After a couple of nights at anchor we were in Ria Arousa. We had arranged to meet our former neighbours Sandy and Sylvia at Vilagarcia Marina. They had booked flights to Santiago many months before, trusting that we would be in the vicinity for a visit. This worked out better than any of us could have hoped. After checking out Santiago they joined us and sailed with us to Caraminal, Illa de Arousa and Vilanova. The weather was great, mid 20's, fairly light winds and flat water in the Ria. We even had the spinnaker up! - at last! They checked in to a Paradore hotel in Cambados close by.
The Paradore's are state run luxury hotels, usually in historical buildings, which seem to offer excellent value. If you ain't got a boat, it would be a great way to explore North Spain, which after two months here, we can definitely recommend!
Ria de Arousa is the biggest Ria. Lovely protected sailing waters and anchorages, but intensive fish farming, mainly for mussels. They do this using floating grids "bateas" from which ropes of mussels hang. We sailed among these wooden platforms all week. The intensity of fishing in Spain is in all ways dramatic, but sorry I need to bore you with the mussel stats; The Galician Rias generate 95% of the mussels grown in Spain. This accounts for 60% grown in the world! 250,000 tons per year. The quality control is rigorous and the size and quality produced excellent.
We bought 2 kilos of big fresh mussels at the market in Caraminal to cook on board, biggest meaty efforts I have seen; 4.50 euro. Quite a different food from the nice wee shells we usually see in Scotland, and indeed in France on our way here. Sylvia and Yvonne are not really into mussels,(evident by their choice in men) but agreed these were a different prospect.
Sandy and Sylvia are both great cooks and know their wines, so mussels apart, we really enjoyed dinning out much of the week. So happened Cambados where they were staying is the home of the famous Albariño wines. They naturally took the opportunity to do a tasting tour. Needs said, it is rare not to be really impressed when eating out at any level in Galicia and the wine is a match. I think they take their foods every bit as seriously as our French cousins, but without all the fuss.
We really enjoyed the company for the week. Real treat to introduce friends to this lovely place and well deserved for them as they committed very early to our dream.
We spent a week in the Marina at Portosin, Ria De Muros. Very nice clubhouse, staff were great.
We were finding the Spanish bus service cheap and efficient so used it to for some tourist visits; first a nearby "Castro", or iron age settlement, well preserved and,typically for Spain, entry and tourist info all free, and in English!
We then did a day trip to Santiago De Compostela. You cannot fail to be impressed by the Cathedral and the history that surrounds it. Seeing so many devout pilgrims making a journey physically, but I suspect also mentally and emotionally, made us reflect on on our journey so far. The city is totally geared up for visitors of course, since they've been coming here for centuries!
The Rias are beautiful and generally peaceful apart from the endless fishing activity on all scales...., sorry I mean big and wee boats, day and night.
The other drama this week was provided by the forest fires. They have burned all week among the hills around us. We would see clouds of brown smoke rise, sometimes many miles away, then the big yellow planes circle, land on the water in the Ria and scoop up their cargo of tons of water to deliver it from high above the burning forest. (see picture above) There was also a helicopter that circled with a bag hanging from it, a proper water-bomb!
Our neighbours witnessed a discussion in a local shop where an elderly man suggested that the fires were being started deliberately so that the Bombardiers would get paid more! his solution, "bring back Franco, he would sort them out!"....
We saw areas of hillside that had burned right to the doorsteps of houses. Apparently much of the woodlands are Eucalyptus, which explained the lovely sweet smell we would awaken to, the ash over the decks was however less welcome!
We enjoyed a couple of memorable evenings watching the sunset from the Real Club Nautico balcony. A layer of brown smoke from the fires, backlit by the sun, sat above the water contrasting with the normal pink and red skyscape.....fire in the sky!
Vaila has not been well for some time now. She has enjoyed much of the boat adventure indeed it seemed to have given her a new lease of life. We have however seen a dramatic change in her over the last few weeks. This was all the more obvious to Yvonne on return from Scotland. We had to arrange a visit to the vet in Noia, which turned out to be her last. The vet was very caring in managing her passing.
What a life!
She joined us with her sister Storm when they we're 18 months old, completely bonkers as big puppies. Proper bird dogs, they triumphantly presented our budgie Joey (gently, but stone dead) one morning having scared it out its cage!
They converted well to Boat dogs, I used to row them ashore in the morning from Corvi, but they would get so excited they would jump out the dinghy half way there to swim ashore. When they got back to the boat, soaking, they would get into bed with the girls! ....never easy to manage!
Her sister Storm had leukaemia and died when she was six but old three legs kept on in good health and excellent humour till almost 13 years old.
