Espania por favor

We had left the marina to spend the last night in England moored up the River Fal near Malpas, we had passed the spot earlier in the week on the river boat trip. It was truly beautiful there and it was a perfect spot to ready the boat and ourselves for our crossing to Spain.Steve, Caroline and the pooches were up that way too but we missed each other and we had to make do with leaving a note on their boat.

 

It’s odd the sensation you have before embarking on a longer than your used to crossing, I say longer than your used to because some people must only ever and are happy to day sail whilst others I am sure always go away for longer trips, sailing off shore for days at a time.

 

Claire and I sort of straddle these two camps. We have crossed the North Sea together a couple of times and undertaken 24 hour hops along the coast of the Friesen Islands apart from that Claire sits in the day sailing camp anchoring or tying up in a marina usually before night falls as we have done on this trip all the way to Falmouth. I on the other hand have also done a lot of day sailing with a few ocean crossings mixed in. The big difference for me is on all of the longer passages I have made I have been a member of the crew, watch leader or a watch officer never the skipper.

 

Claire and I share the responsibilities equally both being able to sail RR but because of my limited off shore experience she is looking to me for reassurance. So now as we embark on something out of the ordinary, a 4 -5 day crossing of the Bay of Biscay there is this undercurrent of apprehension, like waiting for a large roller coaster ride to start. You really want to do it, you want to be able to say that you’ve done it but all the time you’re wondering what if………

 

Red Rooster is a good boat, its well-equipped, Claire and I are confident and competent , we have been out in all sorts of weather in her with no issues, but what if?………and it’s that ‘What if’ that’s hard for me to define. The thing is, for me anyway that ‘what if’ is joining the queue for the roller coaster, or jumping out of a plane as George and Grace and I have done and Joy has bungee jumped!! Now that’s one thing I wouldn’t do!! Its things like that though, the out of the ordinary things that you remember, that make life interesting and that can only be a good thing, can’t it? .

 

I know the guy that sails off shore all of the time would think nothing of a 4 – 5 day crossing but if he were to cross the Atlantic or the Pacific perhaps he would have a what if……or two himself.

 

Anyway it might have been a lot easier for me to say that we had a very restless night, with little sleep and a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios floating around my head.

 

Tuesday morning was a misty affair, I hadn’t worried about fog but I must have worried about everything else!! We left the mooring at 0700 for the trip back down to Falmouth it really was magical gliding down the river at that time in the morning. We were to take on diesel and water at the marina with Claire nipping off to get fresh food etc.

 

We motored out into the English Channel rounding the infamous Manacles rocks heading further from shore as we passed the Lizard. The wind was very light as forecast and we sailed / motor sailed (motor sailing is motoring with the main up to help steady the boat).

 

Now I must admit to being a little frustrated at the lack of wind but hey the sun was out, we were on our way and Claire decided at this point to bake a banana cake of all things??

 

The cake had been in for about thirty minutes and the smell was wafting around the cockpit. The engine revs dropped a little and Claire thought that the main sheets had hit the throttle so I pushed it back up and all was fine for about 2 minutes then the revs dropped again, this time a lot lower and before I could do any more the engine stopped all together. How unfortunate I thought, or words to that effect. I tried to start her again but it ran very rough, spluttered and stopped again. In the 6 years we have had RR the engine has never stopped unless we wanted it to.  We pulled the genoa out which kept us moving just enough to allow us to steer and I went below to have a look. 

 

Everything looked fine with nothing out of place, now my mate Adrian from Volspec Tollesbury, the mechanic who taught me how to service the engine always said that a diesel needs two things, fuel and compression. I couldn’t do a lot if it was compression but I had spare fuel filters on board so I set to and stripped and cleaned the fuel lines / filters. I was in the middle of all this when Claire tried to climb down the steps, which were removed so I could access the engine; and squeeze past me as she needed to get to the bloody banana cake before it burnt!! 

 

Claire having decided that it needed a little longer, stood up and looked out the window, ‘there’s a submarine over there’ she said. I was sure this was a trick but I thought even Claire wouldn’t try it at a time like this. So I stood and I could see it too. It must have come to the surface as there was nothing on the horizon a few minutes before. That’s two we have seen now, getting a bit common place.

 

After I had the fuel system all back together I bled the diesel through, Claire pushed the start button and she started and ran beautifully. The engine that is!!

 

We had a chat about what we should do; we could divert to a port in Brittany, France or carry on? As the engine was running fine there seemed little point in going in and the wind should pick up meaning we may not need the engine again for another three days or so. I also had another two sets of filters should they be required. So on we went. Oh what little did we know?

 

At this point I would like to take you back to that younger (17), slimmer better looking Derek having just left Dartmouth in deteriorating weather at the start of the 1974 Tall Ships race. I had been trying to put the event out of my mind and with the aid of Doombar and Betty Stoggs ale, I mostly succeeded. However as the light fell on that first night I let the memories bubble to the surface as I recalled being aboard the S/Y Rona, she was built in 1897 and is about 80ft long she was classed as a tall ship and she was beautiful, anyway I was woken around two in the morning by my watch leader, I was off watch but he demanded all hands on deck with full wet weather gear life jackets and harnesses. When I climbed through the hatch on to the deck I could not believe the chaos, the night was pitch black, the wind was howling through the rigging the mainsail was loose and flogging badly the rain was stinging my head it was so hard, there was someone halfway up the main mast, it seemed as if everyone was shouting, every minute or so a huge wave crashed over the deck knocking people off their feet. The boat was not moving and I heard someone trying to start the big diesel engine.

 

I made my way up to the bow, as that was my station when on watch and hunkered down behind the gunwales’ waiting for orders, the storm jib was still set and pulling hard the mizzen was flogging but as I watched it was ground in and set, the boat started to move forward slowly and the motion began to steady. I think the engine was running also and that was odd as we were racing and no engines were allowed.

The skipper stopped near me and was looking at the shrouds to the main mast. I asked him if we were going to capsize and he told me not to be so stupid. I took that as a no then. 

