Saturday, 28 July 2012

Ria De Arosa

Monday 23rd July

We left Muros at  09.45 in sunshine and a gentle NW F3, poled out genoa, set the mizzen and full main. As we turned SE to round Cape Corrubedo guess what, dolphins around the boat again! Only a few this time and they didn’t stay for long but always a welcome sight.

An interesting observation on these coastal passages is that with changing winds, gusts around the headlands, plus the swell ‘Arry sometimes has difficulty keeping up. We have resorted to the old electric Autohelm on these occasions. I hope this keeps working until we can get the tiller pilot working with ‘Arry’s tiller.

A gentle sail past the Isla Salvora and into the Ria de Arosa. As we rounded the island the evening breeze kicked in and we had a very fast sail all the way to the anchorage off the beach in Ribeira. Once again we had some of the big dolphins near the boat as we were deciding where to anchor.
The bay with our anchorage near the other yacht

Ribeira gets a bad press in the pilot book and Lonely Planet, however we cannot comment as we didn’t go ashore but the anchorage at the eastern end of the beach was beautiful. A backdrop of beach, sand dunes, a campsite among the trees, a mini island sheltering you from the east and inside a small offshore reef was in marked contrast to the commercial port at the other end of the bay (where the marina was).
View from the cockpit with local visitors

We thought we might have another swim as it was quite warm, but the water was much colder than in Ria de Muros. The beach below the campsite was full of people, but not that many swimming but it may be warmer in the shallows – although 30m from the beach we were only in 5m of water! So we had a pleasant evening watching all the activity on the beach which stretched all round the bay. 

Tuesday 24th July

We awoke to thick fog! 30m from the beach and we couldn’t see it! The swell had picked up and we were bouncing around as though we were at sea. So our planned dingy ride ashore was abandoned.

 Still we only had a short distance to go to our destination today. Vilagarcia marina is our destination to collect our package, a journey of about 12 miles so we will wait until the fog clears. Fortunately the fog was starting to clear by lunchtime so we set off. There was even enough wind to sail all the way.
Isla Rua

Sailing up the ria we cannot help notice the huge numbers of mussel rafts, this is mussel farming on an industrial scale. A pity we don’t have better visibility as this looks a really interesting ria with many islands and some interesting pilotage among the mussel rafts, islets and rocks! With many places to visit you could spend a week or more here (as long as you don’t mind mussel rafts wherever you look). This Ria is about twice the size of the Solent with many anchorages, harbours and towns to visit.
Mussel boat
The Package

This has been alluded to for some time so we must now explain. For the mariners reading this you will know that getting weather forecasts is very important, for the unknowing, trust me, we sailors worry about the weather more than anything.

Before we set off the big debate was how we were going to get weather forecasts when at sea. In harbour it is easy, there is often the web or it is posted by the harbour office. At sea it is a different matter.

On the last boat we had a piece of kit called a Navtex receiver. This is left switched on and receives the weather and navigation warnings broadcast by the various coastal stations around the world. You just programme in the stations local to where you are and it stores these messages for you to read at your convenience. This boat didn’t have Navtex and I was persuaded that the Navtex function could be covered by a short wave radio connected to a laptop PC.  Not so easy as the computer has to be on when the stations are broadcasting and the radio has to be on and tuned in, plus on a bouncing boat a laptop is not easy to secure.

We have abandoned this approach and purchased from MESL in Bristol, UK a Navtex receiver. This was shipped to the marina in Vilagarcia. It was not there on arrival but was delivered later in the afternoon and brought round to the boat by the marina manager after we returned from a walk around the town. It is now fitted and working so gives us another level of confidence in our weather forecasts.
Marina entrance

The town of Villagarcia is mostly modern but with a few interesting old buildings here and there. For shopping it would be excellent with pleasantly laid out pedestrianised streets and a big shopping centre.

There is a good chandlery at the marina, wifi, no laundry but a nice upstairs cafe serving especially large measures of Larios, Spanish gin. Along the harbourside are several bars and restaurants and a cinema. Madagascar 3 in Spanish would probably have been quite entertaining after the gin.
View from the bar!