She must have particularly enjoyed being the "Dog Walkers Dog" actually getting to go home with leader of the pack every night. She worked very effectively as a good companion for many walked dogs, Saks, Lucy and Molly particularly long term friends.
We are going to miss her greatly, she has been part of the family for so long. The boat being such an intimate environment we have not been more than a few feet apart these last months, but have no doubt she is happier out of pain, with her sister now.
It's a strange experience sleeping on a sailing boat.
The rigging and ropes above affected by the wind, clank or bang. The water below is splishing and splashing against the hull, the volumes all amplified. Anchor chain or mooring ropes, when in a marina, often contrive to creak and squeak; all designed, I'm sure to keep the skipper alert!
Now Yvonne doesn't do interrupted sleep. I sleep light on the boat for these reasons and am usually alert to change. That said, I have over the passed months relaxed to an extent that I can't remember being disturbed at night at all!
When we anchor, I have to go ashore with Vaila last thing, and again first thing in the morning. We use the dinghy, so leave it secured overnight alongside, ready with the outboard motor.
So it was whilst Yvonne was back in Scotland, I was anchored in a lovely spot in Camarinas with four other yachts in close proximity, all was well.
At 4 am I got up out of a deep sleep convinced that there was a problem with the dinghy. I went on deck to a bright moonlight night to see....no dinghy! The bright yellow rope that had secured it was just hanging in the water. Confused I went below, got a searchlight and a heavy spanner(weapon) and went on deck again. I swept the light across the water without seeing any sign of movement. I put on the VHF and called the coastguard. Finisterre radio responded and I explained that my dinghy had just been stolen. They recorded the call but basically explained it was a police matter and I should report it in the morning. I stayed up and looked for any movement but saw nothing.
I still don't know what alerted me, but I must have heard something in my sleep. You are left to wonder what you would do, could do, if successful in confronting the thief(s)?
It only gets light about 8.30 am here, so when Vaila awoke I had to explain that since she was a useless guard-dog there was no dinghy and no morning walk!
Only option was to go into the marina and report the incident. We would just have to use marinas till the dinghy was replaced.
Bringing a 40ft boat into an unknown marina singlehanded is complicated at the best of times, but sods law the wind got up, gusting up to 20 knots just to make it interesting!
In the harbour I circled off the end of the pontoons hoping to attract someone to help catch my ropes. There were no easy options of pontoons to land upon. I became aware of a whistle and shout from the fishing harbour wall. Five fishermen were gesticulating and calling me over. As I approached they pointed to my dinghy propped against a wall!
I was completely dumbfounded, thoughts that the the rope must have worn through rambled through my mind as I figured how I was to get it back.
The fishermen where pointing to a space beside fishing boats at the end of the harbour wall, suggesting that I tie alongside it. On a falling tide, an uncertain depth and an onshore wind I was not convinced. Fortunately just then a lady emerged from a big Grand Banks motor cruiser perched on the end of a pontoon in the marina, so I asked to come alongside. She was joined by husband and son to take my lines - saved!
I then put on a comedy show as I tried to control a desperate Vaila ashore, pick up her poo, and chase her as she made for the shorefront restaurants. The fishermen all meantime chattering in quick fire Spanish trying to get me across to the dinghy, triumphant with their find.
The atmosphere changed when I asked; where was the engine? I then showed them the other end of the rope and they all, at least twice each, examined it and agreed it hadn't worn through but been cut! They had understandably assumed the dinghy had floated loose but were now embarrassed and apologetic that a crime had taken place. I thanked them and offered them some money for a drink for their help, but they were clearly very concerned about the theft and would not accept. When I enquired about how to report this to the Police they explained that in the small village there was no police station, the suggestion was to go to A Coruna!
At least I had the dinghy back complete with oars and again was able to anchor. So after a "proper coffee" on board the Danish motor boat, I went and re-anchored in the same place, advising the other yachts of the incident. Most of them also had left their dinghies with outboards in the water overnight, although most were locked onto the dinghy.
Everyone I have spoken to regarding the incident has been surprised, (the Spanish clearly embarrassed) as we have felt very safe and secure during our visit here. This is truly a different world to the Mediterranean Spain that most of us are more familiar with. It does however just take one individual! Lesson learned!
When I explained it all to Vaila she was convinced it was Pirates! I suppose they came by boat, to steal, armed with a knife, yeh that's sounds like pirates.
There followed a windy day and night, but we were securely anchored. The following day I progressed on down the coast and rounded Cape Finisterre; beautiful sunshine a flat sea and 15 knots of following wind making for a super sail to anchor at Muros. A short motor across the Ria de Muros then took us to a lovely Marina at Portosin the following day, ready to pick up the crew. No sign of a skull and crossbones on route!