 

As things started to calm down It became apparent that some of the main shrouds, these are the steel cables that hold the mast up had snapped on the port side and we were in danger of losing the mast. The first mate had climbed the mast as high as he could go and was lashing additional ropes down to the deck to hold the mast up. 

I was scared stiff.

I am not sure how long it took but we motored into Brest for repairs and I remember the loom of the Ushant lighthouse as we got closer to land.

When the repairs were complete we carried onto La Coruna.

 

So I for one was quietly pleased to be eating warm banana cake as we passed the area of the Ushant lighthouse.

 

With all of the above in mind I could not believe how calm Claire was whilst all this was going on. She was more concerned about the flipping banana cake, which was very nice I might add than the fact that we were bobbing about, out of sight of land without an engine at the beginning of a sizeable crossing.

 

So on we motored, through a group of racing yachts that we later discovered was the Artemis off shore Figaro fleet, past tankers and fishing boats giving all a wide berth as we rounded the TSS (traffic separation scheme, basically lanes for the large ships to travel in).

 

When dawn arrived, the engine was still on and going strong, I was confident that the wind would pick up as the sun rose in to the sky but it didn’t. In fact we motored for nearly three solid days!!

 

Now as you may know I am a bit of a heathen, I do not believe there is a god in any shape or size but I do believe in luck, both good and bad and if you were to ask my Mum she would say that I was born lucky. 

 

To demonstrate, about a day after arriving in Falmouth I took some rubbish to the marina bins where I found two large (30L) empty plastic containers with Diesel written in felt tip pen on top. I picked them up and walked back to RR. On the way I was stopped by a couple of blokes on the pontoon they pointed to the containers saying that they were glad someone was going to put them to good use as they had just arrived from Spain using these to carry additional fuel for the trip.

 

I already had two 20L jerry cans on board but thought these two were too good to throw away so I lashed them to the mast with the others. When I came to fill up with diesel on the morning we left I filled these two up also thus nearly doubling our range under motor. Without those two extra cans of fuel we would have run out of diesel two thirds of the way across.

 

I also discovered something else about myself during the crossing. My imagination takes over if there’s nothing going on, I cannot tell you how many times I thought the engine had stopped, or slowed slightly, in the completely windless parts I was sure a storm was brewing just over the horizon and when a large swell developed 3 – 4 meters high I was sure trouble was on its way. But when the wind finally arrived force 4-5 on a completely black night, no moon or stars could we see, just the lights of over thirteen large cargo, tanker or container ships which we had to weave around to cross the shipping lanes I was happy. I was able to do something instead of waiting around for something to happen. 

 

You may have guessed by now that our trip was pretty boring which I suppose is a good thing, we had lots of time on our hands and I am so lucky that Claire and I get on so well, we talked about all and everything but that all stopped the moment the DOLPHINS arrived.

 

Well I have never seen Claire so happy and excited except perhaps on our wedding day. We first saw them at night; well to be exact we saw the streaks of phosphorus as they shot through the water. They disappeared then but returned in force the next day. Claire spent most of the time at the bow leaning over talking to them and picking out her favourite one. I was so happy for her as seeing dolphins fell near the top of her list of the things we needed to do or see on this trip.

 

We had initially intended to head for Baiona but as the wind started to build we started to look at La Coruna as getting to Baiona would mean rounding Cape Finisterre, which means incidentally the ‘Cape of Death’ at night with the shipping lanes to cross as an added bonus!!

 

It took about a millisecond to come to a decision so we turned to Port crossed the shipping lanes and waited for the light, any light to come back into that black sky. 

 

This was the worst period of the trip for me as I did not want to leave Claire on deck alone with so much going on. Up to then we had been doing 4 hr watches through the night with some success. Claire would do 8 – midnight; I would then do to 4 am with Claire taking over as the sun came up. However we both needed to be up as you needed that second pair of eyes. Even with AIS you still needed to work out if you were passing in front of or behind these massive fast moving ships.

 

Everything looks better in the morning, we wound in some of the Genoa but left the main full, we were cracking along with just the fishing boats to negotiate. Both of us were shattered and we took turns at the wheel whilst the other cat knapped in the cockpit.

 

At last we could see the coast line, we reminded ourselves not to get too excited as we still had a long way to go but I gave Claire a hug anyway as I’m that kind of guy!

 

La Coruna – 19th to 25th June

 

We made it, I know that sounds a little like the crossing was hard, and as you know it wasn’t really but we still have gained a lot of satisfaction in making it safely to Spain and our confidence in us as a team and in RR has gone up a notch or two. 

 

On Saturday we worked on the boat, cleaning and fixing bits and pieces. We rigged our sun awning for the first time (thanks Steve Green from G3 on West Mersea) as the heat was becoming unbearable as we reached midday. It fitted perfectly and kept the sun off of the boat as well as giving us shade in the cockpit. We showered and took the short walk into town. We found a nice restaurant in the main square and had a traditional Spanish supper of fish, cheese and bread or as we say in Spain, Pescado, Queso y pan!!

 

Haha we are trying not to be typically English and we are trying to learn some key words and phrases. Teacher Claire is on the case!!

 

The wind carried on building as did the seas, we put two reefs in the main and three in the genoa. On the plus side the sea was so blue, the sun was warm and we could see the famous ‘Tower of Hercules’ light house in the distance. What a sight having stood there since the Romans built it centuries ago. I think it’s had a few new light bulbs in it since then though!

 

There are a few shallow spots in the entrance so I decided to drop all sail and go in under motor, the sea was very rough by now, not big but very disturbed and I hoped that our poor old engine would run ok and get us across this last piece of water and into the marina.

 

Work she did and we entered the marina without problem; once we were secure we sat in the cockpit for a minute or two smiling like idiots and holding each other tight.

 

Espania por favor!!! 

We went onto a nice bar for a night cap and I could not believe that entire families were still up at midnight and beyond enjoying the cool breeze as the city cooled down after a very hot day. I know it wasn’t a school night but really young kids, like two and three year olds were playing out at that time??