The next day was very foggy again, so Richard fitted the Navtex and I spent nearly all day doing pictures and the blog.

Tomorrow we are off to the Ria de Pontevedra intending to anchor at Combarro which is an old town famous for it's horreos and Pontevedra highly recommended by various sources. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Ria de Muros

Thursday 19th July -  Portosin Marina

We left Carmarinas at about 9.00 on the Thursday morning for the sail to the Ria de Muros. Sandpiper having left about 30mins earlier. Once out in the bay, sails went up and off we went in a gentle Northerly F3. The wind slowly started to build as the morning went on and just as we were reefing down, guess what, dolphins around the boat again!

This leg was to round Cape Finisterre. The area has a reputation as being a windy corner. It was a bit windy F4/5 but really a pussycat, however I wouldn’t want to be off this coast in a SW gale. Not for nothing is it called the Costa del Morte!

From Finisterre we were downwind with the Main and Poled out Genoa. A really exciting downwind run surfing down the waves at 9+ kts!

We took the inside passage down the Canal de los Meixidos into the Ria inside some nasty offshore reefs. Careful pilotage was needed but with good visibility, perfectly OK. As we turned into the Ria, we looked behind to see Sandpiper coming in behind us. Very satisfying. It turned out that they went outside the reefs but sailed the same distance as us?
Sandpiper arrives

The Ria offered perfect shelter so we motored to the Marina at Portosin. A laundry day was needed.
One night at the Club Marina was more than twice the price of the last club Marina at Carmarinas. This was to be a single night stop, laundry, fuel, water, a bit of fresh food then off! The town was not terribly interesting, a long walk to a decent cafe/restaurant with Cliff and Anita on Sandpiper for a final meal together. They would be moving on south before us and we were planning to visit Muros another town that gives the Ria it’s name as it sounded interesting in the guide books. This was the first restaurant that had chicken on the menu so Rowena was very happy – she could eat at last! The others all had seafood which was as usual excellent.
A last farewell

Washing done, fed and watered we set off for the voyage to Muros (5 miles!) The pilot book doesn’t mention a marina but a new one has opened in the harbour this year (same prices as Portosin). We went to the anchorage with a 5min dinghy ride to the slipway.

 On entering the anchorage we saw a familiar looking yacht, and waved to each other. The following morning going ashore we saw it was Ray and Suzanne (Kay), they were berthed in Royal Clarence Marina and set off with us. We last saw them in Cowes at the start of our trip as we set off in company to the West Country. We went over for coffee and a chat about our shared experiences so far. They were remarkably similar – waiting for days in France for good weather to cross, high seas in Biscay, and finally huge satisfaction at reaching Spain. We wish them fair winds to the Med.

Muros town is very interesting, a real mix of very very old, a lot of Art Nouveau architecture and some modern. We got talking to an American girl who is here on holiday with two friends, one of whom is from Muros. She told us that the town is now an historic monument and cannot be changed. The tourist information was closed and she informed us that this is part of the austerity measures, a pity because it would have been good to have some information. Anyway, she told us to walk up the hill and round all the old streets. I also took the opportunity to ask her about goose barnacles. They are a local delicacy which we haven’t yet tried, partly because we didn’t know how to eat them and partly because of what they look like!
Muros harbour

Walking round the town was really strange. It was mostly very run down, but in between there would be a house beautifully restored with pot plants outside. Up and down countless flights of wonky stone steps, winding streets some with little stone bridges over. Sometimes it felt like a ghost town, and then round a corner would be a little plaza with cafes and tables full of locals eating and drinking. There were quite a few old chapels and even some of them were boarded up, very unusual.

When we have more internet time I will have to look up the history of Muros.
Muros old town

Thank heavens for laundromat's

We had a pleasant lunch under umbrellas at a harbourside cafe. I tried the Pimientos a Padron, another local dish (delicious) and Richard had pulpo (octopus).

Sunday 22nd July

Nobody expects the........ you’ve guessed it the Customs again, just as we are about to have coffee! Showed them the form we were given earlier, no they have to do it all again. Last form was criticised as not being completed properly by their colleagues (but in Spanish to each other!)

