Good news was that Conconne arrived safe and sound in Ribadeo. They sweetly gave us the net to confirm the story!! Today was market day in the town- tons of fabulous stalls selling dried meat, cheese, bread and fresh fruit and veg. A step up from the quality of what is available in the supermarket. Re-provisioned we set off for A Caruna. 70nm+ A bit of a sea getting out of the river and then rolling sea again as we headed west. The Captain on watch at nightfall spotted a ship with no lights, we had been travelling in tandem with Conconne and heard Jean Marie call the ship to tell him he had no lights: the response from the ship was that he’d left harbour and forgotten to turn them on…….
July 23 – 25
A Caruna. 2am arrival. Fishing boats galore with search lights that confuse your navigation completely. Lots of traffic coming out including a massive tanker which alarmingly crossed right in front of us : it felt very close especially when looking from the cockpit you could see the starboard light way over on our starboard side and the stern light way over on our port side with the hull right across the channel ahead of us. I think because it was dark it seemed more alarming than it really was! Anyhow into the main old town marina, our lines were taken by the night shift marina guy and we fell into bed.
Next morning we were ready to explore; it’s a really lovely old town and there was a big fiesta happening with mediaeval jesters and music groups wandering around; market stalls selling knick knacks, cheeses, dried meat and all sorts. The town was buzzing and loads of fun to be in. We had a couple of days enjoying the surroundings whilst we waited for the wind to be favourable for the next stretch towards Muxos and the . We also made a new connection with a couple Paul & Jane and their daughter Lily on board Delphinus, who are doing the ARC.
Dolphin swam past as we left the harbour. Sea state: sideways waves, very rocky and rolly. Sail changes:
1. Main full and yankee jib
2. 2nd reef in main and yankee
3. Main and yankee wing on wing with pole
4. Dropped main and held yankee
5. Code zero held out by boom and yankee on pole “twizzle” style
6. Code zero and yankee furled
7. Furled yankee, hoisted Spinnaker : reasonably stable and no boom banging about, reached 8kn.
1. reef in main does stabilize the boat a bit in little wind and sideways waves
2. hoist the spinnaker as soon as you think you should
The sun was shining so it was a decent day.
Muxos fiesta day: drizzle and poor visibility for the sail past. We had hoisted all our flags – ignoring all flag etiquette so as to feel part of the local festivities(Our apologies to the purists in the readership). There were fishing boats laden with people, flowers and branches of trees who went out to sail past the church on the point to give thanks for the safe return of their fleet and bounteous supply of fish.
Forecast westerly; Sea state wavy
Heading towards Finisterre “ the end of the land”. The western most point of Iberia. This is a notoriously bad place to come close to but we were lucky to have clear skies and light wind to bring us on the 6 hour journey from Muxos. We dropped anchor just outside the fishing harbour and watched as one or two other boats came to anchor as well, the best spectator sport possible. Finisterre is a fishing village and doesn’t cater for yachts which means it has real character. It is the end of the Caminos Trail which pilgrims have followed for centuries. The symbol of St James is the scallop shell and you see this along the trail in the town. We did see a lot of walkers with sticks and backpacks. We stayed put for a couple of days as it rained and we were close to our pick up point for James & Charli. Lots of on board, below deck jobs were done, which was very satisfying.
Arrived Muros 11.30-12. Muros is a beautiful fishing town with a good marina. A number of boats anchored in the bay. During the night a big wind came up and shifted 180°. A boat dragged badly towards the shore and in the morning she was hard aground at a 60° angle on her beam ends: ouch!!!!
Re-provision for the hungry hoards, laundry, clean boat. Local DIY store is the BEST and was excellent for some odd bits that you can’t buy in a chandlery and half the price of anywhere else. European adaptor for our shore power cable (small to large plug) 1 male, 1 female part, wired by the staff cost Euro 11. Astonishing. We also found a couple of fold up stools that will be handy for the extra people we have round the dinner table and will stow perfectly at the mast. The green poop deck chair has found a new owner somewhere in France as we decided it had to go: those of you who’ve sat on it will know it doesn’t store very well. The Captain was very happy to see it go.
Local fish stall: all sorts of unknown fish, fresh everyday. The excitement levels are rising with the pending arrival of guests!!