 

I have no real memories of when I first arrived here back in ’74 I think that’s probably down to tasting Sangria for the first time and everything being organised for us as a tall ship fleet. I do remember going to Santiago de Compostela and I hope to be able to take Claire when we get a bit nearer.

 

We both love La Coruna and from what little we’ve witnessed, the Spanish way of life. It seems as if everyone is out and about enjoying the city, everywhere we have walked we see entire families, from the very young to the very old, sitting out in the many café / restaurants, in the little parks or squares or at one of the many beaches eating, drinking and generally enjoying themselves.

 

On Sunday we visited the Torre de Hercules and were lucky enough to see a kite festival in the grounds of this fabulous monument, I love this type of thing, there is a museum at the base where you can see the original footings laid by the Romans and the view from the top was fabulous.

 

Monday was another jobs day, the weather had cooled considerably and I cleaned the engine, checked the levels and started her up, all good but I wanted to replace the filters that I had used and called the Volvo Penta dealer. There opening times were 07.30 – 1400 then 1600 – 1930 what a pain that working day must be if you live some distance from your work place?? Any way it was a bus ride away from us so we had a bit of fun finding our way onto the right one and enjoyed the trip across to the other side of the city. Its odd how you quickly forget about having your own transportation and how enjoyable a bus ride can be.

 

We went out that evening for something to eat and Claire decided that she needed a cocktail, so we found a very nice bar and she enjoyed a Cosmopolitan (I always think of Norney Duck when this drink is mentioned!!) we wandered back to the boat through the narrow streets, another good day.

 

We kept seeing signs and posters about a San Juan (Saint John) festival and asked at the information centre, this it seemed was a really big affair and one of the biggest in La Coruna. We intended to leave in the morning but decided to stay another day and enjoy this festival. The climax of an evening’s drinking and eating was a massive fireworks display on the beach and the locals were encouraged to set up their own fires on the beach. They all got Wednesday off as it was a holiday this was to allow them to recover!!

 

We went into town around 8pm not really knowing what to expect but it was fantastic, every bar had music playing most of it was live, all had BBQ’s outside cooking fish and meat and everywhere had sangria or beer for 1Euro a glass. The population was out on the streets again.

We stopped at a few bars, Claire danced and we ended up at the beach just after 11. The beach curves around a large bay and is about 2 miles long, every inch of it had people, an unlit fire or a lit fire on it. I have never seen anything like it before.

 

As the clocks struck midnight the fireworks display started and all the unlit fires were lit. It was an incredible sight the display was fantastic and we were so pleased that we did not miss this.

 

We had a day off on Wednesday too, and readied the boat for departure on Thursday to Laxe and Crome a small bay about 30 miles away where we hope to anchor and maybe even swim a bit!!

La Coruna – Corme – Camarinas – June 25th to 29th

 

We sorted ourselves out and left the marina just before 10.00 the staff were very good and only charged us for 5 nights instead of 7 mainly because we stayed to enjoy their festival!!

 

We motored around to marina Coruna for fuel then headed out past the Tower of Hercules light house on our way down the coast to Corme. 

I think you already know that fog is a worry for me; well I spent the next 5 hours worried sick. We lost the lighthouse pretty quickly as the fog descended, I say descended although I am not sure if it comes up, down or just drifts in when it feels like it. (Claire and I are going to find out more about it). All I know was that it was thick, we had about 50m visibility most of the time except for the odd thin patch, that was almost as bad because you think ahh its clearing at last then it closes back in again. Bugger!

 

Our chart plotter is fantastic and it gave us huge amounts of confidence as the coast line was very inhospitable. We also fired up the radar which helped us try to find any boats that did not have AIS. I kept thinking about what we would do if the power went down, I didn’t come up with too many options I must admit.

 

We had to round a rocky point that had a lighthouse on it and as luck would have it we went through a clearer patch and we saw it through the haze. We also saw the yacht which was showing up on AIS and was in front of us, heading in the same direction.

 

 

I think we are going to have to get used to sailing in fog as every pilot book / sailing book I have read about the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal always mentions two things, fog and fishing nets!!

 

After just over 5 hours of this one of the clearer patches kept on getting clearer and we popped out into brilliant sunshine. The weight of worry lifted off our shoulders and we took off our wet weather gear which was soaked.

Our eyes were sore from peering into the fog and we were both cold. I put the kettle on to make us a nice cuppa and got the fishing lines out as we still hadn’t caught a single fish in the 6 weeks or so since we left Essex. A lot of water has been under our keel in that time including I would wager a lot of fish.

 

After another hour or so we were approaching the small bay that held Corme and Laxe. I decided that I had better pull the fishing line in as we needed to concentrate on what we were doing and on the end of it was a mackerel!! It was a reasonable size and I have no idea how long it had been on the hook poor thing. Claire had been itching to have a go at killing and gutting a fish that we had caught ourselves, there is another sinister, darker side to Claire! 

 

Well no sooner had she got that fish in her hands than the head was off and it was upside down in a bucket just as Caroline back in Falmouth had told her to do, she was washing the blood off the back of the boat with the filleting knife still in her hand and she had a strange gleam in her eye. I made myself scarce down below until she had calmed down a bit. 

 

When she started to fillet the fish as she had learnt on a fish preparation course that our friends Bridget and Conor paid for before we left she found that the ‘meat’ was all mushy and not as it should be. We threw the lot back over the side. 

 

We are not sure if the fish was bad or that we had caused the problem by dragging it behind the boat along the Spanish coast for a couple of hours!!

 

 

Both Laxe and Corme are nice places apparently; we opted for Corme and edged in around the harbour wall to find a nice, very small town. We dropped the anchor just off the beach and settled down for a quiet night with plans to go ashore in the morning.