The anchorage was like the UN. We have yachts from Spain, Andorra, USA, France, Holland and of course the UK. Still kept the Customs guys busy!
It was very hot again today so we had a lovely lazy day on the boat watching all the activity in the bay. Being Sunday, the beaches were full and various boats were out and about, some  waterskiing or pulling children behind on tubes and other inflatables.

It was a very low tide and a few people were wandering around up to their thighs in the sea poking with sticks and catching things in hand nets. Even with the binoculars we couldn’t make out what they were collecting. (Deb, see, there are opportunities for curtain twitching even on a boat!)

We had a swim, even though the water was a bit cold, with really cold patches every now and then that made you catch your breath! Afterwards we showered using the solar showers we had been warming on the deck. The water was not very hot but quite warm enough especially in this weather.
Tomorrow we are off to the Ria de Arousa. We need to go to Vilagarcia to collect a parcel. (More about that later).

Friday, 20 July 2012

Fiesta, fiesta,fiesta!

Saturday 14th July 2012 Sada

We still can't sail west because of the wind, so feeling we had been in A Coruna long enough we decided to go east to Ria de Betanzos, which does not involve actually going out to sea. It is a branch of the main Ria. We left in a W F4 so a beam reach out, a gybe and a beam reach into the Ria.

Just into the Ria, Radio Coruna gave an All Ships Navigation Warning! I rushed down got pen and paper ready expexting to have to note co-ordinates of lost containers or floating timber or something.
Actually, it was to say there is a yacht race in the Ria today!! Imagine that in the Solent! " This is Solent Coastguard, please be advised Sunsail are out this afternoon"

Fortunately, we were on starboard tack, but they were mostly all east of us beating hard to windward so no problems. But only about 20 boats, so not exactly a hazard in an area twice the size of the Solent!

A few larger dolphins swam round us for a while on the way in which was lovely. I think they were bottlenose but they werent jumping or anything so difficult to identify. I need to have some time to do some research. Again we were surrounded by tree covered hills and scattered houses.

Sada visitors pontoon - Galene on the outside! Plenty of space.
Entry to Sada marina was nice and easy. The fishing harbour was right next door, all the fishing boats decorated with flags, bunting and greenery. We could hear music and sirens started going, then all the boats came out in a procession with yachts, motorboats and even jet skis joining in. Thet went for a tour of the Ria then all came back and had some sort of ceremony throwing flowers and thing in the water. We understand it is homage to the patron saint of fishermen.

Pity the poor yacht at anchor. Initially moved out of the harbour by the police, then found himself surrounded by the melee outside!

They all came back and then the party really started. There were fireworks and the siren kept going.We went to town and had an excellent meal. There seemed to be parties on all the boats and as we were leaving, the partygoers started coming in for dinner -about 11ish!

There was a sound stage on the promenade but the music did not start till about 12, by which time we were in bed. The whole thing, including sirens and fireworks randomly, went on until 5 am.

We had a cycle round town with lovely beaches and some very interesting old buildings right up the hill to the ruined castle.

Sada Old Town
Monday 16th July - Corme
At last the wind from the North. We are off to the west to Camarinas with a fall back of Corme/Laxe if we have had enough for the day. Motored out of the Ria and eventually the wind built from the NE. Eventually up to a F5 we were heading SW by now so pretty much dead downwind with the mizzen and No2 genoa. A bit rolly in the leftover swell from the Westerly blow of the weekend.

Seas off Pta Del Roncudo

The coastline is very rugged and interesting, with Islas Sisargas to avoid. They are a bird sanctuary, but we didnt really see more birds than the usual few gannets, shearwaters and the odd gull. Corme is 33 miles from Sada so, tired of sailing dead down wind, we went there for the night.
Corme anchorage
Corme is a tiny fishing harbour, but you have to anchor outside and inside the mussel rafts near the beach. A bit stressful going in as there seemed little space with many yachts already there. Actually there was plenty of room further round the bay.  No sooner had we put the hook down and were enjoying a glass in the cockpit when the fireworks started! Seems the fiesta was still continuing here! Did not go ashore as we were only stopping for the night but the music started about midnight and went on until almost dawn!