We were still cleaning the decks when James, Charli & Tom appeared much earlier than we had expected. They caught us making everything shipshape for the guests!! It was lovely to see them all and they arrived with a big bunch of flowers freshly purchased from the market as it was market day in town: lots of clothes stalls but also fruit & veg; charcuterie and queso. The fruit stalls had huge wooden boxes full of peaches, pears and nectarines. Delicious.
Also bags and bags of padron peppers which we discovered actually come from the area: James was thrilled to find these as there is a belief that every third one is like fire and he loves spicy fiery food!!! After attempting to cook sardines on our useless BBQ (it is definitely going overboard or to the nearest tip soon before it ruins another meal) we planned the next few days adventure with the new crew.
We decided to make our first destination one of the three National Park islands for which you are required to have both navigation permission and anchoring permission. We had been warned that it may be hard to get organized so were a little concerned but the process is very streamlined and pretty straightforward to get and all done via the web: sending photos of the boats papers etc and then applying each day for the anchorage you wanted to enjoy. During the high season you are only issued three permits. The first place we headed for was Ilsa de Salvero. Our cruising guide seems to be quite out of date and led us to believe that there would be no-one else around and certainly no-one on the beach as tour boats “aren’t permitted to land”. This was not the case, there were a few people enjoying the beach and they certainly must have been dropped off by someone! Another yacht was anchored so we dropped the anchor just off the castle and the boys swam ashore whilst the rest of us jumped in the dinghy.
We’d expected to be boarded and have our permit checked as we’d been warned to look out for ‘park rangers’ in maroon shirts. We met a very nice chap in said shirt who wandered past us and said a cheery ‘ola’ with no trouble at all. I expect their system works perfectly as it’s computerized so they know who has applied for permission: and on this day it was one sole British flagged boat.
There was a good walk up to the lighthouse where someone clearly lives as there was laundry flying in the wind. There are ponies on the island too which seems a little odd as it is otherwise unoccupied. Nonetheless we were happy with our anchorage and all went swimming: Charli Tim & James swam back after the walk, the Captain and I rowed then swam off the boat.
As we were at the mouth of the Ria de Arosa the next destination we chose was Pobra do Caraminal: we had a good sailing breeze and after dropping the anchor in the bay changed our mind and decided to go into the marina. It was a good choice because we were able to walk round town, bike ride or stay on board at our leisure. We arrived during siesta: a time we are still all struggling with. So it was very, very quiet and not until after 4pm did the streets come alive again. In fact the evening was buzzing as there were market stalls selling all sorts of weird and wonderful things and there were hoards of people enjoying a lovely Sunday evening. The marina had offered some entertainment earlier in the afternoon when a motor boat tried and failed to dock nearly taking out two finger pontoons before finally making safe alongside after the 5th or 6th attempt. It was a miracle no-one got hurt.
Monday 3rd took us back to the supermarket: yes I know we did a BIG shop in Muxa but having three extra mouths to feed has had a big impact on our provisions. Goodness how much everyone eats: we have got used to a much lower impact on the contents of the fruit bowl and fridge and are clearly out of practice. Anyhow, we restocked and then set off for a destination that was just a few miles away. Navigation was through the viveros, which are the low square structures upon which the mussels grow and are farmed. The whole area is populated by these and you would not want to navigate at night as they are all unlit but during the day it is easy enough to motor between them unimpeded. The mussel boats are amazing and come into the harbours loaded with mountains of mussels. There are mussel canning factories nearby so it’s big business.
The anchorage we chose was a tiny island called Isolte Jidoiro Arenso which was surround by the most perfectly clear blue water and white sand. It was just idyllic and a great place to drop anchor. The beach was marked off by yellow buoys which indicate the area to keep your boat away from to makr the safe swimming area. We rowed ashore and explored: there were some great bouldering rocks which James attempted. It was a lovely anchorage and we were joined by Delphinus a bit later in the day so we asked them over for a visit after supper which was lots of fun. After they left as we had discussed at length whether we would be Ok if the wind changed and the proximity of the yellow buoy we all went to bed. About half an hour later Charli was up and said she thought the yellow buoy was very close to us: in fact we were on it as the wind had shifted some 180°so we made a quick decision to pull up the anchor and move a bit further away. Unfortunately we made this decision a bit too late and realized we were in the sand and not moving: the tide had about 1.5 hours to continue to go down so the time was very limited. We had 5 metres of water on our starboard side and a lot less on the port side , the boat decided to settle at an angle of 20° where it stayed for the remainder of the lowering tide then gently righted itself when the tide came back up. Needless to say, once we were floating we pulled up the anchor and moved 20 metres ahead so as not to have any more trouble. The issue had been that the yellow buoy was on the end of a moving spit; the chart plotter had us in the right depth throughout the whole experience but a lesson for us was that if we were to swing at anchor then make sure we wouldn’t be so close to the yellow buoys. Delphinus were also on top of a yellow buoy but they clearly didn’t have a sand spit under them!
