather left his family in Madeira in 1939 and settled in the Carribean. He met a woman in the Carribean and had a family. He left his Carribean family again in 1963 to “return to his first love” in Madeira.
In the Carribean, he was unexpectedly reminded of the story of his grandfather during a conversation. After a search of many days, he located his grandfather’s family on the island of Curacao.
“I met more than seventy of my aunts, nephews and cousins for the first time in my life”, Henrique explains – tears welling up in his eyes.
He explains he was invited into their lives with open arms. A parting gift from his aunts were two pictures of his grandfather – one of the pictures taken in 1963 in front of the passenger vessel “Santa Cruz” on the day he bid his Carribean family goodbye to return to Madeira “to die with his first love”.

Henrique the Pirate of Madeira’s journey around the world took him to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, across the Atlantic to Barbados, Martinique, Curacao, Aruba, Colombia and Cartagena.
A passing through the Panama Canal took him to destinations on the lower west coast of Latin America, French Polynesia in the South Pacific and destinations including Bora-Bora, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor.
After spending many months confined to ports due to the Covid-19 lockdown, Henrique made a dash for Reunion Island and then on to the South African coast when the first opportunity arrived. His last destination on the African coast is Walvis Bay. The homeward bound stretch will require two more crossings of the Atlantic, to Brazil and the Azores, and then the final crossing to Madeira.



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