We left in the morning having had not much sleep again!

Tuesday 17th July - Camarinas

We left with very little wind again, but it picked up quite quickly and we were soon doing over 5kts under full main and genoa with only a NE F2. The coast was all misty today so it wasnt quite as interesting. We passed Cabo Villano about noon and decided not to use the inside passage because it was misty and you need to go quite close in.

It is an interesting entrance with lots of leading marks, line up this tower with that, or with a monastry but we coulnt see many of them, possibly because of all the trees. Motoring slowly in we had the big dolphins round the boat again!

Moored at the Club Nautico Marina. €16 a night, wi-fi, electric and showers. We now are getting very low on gas. But guess what everything is closed because of the Fiesta! More fireworks, fishing boats decorated and the remains of the flowers etc in the harbour.

In the afternoon several large trucks arrived and set up 2 stages that would not have been out of place at a major rock festival. This was in addition to the funfair, flea market plus craft stalls, food stalls, street bar etc.

We went to town with Cliff and Anita on Sandpiper, BBQ pork ribs and a bottle of wine, excellent. Might as well enjoy the festivities.
          Rowena and Anita trying on clothes in the street market in Carmarinas

The late night entertainment was something of a different cultural experience. An impressionist pop show followed by a heavy rock band doing covers of rock standards. The show started at midnight and went on 'till the early hours. At 0100 we had enough and went to bed!

Roads closed definitely no sleep tonight! We later discovered that Camarinas had been partying since Saturday! Finally on Wednesday morning things started to return to normal. Took the old gas bottle for exchange at the ferreterria, seems I got the guy up at 10.30 he was complaining he had been at the fiesta!

We stayed Wednesday night to recover and catch up on our sleep.
Thursday morning we are off  to the Ria de Muros, the first of the southern Rias, hopefully with better weather and some off the wind sailing. Finisterre beckons, reported to be an area with a bit of a reputation so we are anticipating the worst even though we have a good forecast. Hopefully we will have broken the cycle of fiesta's and get a bit of quiet.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A Coruna at last

We finally made it here on Monday 9th July. About a month later than planned due to some very unseasonal weather.
The passage from Cedeira was uneventful, very little wind so we motorsailed all the way. On leaving Cedeira there were dolphins inside the ria just slowly swimming, did not seem to be hunting or anything. The coast is pretty spectacular, granite cliffs with off lying outcrops. It reminds me of North Cornwall. The cliff tops around here are all topped with wind turbines. We have seen them all the way from Viveiro to here. There is certainly enough wind to keep them flying!

Coruna marina is a 1st class marina, almost everything you need on site. Chandlers, fuel, laundry, wi-fi, cafe bar, restaurant, excellent showers electricity and water included in the price. The only negative is there is no gas. The nearest is the other side of the harbour, very strange? This means we are in for a long bike ride before we go.

Arriving at A Coruna Marina
Our mooring is almost next to Castilo San Anton 16th C

The city of A Coruna is beautiful with a very interesting old town. We walked into town the evening we arrived. Again there are the old four storey buildings with the glassed in balconies and tiny narrow streets. The more modern buildings are interesting and colourful.We had a beer and tapas on the Maria Pita Square. She is a Galician heroine who saved A Coruna from an invasion by Sir Francis Drake.

Maria Pita square before the evening strollers arrived

It is a very large square, surrounded by beautiful buildings, some very old, some early 20th C. Around the four sides are small square glass cubes with pointed roofs, reminiscent of the glass pyramid outside the Louvre. We sat in one of these in the sunshine, with our beers and watched all the people. It seems to be the thing to wander round the square and meet friends while the children run round, playing ball. Very pleasant.
Old town skyline

Old city walls
The bulb on the anchor light had blown, but the chandlers did not have one so we eventually found a ferreteria (Hardware shop) in one of the little streets. Remember the Two Ronnies sketch about the fork handles/four candles? The interior was just like that, floor to ceiling small old boxes with hand written labels that had been changed many times. The shopkeeper took the bulb and wandered off, up a iron spiral staircase, returning with yet another box containing assorted bulbs. He found the correct one - we took two - and he handed them to his wife. She tore off a piece of brown paper (not new) and wrapped them up. €3.00 for two! I was dying to take a photo, but wasn't sure what they would think.