The following day we had a slow start as we’d been awake half the night waiting for the tide to change but took a fairly straight route out of the viveros and headed for San Vincente del Mar which is a tiny harbour described as “smart” as it is surrounded by some smart holiday homes and hotels. The marina is tiny and we had to wait it out on a bow-to mooring with a pick up stern line just outside the harbour until a space came clear. There is a great long sandy beach nearby which we walked along after supper.
Woke up to balloons decorating the boat: it is fun having a birthday on board!! We wanted to go to the second National Park island so set sail in a stiff SW breeze unsure whether the conditions would allow us to anchor and get ashore. This island is much more populated and frequented by many tour boats, the beach we had to anchor off was a known nudist beach but as the wind was blowing and the day slightly overcast there was only one brave soul baring all according to the rest of the crew who had spotted him parading along the beach. I’ve got to say, I didn’t notice!! We did ferry rides to and from the shore and the Captain decided to stay onboard given the blowy conditions. We were anchored in company so didn’t feel there was any risk but perhaps after the previous nights gentle swing onto sand he felt the brisk wind should be treated with kindness. Ons has one of the few remaining manned ‘faros’ (lighthouse) in Spain and stand majestically looking out across the great expanse of the Atlantic ocean protecting sailors from the rocks. Getting ashore ended up as a slightly bigger challenge than we expected as the outboard has conked out again: this time it seems more complicated so we had to row back and forth against a stiff breeze. The walk round the island was good and as we approached the beach to row back to the boat it started to rain and blow even more. The row back was very wet with waves sloshing over the bow and soaking us.
Our chosen destination in the drizzle was a charming town at the end of the Ria de Pontevedra called Combarro. I had a great sail in, asleep: the luxury of having a birthday means you don’t have to do anything!! The marina is very modern and marina staff super welcoming, and the town itself an absolute gem. It is a restored fishing village, built on granite surrounded by vineyards and steep wooded hills. By the time we were ready to go ashore for supper the rain had stopped and streets had dried out. It really lived up to it’s reputation of being charming. The narrow windy streets of the old town took us past many tapas bars and restaurants that our choice was hard to make. We eventually found the perfect place and had a huge meal of tapas (no comparison to the dishes you get in London or the tapas bar we went to in Lisbon once). It was spectacular, filling and for €77 for five people including drinks, unbelievably good value!
Forecast was for a windy day blowing right into the ria but with the sun shining we decided to go for a bike ride, J, C & T hired bikes for the afternoon and we rode our fold ups. It was a great ride all around the vineyards behind the town and up (a lot of up actually) into the eucalyptus forests. Our fair Captain did say a couple of times that we could turn around when we got to the next corner but somehow he got into the groove and kept cycling. We had hoped to reach the top but with limited supplies of water and the sun beating down, decided to turn back when we were at least 2/3 to the top. It was a great ride down: free wheeling although the brake pads probably need changing now after some of the hairpin bends we navigated. Highlights of the route were the monastery and watching J, T & C cycling on the beach with the tide out as well as the magnificent views from the high ground.
A little bit of boat maintenance. We wanted to change the mast-head lights to LED so asked for volunteers to climb aloft. James was the keenest so went up with tools and bulbs in hand only to discover that there was actually something quite odd going on up there. When the tricolour was switched on both it and the anchor light went on and similarly when the anchor light was on so was the tricolour. This is clearly not right : it should be one or the other. After quite some time and a few trips up and down they worked out that when riggers had drilled into the mast in Inverness when recently fitting a new boom vang they must have drilled through one of the wire coating (there was evidence of small pieces of orange wire coating at the base of the mast) which was causing a short circuit. At least we knew what the problem was so could take the bulb out of the anchor light and know that the tricolour would work when we needed it at night. Replacing the wire would be a job for another day: added to the winter list.
