UPDATE JANUARY 2012
As per 30 of January 2012 the ferry service of the operator Naviera Armas, that was linking Portugal (Portimão) with Funchal, was discontinued due to huge increase of the operating costs associated to the port of Funchal. Unfortunately there is (for the time being) no Ro-Ro ferry service between the mainland Portugal and the Atlantic Isles of Madeira and Azores, these are considered the only significant groups of islands in Europe that has NO Ro-Ro ferry services. The only alternative are the container ships, which are expensive.
For enquiries, complaints or questions concerning this matter or any new possibilities of reactivation of the sea route between Funchal and Europe (continent), please contact the Secretaria Regional da Cultura, Turismo e Transportes (contact form page)
(Post April 9, 2008)
Many have asked if it was possible to go by boat to Madeira. The answers were:
Yes, with your own boat and at your own risk;
Yes, but then it is with a organized cruise voyage and you will only be able to visit Funchal for 1 day
Yes, but then you need to work in a freight ship or transatlantic container;
Yes, by joining a regatta that sometimes can take place each year;
And since summer of 2008 we can add a new answer …
Yes, you can visit Madeira Islands by ferry departing from the Portuguese port of Portimao, coast of the Algarve (Portugal)..
A new ferry Volcano of Tijarafe of the Armas shipping company is going once per week between Funchal (Madeira) and Portimao (Portugal).
This is the first ferry connection between Madeira island and the mainland Portugal after 30 years. It is a new alternative to visit the archipelago … and you can take your own car with you.
The duration of the trip between Funchal and Portimao is less than 24 hours and it takes place in the weekend.
You can go to the Naviera Armas website and book your trip with the ferry Volcán de Tijarafe.