 

While I was sorting the RIB out on the morning of the 26th June ready for us to go ashore, Claire thought she would take a swim of all things. Well she got in very slowly and came out like a Penguin being chased by a Leopard seal; she almost leapt straight onto the deck from the water. ‘Still a bit cold’ I asked?

 

We rowed over to the slipway and had a pleasant morning walking around the small town. There was a nice street market selling anything and everything. We bought some fresh bread and cheese then found a café to have a drink. Everywhere we went the water was clear and the fish could be seen easily although catching them was a different matter!

 

 

A few other yachts appeared in the small harbour as the light began to fade, we were off in the morning so we got our heads down and had a pleasant night.

 

Camarinas was to be our next stop and as if on que all of the yachts upped anchor and left within 15 minutes of each other, we were all going the same way and we enjoyed a nice motor sail / sail down to the Ria de Camarinas.

 

We hung back as the others made their way around the harbour wall and into the marina as Claire was still trying to contact them. She had no joy and so we started to go in, I heard Claire scream and it’s a scream that can mean only one thing, DOLPHINS. I nearly jumped out of my skin but there they were, different from the ones we saw crossing Biscay. These were a lot bigger and dark grey. All the sails were away, we were in this beautiful bay so I took the wheel, Claire went to the bow and we spent 15 - 20 minutes following the dolphins around with them turning back to play then heading off only to return and play some more, It was great.

 

Claire took us in with no problems and we tied up, unrolled the awning and sat for a bit in the shade with a cold beer and talked about how lucky we were to have seen the dolphins in this small Ria.

 

Claire cleaned the inside of RR whilst I washed down the outside, we showered and went into the marina bar only to find that they were celebrating something, to be honest we never found out what it was about but there was free beer, grilled sardines, sliced potatoes and bread. Result. We were made to feel very welcome.

 

We fell in with three men from England, Ipswich no less sailing ‘Moody Queen’….. I know that’s what I thought at first but they were OK!! They kindly told us about all of the best places to visit as we made our way down to Gibraltar as they have been sailing on this coast for quite a while. We took notes and bade them farewell as they were off in the morning.

 

Claire and I went to sleep looking forward to exploring the town / countryside in the morning.

We awoke to brilliant sunshine and took a leisurely stroll around the town, Camarinas is the centre for bobbin lace work in the area and there was a museum and shops selling it.

 

We had a coffee al fresco and watched as three or four coaches dropped off their passengers who were here to look at the lace, I suppose.

Claire and I went in the opposite direction and tried to walk to the lighthouse on the headland at the entrance to the Ria. I say tried as the road ran out, we then walked through the pine trees to the rocky beach. We could see the lighthouse to our right and decided to try to scramble across the rocks to it. It was then that it happened…... 

 

I was in the lead and we had gone 50 meters or so when we came to a gap in the rocks, a sort of gully that was about the width of a double doorway and about 6 -8 meters long. I started climbing up when Claire thought I was having a fit or something, or an electric shock of some sorts as I was twitching and shuddering like a bad Elvis Presley impersonator.

 

I had walked into a massive, and I mean massive, SPIDERS WEB……I know… the spider was huge too. Luckily, I’m not really sure who was luckiest!!  It galloped off into a gap in the rocks, spitting and hissing it was so angry, but I was tangled up in the huge web, I felt like Frodo when Shelob tried to ensnare him in her web in the Lord of the Rings. I had the web in my mouth; it was stuck to my head, in my ears and all over my shirt.

 

Claire came to the rescue and got all the web of me, she struggled to break the strands as it was so thick and strong. I wanted to go back to find the beast but Claire held me back.

 

 

We walked back into town and spent a nice afternoon on the boat. Later that evening we walked into town for something to eat. I wanted a proper meal as I was a bit fed up with Tapas. I ended up with a T bone steak and chips with Claire having cod / fish pie.

 

The next morning 29th June we stocked up with food etc, bought 4 Birthday cards for George, Alan, Conor and Roger. We posted them off and went back to the boat. We are going to leave the marina today and find a nice beach to anchor off for the night before we leave to round Cape Finisterre and head for Ria de Muros a hop of about 7 hrs or so.

 

Camarinas to Ria de Muros to Ria de Arousa - June 29th – July 6th

 

We left the marina at Camarinas without any drama and motored a short distance, half an hour or so and anchored off a secluded beach that was across the other side of the ria, I say secluded the thing I thought was a reddish rock turned out to be someone laying on a towel, then as the afternoon wore on about 20 people ended up sitting or playing on the beach. 

 

We had a pleasant evening; we ate our meal in the cockpit whilst watching the sun go down. Claire cooked a very nice typically Spanish, chicken curry, and I had one of my few remaining ‘ Old Speckled Hens’ 

 

The people on the shore gradually left as the sun dropped in the sky and we were left on our own, Claire had mentioned a few times that she thought we had gone in a bit too close but I assured her that we would be fine as long as the wind stayed from the North and didn’t swing to the South West, well it was like something out of a Disney Film, no sooner had I said those words than the wind died for a bit, swirled around for a bit then started blowing from the South West. You could almost imagine the wind vane spinning on the chimney pot as Mary Poppins flew in.

 

The wind direction changing now meant that instead of laying roughly parallel to the beach we were stern to which puts the back of the boat closest to the shore, so we had the length of RR at approximately 12m plus the length of the anchor chain I had out which was about 15m which put us 25 – 30m closer in than before and we were already close!! Claire wanted to move but it was nearly dark and I thought we would be OK. To add to this ‘fine mess we had gotten ourselves into’ as the tide dropped we could see three large rocks that were now above the water line.

 

 

It wasn’t that windy and it normally dropped at night so we went to bed. I must have got up about 10 times to check the anchor and our position relative to the beach during the night. The wind did drop and we were fine but I won’t be going in that close again. The only plus was that I took some nice pictures of the moon.

