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Aisling I
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08/09/2007, Islas Cies

For the past few days the weather has been cool in the early morning, but sunny and warm by midday- much like September weather in Nova Scotia. We are still anchored at the mouth of Ria de Vigo off the Islas Cies- a designated nature park accessible only by boat. The beaches on these islands are said to be the best in the Rias, and among the best in the world. One of the islands is a fully protected bird sanctuary, but the largest is serviced by ferries and a limited amount of camping is permitted on shore. As a result, there are throngs of people on the largest beach during the day, (although not so many as in Baiona). Late in the afternoon, the beach empties, and you might imagine yourself to be at Carter's Beach in Port Mouton, with wooded hills and dunes behind a long sandy beach, the sound of gulls crying, and beautiful-looking ocean water that is too frigid to swim in. (The similarities to Nova Scotia are both a good and a bad thing for someone who is periodically longing for home.) Tonight there is only one other boat in the anchorage with us- probably our last experience with such solitude for a very long time, since tomorrow we are heading toward busier destinations south of here.

Because of our unscheduled month in the Azores, we can't stay for further cruising in the Rias as originally planned. On balance, that was a good trade, but we would love to spend more time here. Galicia is lovely, and the fact that I have not seen a single mosquito makes me want to stay forever. And they still have fish here! That may be because they still seem to use traditional methods of fishing. This morning Rick pulled me out of bed to watch two fishermen in a small boat pulling in a net. (My first thought was "how charming" my second was "holy cow, it's cold out here!") We frequently see schools of fish passing in the clear water, and on shore the seafood is delicious. Little baby calamari called "chiperones", octopus, crab, razor clams even more delicious when eaten in a sunny caf´┐Ż on the waterfront, as Rob and Al can confirm.

Tomorrow we plan to leave here at 6 a.m. and sail to Porto (about 70 miles). So it's back to Portugal and back to struggling along in Portuguese-just as we were beginning to hit our stride with our very limited and long-forgotten Spanish. The real story is that we forgot to study any Spanish before we left, and didn't even remember to bring a decent English-Spanish dictionary. (No, you cannot buy one in Baiona). Everyone is very helpful, but the language challenges have created some interesting surprises- my new haircut is a good example. I should have let Rick cut it after all- and I should have known better than to turn myself over to the tender mercies of the nice lady in the one room shop that was the first place I could find. The only other client was an elderly Spanish lady having her hair dyed (no one has grey hair here, by the way). I used my usual "No hablo espanol" then said "por favour, quiero " and made little scissor motions with my fingers. She smiled broadly, motioned to the chair, and when I heard her say something that sounded like "pequeno" I thought she was saying she would only cut it a little. So I smiled and nodded enthusiastically and she started chopping equally enthusiastically. By the time I realized she must have been saying "short" it was too late so now I have a Mia Farrow-style haircut, and without the Mia Farrow face that is not a good thing. Luckily, we have over a dozen ballcaps on board.

One last note about Baiona- the fireworks! They were just as spectacular as promised- we think. We realized that we had a ring-side seat when we saw that they were being lit on the breakwater near the boat. After one or two blasts we made a mad scramble for earplugs, couldn't find them, so we just stuck our fingers in our ears. For the first few minutes the show was awesome- then the smoke started to build and we couldn't see much other then the low roman-candle type ones (which we could also hear sizzling, in spite of fingers in ears) and occasionally you could make out the starbursts through the haze. After a while they stopped and we thought that was it. But then we heard very loud classical music playing from shore and they started letting off more from the beach, behind the replica of the Pinta. The first was a big fountain effect that looked really neat with the silhouette of the Pinta in front of it. But then the smoke started to build again- and before long we couldn't see the beach, the Pinta or even to the other side of the marina! The smoke didn't seem to trouble anyone- they just kept on merrily setting off the charges, with people cheering and car horns blowing and all the while the classical music booming. This seemed very odd to us but then again, they even set off fireworks during the day here- just to see the smoke and hear the noise I guess. Classic Spanish exuberance!

Hopefully, we'll be in Porto (where port comes from!) tomorrow night.

All the best from Aisling I

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The People and Boats You See and Meet
08/08/2007, Ilas Cies

Hello All: One of the joys of cruising is the people you meet and the boats you see. We've already told you about some of the people we met in the Azores, and since arriving in Bayona we've met many more. Recently we met Alfredo Lagos who is 83 years old and originally from Vigo. He now lives on the mountain outside Bayona. I had heard of him previously from a friend in Halifax who suggested that, if I needed help, he was the one to call. The reason is obvious- a finer person you could not meet. He is a tall, elegant Spaniard who speaks reasonably good English and is well tied into the sailing scene here and abroad. He arranges a rally each year here in Bayona and invites cruisers from the CCA and the RCC to take part. This is a well-organized event with bus tours, dinners and cruises to special anchorages in the Rias. We met him when we dropped in to see Bill and Karen Foss on Detente, and were invited to participate in the rally (but unfortunately had to pass because of time constraints). The next morning he appeared at our boat to extend an invitation to join the rally group for a bus tour to a few local points of interest. They were a very congenial group (ranging in age from 50 to 80+). It was a memorable day for us, as we toured the site of an ancient Celtic village (200 BC), visited an relatively modern monastery (?12th century) and drove up into the mountains where, in addition to a spectacular view into Portugal, we saw the destruction caused by huge fires that devastated this region last year. On the trip we met a chap named Drummond -retired from producing movies and TV series in LA and now a sheep farmer in Devon. He was a fascinating guy who also takes part in Antique car rallies in the US, driving cars from his "collection". Having sailed extensively in the Atlantic, North and South, he was able to provide us with a wealth of information about various ports of call. We also enjoyed meeting Bill and Karen's friends Dave and Patsy, who were so congenial that we felt doubly sorry we could not continue with them for the rally.

We have met a surprising number of people from Ireland, all from County Cork (with accents very similar to our Newfoundland friends, and equally as outgoing). Most have been other cruisers, but we also met a charming family at dinner in Bayona. Their 11 year old son chatted happily with us throughout dinner, providing a full and accurate outline of the sights to see in the Vigo area. We really wished that Richard had been there to meet him.

Our (very) large Canadian flag seems to provide a great incentive for introductions. In the marina at Baiona, Bonnie met a Brazilian/Portuguese woman, who had lived in the United States for an extended period and spoke perfect English. We were disappointed to see that their boat had left the marina when we returned from our day in Santiago de Compostela, but on returning to Aisling we found a note with their email addresses, cellphone numbers and home phone number, so we are hoping to see them later in the journey, since their home is in the Algarve.

Three nights ago a rough and tough aluminum boat from Ireland pulled into the Marina beside us. The boat was called Northabout and the skipper Jarath Culane won the Blue Water Medal from the CCA in 2005 for doing a circumnavigation of the Arctic. After building the boat himself, he did the Northwest passage in 2004 and then the Northeast passage over Russia the next year. You can see more on the CCA web site, I think. I was itching to meet him, but when I woke up in the morning they were gone. Today while sitting in the cockpit I saw a ketch-rigged black hulled boat having trouble in the channel. They eventually dropped their sails and pulled into our anchorage. Later I was exploring by dingy and noticed it was Penn Duick III (?sp) which I believe was sailed in a couple of the single-handed around-the-world races a few years ago.

We are still anchored at Ilas Cies-we'll write more about that later!

All the best from Aisling I

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