We said farewell to James who caught an early train from nearby Pontevedra to Santiago de Compostela for his 10am flight. We were sorry to see him go but had lots of fun and some good sailing, even if we only covered a relatively small amount of ground. The morning was sunny and with a good breeze from the NW we decided to make tracks for Baiona, it was a fabulous sail and as we approached the harbour we saw Blew Beyond were just ahead of us, called them up on the radio and determined we’d head for the same Marina so we could catch up on news.
Baiona is a very attractive town, the old town comprises narrow winding streets unspoilt by shop fronts. The Medieval walls of what was a Royal fortress now house a very smart parador (great places to stay in and around Spain and usually occupying former grand buildings, we stayed in some when we visited in 1991 when I was pregnant with J&C!!). The battlements of the castle walls have been well preserved and offer a fantastic 3km walk looking out across the wild seas. The other highlight of the port is a replica of the Pinta, one of the caravels of the fleet of Christopher Columbus which returned on 1 March 1493 with news of the discovery of the New World. Our Captain was very excited about this having done a multi media (slides, tape recordings of water sounds made in the bath, narration) project on the Pinta in grade 6!
The wind which had been gusting over 20kn the night before had completely blown through and left us with a really lovely day to head for Ensenada de Barra, a beach on the north western tip of Ria de Vigo. Now this beach is a full on nudist beach and apparently (Charli , Tom & Geoff can vouch for this) has very few people who are dressed and a great many who parade up and down the beach mostly honey brown but some rosy red. It was a glorious Sunday so all the locals were out in their boats anchored off the beach. At one point when I was aboard alone I could see that two boats who were rafted together were trying to free themselves from something whilst another unmanned yacht was drifting past them and numerous other boats. I realized that they must have snarled up the unmanned yachts anchor and were trying to get free. The owner of the yacht must have seen what was happening as he and his partner frantically rowed from the shore to get on board and secure their boat, not before much arm waving and yelling in very angry Spanish. It was a miracle there was no damage as there were so many boats in the bay: I’m also extremely pleased that they didn’t drift in our direction because I’m not sure how I could have managed alone!
We were joined by Believe & Delphinus who we didn’t know were in the neighbourhood. We had a perfect afternoon on the boat and swimming followed by cocktails and delicious home made pizza on board Delphinus. Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s Magic Bread Dough was the base- fast to make and absolutely delicious. As night fell many boats headed home so aprt from the foreign flags there was barely a handful of locals.
Following an early morning photoshoot of the sun rising by Charli we pulled up the anchor and headed for Islas Cies for a morning/lunchtime stop. This is the last of the nature reserves and was really good to visit. We anchored off a tiny beach which was jammed packed with people so getting ashore with the dinghy was a little challenging, trying to man handle an inflated dinghy past sunbathers wearing next to nothing or nothing seemed to worry some people. We had done a quick row past Delphinus who had also anchored to see if any of them wanted to join us for the hike up to the lighthouse. Both Jayne & Lily joined us which was fun. We hiked up to the lighthouse, which on the signs said it was 1.7km away but we reckon that was as the crow flies as the trail was very windy and definitely a longer distance. It didn’t matter but you wonder who had been holding the measuring stick!
Back to the boat and into Vigo. It is a big industrial port with a huge shipbuilding industry still underway. It was quite something to see the ships being built. The marinas are spread out and quite far from the centre of town, we stayed in Marina Davila Sport, a passport marina, where we got our 15% discount. It was a good ten minute taxi ride from town but a good facility nonetheless. The old town is attractive and was buzzing with people later in the evening and there was an open air concert in one of the squares with a local orchestra playing. Charli & Tom were heading back the next day so caught the train and spent the afternoon on Santiago de Compostela, enjoying the sites before their late evening flight. Again we were sorry to see them leave after a fun ten days on board
Poor vis, fog/rain. The wind wasn’t blowing the direction it was forecast to blow, instead seemed to be coming on the nose into the ria from the SW and much heavier than forecast gusting up to 30kn at some points. We wanted to get to Baiona so beat out of the ria to get round the corner. It was the first heavy weather we have had for ages and we were in full wet weather gear pretty quickly. This time we decided to stay in the Club Real Yacht Club as we’d been past when we were first in Baiona and thought it would be good to try. We called ahead on the radio and were met by a dock hand who assisted the process- we were bows-to and had to pick up a stern mooring line so it’s quite tricky to manage with two people aboard and the wind blowing you sideways. His help was much appreciated and we were tied up by 8.30pm.