Tuesday was washing day. The first chance since Audierne, four loads in the machine. Thankfully it was good drying weather so we managed to get it all dry outside.

We also managed to get the gas regulator working correctly on Camping Gaz butane at last thanks to a prompt email response from Will Hayward!

Bicycles out, we cycled about 3km to the Torres de Hercules, the oldest working lighthouse in the world. The 1st lighthouse on the site was built by the Romans in 2AD. The current structure was refurbished in the 18th century in the style of the original structure. Pretty amazing. Also lovely views for miles along the north coast.
Torre de Hercules
Just after we got back, Anita and Cliff arrived on Sandpiper. Great to see them again, and out came the champagne I had been keeping to celebrate the crossing. They had also seen dolphins and had a pleasant voyage.

Sandpiper's arrival

We will have been here for 5 days, a day or so longer than planned, partly due to (you guessed it) the weather! Blowing old boots from the west again! Stay here for 4 nights and get the 5th night free. We may take a trip round to the other Ria (Ria Betanzos) for a change of scenery before moving on to Camerinas.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

You know who's the boss!

After our few days in Viveiro we decided to move on to Cedeira, the next port along the coast.
We checked the forecast and it looked OK. A westerly wind 10-15 kts veering NW in the early afternoon. Sea 1-2 metres. So we set of after an early lunch.

Our course was initially NW then West a journey of about 35 miles.

At first everything was fine, sailing NW with a westerly wind. At the point where we had to sail west the wind was still from the west so we carried on waiting for our windshift. Nothing happened so we tacked back towards the land, tacked again and carried on.

The wind was now beginning to increase so we reduced sail, eventually having 2 reefs in the main and a few rolls in the No2 genoa with 25+kts true wind, 32+ accross the deck with 3-4m swells with breaking crests.

Our progress against the big seas was slow, sometimes being knocked up to 20 degrees off course and slowing down to 3 kts over the ground. We had been taking a lot of water over the boat and eventually one of the bigger waves tipped us over more than 45degrees and one of our plates escaped the rack and committed suicide on the chart table furniture. We have a scar on the woodwork as a permanent reminder! Never mind the plate feeling suicidal we were pretty fed up as well. A pleasant afternoon sail was going to be a late night entry into another strange harbour.

As we rounded the last headland before Cedeira, the sea and wind had calmed a bit but still with the wind on the nose. So we motored the last 8 miles which took 2 hours against the seas.

Night entry was pretty straitforward, a sectored white light guiding you in with the rock in the centre of the entrance lit by an isolated danger mark.

As we entered the anchorage we noticed a rib charging about and a lot of shouting. A water taxi or the harbourmaster collecting dues? No sooner had we dropped the hook than the rib zoomed over and shouts of ADUANAS! (Customs). Just what we needed after a difficult passage at 11.30 at night. They were very apologetic as they checked our paperwork, everything OK just statistics. You really wonder what our Euros are being spent on. The customs then proceeded to wake up another yacht obviously asleep!

Cedeira anchorage

Lessons learnt.
1) You cannot fight wind and swell on this coast. It is not like the Solent or English Channel
2) If it looks better to go back than go on, then go back!
3) Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but always expect the Spanish Customs!
4) Must learn how to say "Eff off I'm asleep" in Spanish! May come in useful later.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


What a lovely place. Old walled town dating from 1100's with the town rebuilt in the 16th centuary due to a fire. The Ria is surrounded by small hills covered in Eucalyptus plantations, the green making a pleasing contrast with the colourful modern houses outside the Old Town.

The view from Galene to the new part of town
Spent the first night at anchor overlooking the beach. After celebrating our arrival (or survival) with a champagne brunch, we moved to the marina so we had easy access to the town.