 

We left around 0900 for our 7 hour hop around the coast to Ria de Muros, there was a little bit of tension in the air as we were going to pass the infamous Finisterre lighthouse that stands on the corner of Northern Spain. Once past this we will be heading due South instead of West and it was another milestone for me as once again passing this place in my own boat was very satisfying.  The wind believe it or not was on the nose and there wasn’t much of it so we motor sailed. I was a bit fed up as sailing past this famous landmark would have been good but we were happy enough to get round and into Muros. 

 

We had decided to anchor here also so we kept out a good distance from the shore and stayed well away from any beaches. 

We do like to lay at anchor as often you swing with the wind and this means that the wind comes from the bow or front of the boat and you can sit outside in the cockpit behind the sprayhood in comfort.

 

We went into town the following morning (1st July) we had a bit of a bad start as it was only when we had secured the RIB to the town slipway that I realised that I had nothing on my feet! It was quite a way back to RR so we bought a pair of cheap sandals in the first shop we came to but they were plastic and a bit ‘spacka’ as Bridget would say. I ended up, as Claire put it ‘walking like a duck’ by the end of the day.

 

 

The town of Muros was a very pleasant surprise, the place was very clean with the now obligatory café’s and bars on every corner but behind the main road along the seafront was a lovely mix of narrow streets and passages with nice squares and shaded areas that made rounding every corner a surprise.

 

We bumped into an interesting group from the yacht Belle du large III I am not sure if this is completely right but they were from Northern Australia and I think they bought their boat unseen, a 63ft Dynamique cheap in England although one of them had a brother who looked it over before the deal was struck. They spent a few weeks sorting her out and they were on route back to Australia via the Med. We swapped details as I am sure we will bump into them again.

 

When we got back to the slipway our RIB was still there but the mooring ring I had tied it too was about 4 ft. under water! So we had another beer whilst waiting for the tide to drop as I didn’t want Claire to get her hair wet!!

 

That evening we were joined for a few drinks by a British sailor, Dave (sorry I can’t remember if he mentioned his last name) who was sailing alone on a sunfast 37, called ‘White Angel’. The same yacht incidentally that my Sister Karen and Peter own in Australia. 

 

He often sails on his own from England across the Bay of Biscay to cruise up and down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. He gave us some very good tips about the ports we were probably going to visit as we moved down the coast to the Med. 

 

Both Claire and I have a lot of respect for the people we have met who are doing, or have done what we are attempting and more but on their own. Just the thought of doing everything by yourself, going into a marina, dropping / retrieving the anchor, managing the boat in a bit of a blow on your own takes a bit of doing. We both agreed that single handed sailing was not for us. 

 

On the morning of the 2nd July as we prepared to leave Muros to head for the Ria de Arousa. I was a bit surprised to find about 100 or so people wading around in the water up to their waists digging for what I can only assume were razor shell fish when I opened the curtains.

 

 

This Ria de Arousa is huge and is famous for being the point of entry into Spain for the remains of the apostle St James who’s final resting place is in Santiago de Compostela. 

 

Once again the wind was very light, I am really getting fed up with motor sailing and was a bit grumpy during the trip, sorry Claire. As it was so calm we decided to take the inner route between the coast and many large off shore rocks that were either above the surface or just below so that large breaking waves were formed by the swell surging over them. Using the in shore route saved a lot of time but it made for a nervous trip as if the engine were to fail there was not enough wind to actually sail and we would be at the mercy of the tides and the swells until I could get her started again.

 

Well the engine ran fine and I promised it an oil and filter change when we got to VilaGarcia. 

 

The plan was to anchor again for the night but as we neared the city it looked too commercialised with nowhere nice to stop so we decided to go into the marina. This place was as tight as Tollesbury. The marina sent a member of staff in a boat out to guide us to our berth, which is all very nice but as we weaved our way deeper into the pontoons things were getting tight. He suddenly stopped and pointed to two place where we could stop, one we had already gone past and the other was next to a large cruiser that required a very hard turn to port, hard into reverse with the wheel still over to bring the nose round, into forward again straightening up at the same time. Claire was brilliant. The boat stopped perfectly and I was waiting for the round of applause from all the other yachtsmen sitting on their boats pretending not to watch!! How we get out is another matter and it can wait as we will be here for a few days.

 

One of the people that did congratulate Claire on her boat handling was a lovely man called Christopher who was aboard his beautiful gaff rigged yacht called ‘Larry’ -I know what a brilliant name for a yacht. ‘Larry’ was built in 1907 and had been lovingly cared for by Christopher and Sue Singer for many years.

 

The following evening they invited Claire and me on board for a few drinks and a look around. ‘Larry’ is fantastic and I had memory overload as the smell and feel of this old yacht reminded me of my sailing days aboard ‘Rona’ when I spent time sailing her as part of the London Sailing Project scheme. 

 

During the evening I was amazed to discover that they had sailed ‘him’ far and wide to places as diverse as New York, Norway and Newfoundland. They are going to spend time on the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal for a while entertaining both family and friends aboard this fantastic family yacht. 

 

They wanted to look around Red Rooster and we talked about the pros and cons of the two different yachts. Christopher had a surprise when he saw my radio controlled sea plane hanging up in the fore cabin and I then had a surprise when Christopher told me that he had a pilot’s licence to fly sea planes, both tiger moths and Cessna’s. 

 

Although Vilagarcia is a largish town it was still a nice place to walk around with many small streets to get lost in as well as a pedestrian area with larger shops and super markets. An added bonus is the airport at Santiago de Compostela and the fast rail links to it from this town which makes it a good spot for crew changes etc.

 

Claire and I were up early-ish the next morning to catch the train to Santiago de Compostela for a day’s visit to this old and very famous Spanish city. I had been there before with the Tall Ships but had little or no memory of it.

 

The train was clean, on time and cheap costing 14 Euros (£11) for two return tickets. The journey taking about 35 minutes each way. Very different from the trains into London - Oh I miss them so very much!

 

The town was very interesting with all that you would expect from such an historic venue. The tomb of the apostle St James was discovered here in the 9th century and has been the focus for thousands of pilgrims as one of the greatest shrines in Christianity. Many of the visitors we saw had obviously walked a great distance to be here with some following old medieval routes such as the ‘Santiago way’ and the ‘Camino pilgrimage walk’. 