Forecast was for a continuing blow from the SW- not what we needed to take us south to Porto so we decided to stay put.
8,30am depart for the 65nm to Porto SW12kn due to shift. By 9.30 it had shifted to NW10kn which put us right on course for Porto but was light. After some discussion we decided to put the spinnaker up. This should have been a great decision if it had all gone smoothly but sadly it didn’t go so well and we ended up with a wrap. At this point no-one wanted to be on board and thoughts of magical finger clicking to make it all better may have come to mind. The only way to fix this was to go up the mast, the Captain donned the climbing harness and went skyward. It was a painful process and we should have photos of the bruises as they were quite something but the wrap was unwrapped and the spinnaker filled as it should and we were on our merry way. We flew it for a couple of hours and then the wind went forward so we had to douse it- again there was a small problem with the snuffer which got stuck halfway down so the whole thing was gently lowered into the forward cabin, untied and the hatch firmly shut. Neither of us wanted to see the spinnaker for a day or two.
Our chosen port was Leixoes (Lesch-oingsh) just outside Porto as we’d been told it was a lot less expensive than the marina in the Douro but convenient for transport into town. After working our way round the “super buoy” which has a 1000m no-go zone as it’s where the oil tankers unload via a pipeline to the shore, we reached the marina reception at 8pm. The harbour is fairly industrial but had a good feel, we tied up alongside and settled down for an early night after a very physically strenuous day.
Site seeing in Porto: really stunning city. We loved it and will definitely come back by car from Lisbon for a land visit.
Forecast for light NW winds to take us to Lisbon, but with the code zero we thought we would be ok. 7am depart 2kn breeze. By 12.30 we had 6kn SW motoring with staysail to stabilise us. It was a journey with some frustrations just because the wind didn’t really fill in as forecast so we motored alsmot the whole way. 170nm is a long way to motor! By 8pm the sun was close to going down and we had 5.5kn WNW. As it was a 36 hour journey and we were back in Portugal we had decided to use the time to reacquaint ourselves with the language. Having a few on-line lessons on the ipad broadcast around the boat we must have listened to the same lesson at least three times and then started a new one. It was just like Portuguese language school days: intensive 4-5 hour lessons!! We really hope that it’ll put us someway closer to being able to communicate properly….
Nightfall, the engine chugging and eagle eyes looking out for unseen fishing pots : there are sooooo many to keep your eye on. Some are really well marked with flags and some are just a bobble in the water that disappears the moment a wave takes them. We did pretty well and just skirted one along the hull. Aside from that, the excitement was the amazing phosphorescence which we had for quite a few hours as we approached Peniche. The water was alive in our wake with the glow and even reflected on the staysail. We were also joined by dolphins who took great pleasure in speeding along and across the bow. It’s hard to say how many there were but they were all round the boat. Neither of us had expected the dolphins to join us as we were under power.
Being on watch at 6am I could see the darkness lifting and we were in sight of our last headland: Cabo Raso after which we would round past Cascais and into the Teja. The mount of Sintra was shrouded in fog and this fog crept seaward until visibility disappeared as daylight came. It was disappointing not to be able to see the shore on our approach into Lisbon, we really could have been anywhere. Weekend fishing boats and other yachts emerged very quickly in close proximity so we both had to be on board and alert for the last few hours blowing our foghorn. Talk on the radio from cruise liners and cargo vessels kept us on our toes and close to the inshore route up the river.
11am Doca da Alcantara tied up. Journey over. For the first time we have the boat 10 minutes from home, it’s been a great journey and this year we covered approximately 2000nm. All the way from eastern Scotland to Lisbon via some fabulous cruising grounds in the Western Isles, Ireland, France, Spain and finally Portugal. We met old friends and made some new cruising friends on the way, thank you to you all for your advice, company and generosity-we hope our paths will cross again.