The beach from the anchorage

Very reasonably priced marina and the manager actually apologised for not helping us moor up as he was in a meeting. We were charged €19.50 a night including water, electricity and showers. No laundry but this could be arranged if required at €3.50 a kilo. With hindsight we should have taken this offer.

Lots of bars, cafe's shops etc in town and an excellent supermarket 5 mins walk from the marina. No Wi-fi but the bar across the road had it so we had to remember to take the laptop when we went for a drink.

The poster in the background is actually the dustcart!


We stayed for 3 nights and were thanked for coming to the marina, they even shook our hands when we left. Imagine that on the South Coast!

We found everyone very friendly and welcoming, not much English spoken but with our basic Spanish we manage to get by. We bought a Spanish/English phrasebook as we didn't have a very good one. We will soon be speaking very good Inglesh weeth a Spanish accent!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Spain at last!

At long last we seem to have a weather window long enough to cross Biscay. The high winds forecast should have gone by Saturday morning and the sea state calmed down by the afternoon so we are going late morning.

We set off just before 11.00 the wind a good F4 from the SW so south we go - hard on the wind, sea Moderate to Rough with 3m swells. Forecast to get much better by the afternoon and wind from the NW so we can sail where we want to go. After about 8 hours the wind still had not gone NW but the sea was beginning to get better. Row sick, so we hove to to eat supper.

While Richard ate chilli and I tried to keep down a few grains of rice, we discussed turning back. Eight hours back with the bad seas or carry on and hopefully sail into better weather. The relative  calm induced by heaving to helped us decide to carry on and the forecast proved right.

Sunday was much better. For a while we could sail our course, the sea was calmer and the sun shone! Several times we had common dolphins playing around the boat. The first pod stayed around us for about forty minutes, adults and young. This definitely helped get over the sea sickness. Just as well, as there was little else to see.

 A few ships, the odd gannet that was it.

The wind was not going to play ball and  by Monday early hours we couldn’t sail the course. We either sailed West into the Atlantic, South to Gijon (not where we wanted to go) or called for the assistance of Mr Volvo! The 3rd option won so we motor sailed. At 0830 the log reads “cannot lay Ribedeo, engine on”. With enough wind, ‘Arry was happy to steer while motorsailing. Our options were now either to go to Ribedeo or Viverio (our first option). With only 10 miles difference and a night time arrival to either port we opted for Viveiro. This would save a full day’s sail from Ribedeo to Viveiro later.

Eventually the wind died and ‘Arry gave up. On flat calm seas the electrical autohelm was once more pressed into service.

Watches:-  We agree to divide the watch keeping  on a 2hour on, 2hour off rota. During the day this was fairly relaxed allowing both of us to catch up on our sleep as needed. On watch involved enjoying the sun, reading and checking our course every now and then. Off watch involved sleeping, reading or making tea. Generally the changeover was used to cook a meal and catch up on what was happening, mostly  not much!

Night time we stuck to the 2 hour regime as longer on your own can get a bit grim. However as conditions were benign with moonlit nights, we often let the off watch sleep in for an hour longer.

On the Monday as we had been motoring we took advantage of the hot water generated by the engine to each have a shower. Rowena even washed her hair! What luxury.  

The Spanish coast is well covered with large lighthouses, easy to spot many miles away so we were easily able to find the entrance. A pity the almanac was not up to date as we spent ages looking for a red light flashing once every 5 seconds, which has been replaced by a continuous flashing red! (Later, in the Marina office we discovered that the local chart doesn’t have the correction either!)

 Even at 0200, the entrance was like Piccadilly circus with dozens of small fishing boats, trawlers and other craft. Just as we were clear of the traffic the engine slowed and we heard a CLUNCK -something round the prop! Fortunately the rope cutter did its job and whatever it was fell off. With our hearts in our mouths we entered the Ria, identified and rounded the end of the breakwater to anchor 50m off the beach.

 It was 0300 Tuesday morning. Adrenaline still pumping , we slept.

Champagne in Viveiro