 

I personally struggle with the fact that people who are obviously tourists with no real religious understanding are allowed to go into these sacred sites taking pictures, talking etc. with absolutely no respect for those who maybe standing right next to them who are praying, or as we witnessed after having travelled so many hard miles are brought to tears by just looking at the tomb of St James. 

 

Claire and I have been in a few places now on our travels not just here but in Rome, Paris etc. where this has happened and I think I’m going to stay outside these religious venues from now on as although I am the tourist in this scenario I get uncomfortable at the lack of respect shown to those that are they’re because they believe. Sorry about that little rant but it just winds me up.

 

Sunday 5th turned into a lazy day for us, not that any day is particularly stressful now but we worked on the boat for a bit than went to the marina bar for lunch and to upload this, the latest episode in our travels. We intend to move in the morning but are undecided at the moment where to head for. More on that later.

Villagarcia – Pobra – Ria de Vigo       July 6th – 10th July

 

Whilst we were out walking along the beach where Claire thought she might try out these exercise machines we had seen. We have noticed them in many parks as we have travelled through Spain and think they are a good idea, we haven’t seen anyone using them though!

 

A British Bowman 40 called Wild Wind berthed a couple pontoons down from us; we had first seen this boat in Corme. Aboard were a very nice couple who advised us to try to find time to anchor at Pobra on the way out of this ria as they said it had a very nice beach. Well time, and we do need to keep reminding ourselves of this, we have in bucket loads so after saying our goodbyes and extricating ourselves out of the tight berth, with little bother I might add we headed the short distance, about an hour or so to Pobra.

 

There were two other boats at anchor so we split the distance and stopped in the middle of the two. For those non sailors reading this there is an unwritten rule that you give other boats a bit of space when anchoring, safety is the main reason for this as a boat at anchor can move around quite a bit depending on the wind and tides. Try to imagine that game ‘swingball’ where there is a pole in the middle and the ball is attached to it by a length of string. The ball can go anywhere until the string is tight. Well the boat is the ball, the string is the anchor chain and the pole is the anchor stuck in the sea bed. You don’t really know where your boats going to move  in the time your there so you give yourself some swing space. The other problem is that you’re not too sure where the other boats anchor and chain is on the sea bed and you don’t want to lay yours across theirs. Another reason is privacy; it’s not nice to anchor right next to someone when there is the length of the beach to choose from. It’s a bit like being the only car in the car park and some twit parks right next to you……..you know who you are!

 

We decided that today was the day where we would both swim around the boat, Claire likes to swim as do I but Claire can tolerate lower water temperatures. Anyway after a bit of going up and down the ladder at the stern to try to acclimatise our bodies to the sea we were both in we swam around the boat, oh I am so pleased we only have a small boat and I got out. Claire stayed in for a bit longer but enough was enough. 

 

 

When we got out the lady on the boat next to us started talking but it was difficult to hear what was being said so she gave up. We carried on with our chores and I happened to look across as their boat swung and I saw its name for the first time ‘Rivalady’.

 

Ian and Jackie  aboard Rivalady were the first people to respond to a ‘crusing association’ (The Crusing Association is an organisation run for cruisers by cruisers  and we have found it to be  very helpful and informative) conversation in a forum I started back in March asking if anyone else was planning to cross the Bay of Biscay in early June. We called across and invited them over for a few drinks and it was great to finaly meet them as their experiences in the run up to leaving for the trip mirrored ours in a lot of ways.

 

We didn’t end up meeting in Falmouth as weather and other issues took them to Northern France before they set off. They opted to take additional crew with them to cross the Bay and like so many others we had met regretted that decision, not entirely but waiting for the crew to join them meant that they missed a perfect weather window and I think that it must feel really odd having strangers on your boat which is essentially your home. 

 

All said and done though they too were enjoying their new relaxed lifestyle and we look forward to bumping into them again as we both travel down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

 

 

We left Pobra on the morning of the 7th July to sail down to the Ria de Vigo. This was a nice trip and with time on our hands we slowed the boat down as I was sure that the reason we were not catching any fish was to do with our boat speed. As we approached the Islas Cies (one of four islands along this stretch of coast that are now Nature reserves) we caught two mackerel in quick succession. Claire was up to the challenge and in no time at all had four nice fillets with all the muck and guts chucked over the side.

 

We had decided to anchor off a beautiful beach called Ensenada de Barra which was virtually in the mouth of the Ria. We dropped the anchor and sorted the boat out. As it was so warm we decided to go swimming again this time with masks and snorkels to make sure the anchor was well set and to have a look at the bottom of the boat. Claire had never used a snorkel and goggles before and it was very funny watching her go under.  It was still freezing but with my eyes watering I was in.

 

I was very pleased with what I saw. The anchor was buried. The ‘Coppercoat’ was working very well with no weed whatsoever as was the special anti-fouling coating on the folding prop. The anode I put on still looked good so it was a big ‘thumbs up’ to the lads from Tollesbury.  

 

This was the first beach we had seen that looked like the front cover of a holiday brochure and to add to the fun it was a nudist’s beach!! We were quite close in and it was kind of strange to see these naked people marching up and down all day, why do they do that?? It made me think of that play ‘Privates on Parade’ for some reason. Any way I said to Claire ‘when in Rome’ she said ‘this is one Roman that’s going to keep her Toga on’!

 

Late in the afternoon Bella du large III turned into the bay and dropped anchor next to us. It was great to see this boat again and shortly after their arrival Charles popped over in the RIB to invite Claire and I over for a drink, this is what it’s all about.

 

An hour later we were sat on board Bella du Large III Claire with a nice glass of white wine and lemonade, me with a gin and tonic so strong I had a coughing fit at the first sip. Charles showed us around this lovely large yacht and afterwards we sat up in the cockpit talking. As the night wore on it became cooler and we went below. Charles insisted that we stay for dinner which was ‘chook, spuds and Spanish green peppers. Greg and Simon did the cooking bit and after a very nice meal Claire and I washed up. We had a bar of chocolate between the 5 of us for desert and a bottle of very nice red wine. 