How many humans have ships named after them? Well It's usually saints over here, or Queens at home. It seems that my fame as an exploring tripod has earned me that privilege, as can been seen above.
Vaila, the boat, has sailed from Scotland with Petra and Andy aboard on a similar adventure to my parents and were hoping to see more of them along the way!
We anchored off a lovely wee town, Ares, for one night before entering A Coruna, a major port and significant turning point for us now heading South. In the huge, largely empty marina, we were welcomed by a friendly Irish marinero, Keiren.
Whilst the marina is modern, it is adjacent to the old town which we fell in love with. Massive public buildings, beautiful churches and squares, then the narrow hilly streets paved with granite flagstones.
Maintaining the boat is an ongoing task (I'll bore you with the "what broke list" some other time). The teak deck however had recently been renovated but I had noticed a plank loose on the Port side deck and a few areas where the caulk was not adhering to the teak. This was no great surprise considering the temperature change the poor thing has been through!
Recognising a stitch in time situation I thought that our stay in A Coruna was the opportunity to get a wee repair done.
All our info explained that A Coruna was the main centre for marine repairs and chandlery so I had no hesitation in starting the work removing some rubber caulking on the deck.
Pumbo was the biggest, best chandler in the area according to all sources.
My initial visit there was fruitful in that they were able to supply a suitable replacement for the galley pump which had failed recently. I had at the same time enquired about deck caulking and was shown a shelf of Sikaflex products that looked like it had been restocked ten years ago. However great surprise was expressed amongst the staff when the 290 DC product needed was absent. A phone call was made and this being Tuesday, a prediction of Thursday was suggested as a likely arrival date.
Should say at this stage most chandlery supplies nowadays are obtained either website mail-order, (get anything in the universe the next day) or well displayed, browse and select shops at marinas. This however was a blast from the past! Initially a shambolic display of rope and recent deliveries, then the counter with parts all binned in racks behind the staff. Queuing up and having a good chin wag seems pretty much the way you shop here, even in supermarkets. Whilst this probably works for most Spanish fisherman it's a challenge with my limited Spanish!
On Thursday I had the job progressed to the stage that deck caulk would finish It off. Confident I cycled through the busy city on cycle-paths and pavements to reach Pumbo. Parking my foldy up bike and approaching the counter I sensed a problem when the guy at my back was served first by a relieved counter operator in a flurry of Spanish bonhomie. "My" assistant initially appeared unable to understand my request, despite the fact I had written the product name down. He then called upon a lady with good English, with whom I had spoken previously. Amid a flurry of Spanish fired among the three assistants I gathered that it hadn't come in, it had been promised, the supplier was from another world! and above all, it definitely wasn't their fault. This was interpreted into English as; it hasn't arrived, I was shown the empty shelf to prove this!
This is when it happened..... I foolishly asked "Cuando"(when)?
"Mañana".....; delivered with a bright eyed belief, but accompanied by a shrug.... I knew then it was a curse, and I was to hear the dreaded word again.
From here on it was pure Faulty Towers. Each day I would set out across town with renewed hope of success, each day I was met with vague recognition and went through the pantomime.
Other enquiries I made for an alternative supplier all led back to Pumbo; "they can get anything" I kept being told!
It had initially been arranged that they would contact the Marina as soon as it arrived, then I left our phone number and was promised they would call to update when they had phoned the supplier. Eventually I got an e-mail address for Luis, one of he counter assistants. After a week I told him that I would now be anchored away from A Coruna but would monitor e-mail and return when it arrived. He promised to e-mail me with progress, I wrote out my address and he wrote his out, twice, to be sure of no further problem.
Now, 10 days later, no calls, three emails all translated into Spanish from me; zero received.......... Sikaflex now on its way from Largs!!!
We did however enjoy our time in A Coruna. International boats were arriving and departing every day. Our Swedish friends on Carpe Diem caught up with us, and we spent a lovely evening on a beautiful Beneteau 57, which is heading our way before carrying on to Australia.
Now over 3 months away from Scotland we decided that this would be a good opportunity for Yvonne to do a week at home. So flights were booked and she escaped, will she return?........
This left me and Vaila to do jobs on the boat and make some progress South if the weather suited.
Maybe Yvonne had read the next section of the pilot book? This piece of coast is called the "Costa Da Morte"; Coast of Death....It includes rounding the headland of Cape Finisterre; "finis terrae" named by the Romans meaning the end of the world!
Cheery stuff, hence the gloomy picture above!
Great time for the crew to jump ship. Not!