 

Our three hosts were from Freemantle. I am not too sure of the dynamics of the group or if one or more own shares in the boat. Simon owns and charters his own large yacht in Freemantle and I think Charles invited him along because of his obvious sailing experience.

Charles owns and sails a large old wooden yacht in Australia and Greg had only just joined the boat and was enjoying himself. Their plan is to take it into the Med sail there until November then store it in a marina and fly back home to return when the weather improves. We hope to meet these three again as they were great hosts and we were made to feel very welcome.

 

The following morning saw Bella du Large III up anchor and leave for Portugal in a stiff breeze. Claire and I took the RIB to the beach and went for a nice walk through the trees to the lighthouse on the point. We had a really nice day and the toga even slipped a bit! When we got back we prepared the boat as we were off to Moana which is a small town / harbour opposite Vigo in the morning.

 

Moana was only an hour’s motor-sail up the Ria. The marina was quite small and receiving no reply on the VHF we went into a vacant space. The marinaro came to say that we had to move as the berth was privately owned. He pointed to another that was very tight to get into but Claire did OK and on the plus side we were right next to the office the WiFi was excellent as were the facilities, all this for 14Euro’s a night.

 

We sorted the boat out and a British couple, Avril and Jonathon Hall that had been living aboard in this marina for two years came over for a drink and surprised us by explaining that they were from West Mersea, had stayed in Heybridge Basin for two years and knew Sonia Clark!! For those reading this that don’t understand you can see West Mersea from Tollesbury where we left from in May and Heybridge Basin is where Claire and I had our wedding reception in the lovely Sonia’s back garden! 

 

Come on let’s all say this together ‘isn’t it a small world’ 

 

That night Claire and I went to eat out at a place recommended by Avril, it was in a tin shed in a carpark. It really reminded me of Antigua but the cockroaches were smaller here. The food and the atmosphere were fantastic and the bill was even better.

 

The following morning we were up and out by Eleven, I know pretty good huh, to catch the ferry across to Vigo. We had a very nice day there; Claire shopped for clothes because she hardly has anything to wear on the boat these days!! And I held the bags. 

 

One shop sign sent shudders down me, I didn’t realise how emotionally scarred I was. Now most people of my age will remember C&A. They used to be everywhere in England but like all good things they disappeared some time ago almost overnight. My overriding memory of that place was when I was about 9 or 10 ish or maybe even very early teens, being dragged into the branch in Peckham High Street by my Mum and forced to try on trousers that were much too big for me she then used to yank them up so high and hard (I suppose to get the longest leg as I was growing taller by the day) that it’s a surprise I was ever able to have children! I think my old mates Guya and Dave used to suffer the same fate. I still have marks just under my armpits where the belts were cinched up so tight!!

 

We found a very nice restaurant and had a fantastic three course meal with wine, coffee and liqueurs for 22Euro’s we left 30Euro’s with the tip, that’s £21 for the pair of us! We spent a quiet evening on the boat mainly because we couldn’t move around too much we were that full.

 

On Saturday morning we did a big shop as we were off to the Isla Cies on Sunday morning (the Isla Cies has been voted the most beautiful beach in the world by The Guardian) or so we thought. Because the Isla is a national park you have to get permission to sail there and a further licence should you want to anchor there for any length of time. We had to apply via fax machine sending copies of our boat doc’s, passports and sailing qualifications. The kind lady in the marina at VilaGarcia did this for us and we have just received permission to sail there but when we applied to anchor overnight we were told that the quota of boats had been allocated so we could either miss it or wait until Monday.  Well I’m not going to miss spending the night at one of the most beautiful beach in the world so we decided to stay in Moana an extra night leaving for the Isla on Monday morning. 

 

So after cleaning the boat we had a lazy day. There was a large street market along the seafront where Claire bought herself a nice bikini and I got myself a nice cake. 

 

We met Jonathon and Avril in the evening to walk down the beach to see another Galician festival of celebration. Another sailor Neil Ragonesi who was staying in the marina aboard his centre cockpit Moody, Manuia a bit longer than planned as his partner Erica had to pop back to Italy to visit her mother. Neil and Erica had been ‘living the dream’ since 2008 leaving a good job in Venice to sail the world. Which he has done in style, He’s only 42 now!! He hopes he will never have to go back to working in an office and he confirmed that he has never been happier. Neil is very lucky in that as a result of having an English mother, an Italian Father whilst spending the first years of his life up to school age living in Germany he can speak all three languages well and if that wasn’t enough he is very good at Spanish and Portuguese too . 

We all had a good night listening to the Galatian music which consists mainly of bag pipe type things, drums and flutes. It was better than you’re probably imagining but not much. There was dancing also all in traditional costume. There are very strong Celtic links with Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Galicia, Northern Spain.

 

We invited everyone back to our boat for coffee and a bit of that cake we had bought earlier and to finish it all off I broke out a bottle of Spanish chocolate liquor, it’s a bit like Bailys but stronger.

 

I asked these closet Spaniards about the way of life here in Galatia, how wherever we have been all the kids are out until very late at night, I’m talking about way after midnight, seemingly irrespective of their age, also about seeing entire families walking out and about very often three generations of them.

It seems that the schools summer holidays in Spain last for about three months, roughly from the end of May until the beginning of September. It’s to do with the heat during those summer months. The problem is the Mums and Dads still need to work so that’s where the Grandparent’s come in. In Spain families still tend to live close together and because of the siesta in the middle of the working day parents that work do not get home in the evening until 8 or 9. Most live in flats or very small houses so after they’ve eaten they all go out for a walk at the best / coolest time of the day. Mystery solved.

 

Sunday was very hot; we both lazed around in the morning and I went to watch the German moto GP with Neil enjoying a couple of beers whilst we were at it.

 

As it was to be our last evening in Moana we invited our three new friends out for a bite to eat. We went to a very typical Spanish tapas bar. Claire and I had seen octopus, a speciality of Northern Spain everywhere we had visited so far, it had always looked disgusting purple / brown-ish in colour with all the suckers on the legs. We were persuaded to try some here as it was one of the best places to eat it and we were both surprised at how delicious it was. It’s also very high in protein and calcium, apparently. We stopped off on the way home for coffee and Liquors to cap off a very enjoyable evening.

 

We were on our way to Isla Cies before 0900 the following morning. I nipped off to buy some diesel in one of the plastic cans I had found in Falmouth, remember?  I also got a couple of loaves from a bakers Jonathon recommended. The bread is still cooked there in wood burning ovens and the smell was fantastic.

 

We were just about to leave when Jonathon and Neil dropped by to wish us good luck and farewell. If there is a bad part to this life we are leading it’s this bit. George (my son) and I had discussed this when we crossed the Atlantic together from Palma to Antigua last year during one of our many night watches. George works on superyachts and often spends quality time with people in fantastic places only for the relationship to end as the vessels they are on head off for different destinations. You can get quite close to someone quite quickly because, I suppose you have so much in common due to the life you are both leading and this bond is often cemented by being able to speak to someone in your own language in a foreign country. You’re in each other’s pockets for a few days or weeks then you’re off and there is a very good chance that you will never see each other again.

 

The trip to the Isla Cies was a short one, about an hour. At just after 10.00 I dropped the anchor a short distance off Nosa Senora beach. The sand was white, the sea turquoise changing to a cobalt blue as the depth increased. It would have been perfect if the water had been anything other than flipping freezing.  

 

After ensuring that the boat was safe at anchor we quickly got the tender off the bow of the boat. We are getting better at this now. I have made up three strops for the RIB and we use the spinnaker halyard to hoist it up and over the guard rail then into the water.

We paddled ashore using the ‘both sitting on the seat facing forward paddling canoe style’ method. For some reason Claire struggled with this and we went around in circles a few times. Anyway we made it to the small, beautiful beach and carried the RIB up into the rocks for two reasons, firstly it needed to be above the high tide mark and secondly the beach was so small I didn’t want to take up valuable sandy areas needed by the other bathers.

 

We set off up the hill towards the lighthouse on the point. We were both a little bit disappointed by the amount of people on the island. That sounds a bit selfish I know but I think the brochure’s we had seen in Vigo and the fact that we had to fill in and send off quite a lot of documentation to be allowed to bring our boat here made us think that it was / would be almost deserted. Well it wasn’t there were hundreds of people trekking all over the place but even that did not take away the beauty of this place.

 

We made it to the top and we enjoyed the spectacular views, there are a couple of restaurants on the island but trying to get a table proved impossible. We settled for a drink and made our way back to the beach and our RIB. It was a good job we did as the tide was quite high. The RIB was being moved by the bigger waves but was in no danger of floating away.

 

We sat on the rocks with most of the other bathers waiting for the tide to recede. It was very hot and it wasn’t long before Claire went into the sea for a swim, I followed her in after a while but it was still far too cold for me to enjoy.

 

After a few hours we decided to go back to the boat and used the same paddling method as before. It was a little better but Claire still found it a bit awkward.

 

We had dinner and settled down for the night, Claire likes to read before she goes to bed and I write this. 

 

The wind started to build and the boat began to move about a bit. I, like most sailors I am sure put about four times the amount of chain as the water is deep. So here it was 10m deep at high tide so I had 30m of chain out. Once again it’s hard to explain but the weight of 30m of chain acts kind of like a spring or a shock absorber.  The anchor has dug in well and the heavy chain links to boat to the anchor, now imagine that you had to pull 30m of heavy chain taught, you couldn’t do it, 10 of you couldn’t do it and nor can the boat. The chain sags in the middle with the bottom 4 -6m of it still lying on the sea bed, this part of the chain keeps the angle of the anchor correct allowing the flukes to dig in to the sand. The rest, arcing away up through the water to the boat acts as the shock absorber, the boat tries to pull it tight but it can’t and the chain sags back only for the boat to try again and on it goes virtually all of the time you are at anchor.

 

Now as the wind builds it adds its weight to the boat and the anchor chain gets pulled a little bit tighter. It’s this that keeps most sailors, including me awake at night because if the chain were to be pulled tight then the anchor might lose its grip in the sand. That’s when the fun begins. It hasn’t happened to me yet but it’s really hard not to worry and I suppose I went outside to ensure we hadn’t moved 3 or 4 times during the night. I saw some beautiful stars and the sun rise which was fantastic.

 

We were meant to leave for a place called Viana do Castelo which is in Portugal would you believe, I know it’s crazy isn’t it. It was only a short while ago that I was commuting from Witham to Holborn every day often with my good friends Dave, Dave and Iain hoping that the delays would be few on the line. Now I was being delayed by thick fog, it did look magical as it rolled down from those same hills we were walking around yesterday making it impossible to see across the short stretch of water out to the open sea.

 

After our last experience in fog when we sailed from A Coruna to Corme we promised ourselves not to do it again. It’s one thing getting caught in it when you’re out sailing but we’re not going to leave a safe anchorage or marina to go out into it if we don’t have to. So we sat tight twiddling our thumbs waiting for it to clear. Claire made some bread and I grew impatient as I listened to the sad sound of the big ships fog horns talking to each other out in the deep water channel. 

 

It finally cleared around 16.00 we had a 6-7 hour trip and we calculated that we could just get there before dark if we left straight away.

 

On the plus side, which is the only side I think about. Portugal was an hour behind Spain for some reason so it was only 15.00 hrs really.

 

Our friend Neil advised us to stand out to sea a bit using the 100m depth contour as a guide as most of the fishing pots etc. are laid in less depth so it minimised the chances of us snagging one. The trip was great and we made good time entering the river Lima just as the sun was setting. Hello Portugal!!