I last wrote from Muros, where we were in the marina with the sailing pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. We enjoyed the attention of "Pedro" there - he runs a very tight marina, with loving attention to every boat that arrives. He has cute children's artwork in his office, by young cruisers who have visited the marina with their parents. When we first arrived, once he had taken our lines and we were safely docked, he shook Craig's hand in welcome and gave me a kiss on both cheeks! I've never seen that treatment before, and doubt I'll ever see it again.
Pedro recommended a restaurant out of the tourist area, which adhered to the Spanish dining rules: the kitchen doesn't even open until 8:30 or 9:00 pm. But, my was that good food! We had a salad adorned with cooked seta mushrooms and langostinos, followed by a piece of roast lamb with potatoes. After dinner we walked back through the maze that constitutes the Old Town. We found a hair salon where Craig was able to get his hair cut the next day. We photographed the turns so we could find it again! We saw a house festooned with life-size marionettes or mannequins, fascinating to all the tourist passers-by.
One of our days in Muros it rained like crazy; another day we took a bike ride to nearby San Francisco, through a eucalyptus forest. The beach in San Francisco was crowded, but we dipped our feet in the water and walked between crowds of screaming children, proud parents and strutting teens.
On July 31 we departed for Sanxenxo in the Ria de Pontevedra, skipping altogether the Ria de Arousa. We were thinking to anchor off the beach. It turned out, though, that Sanxenxo is in a very populated, high end resort area, and we didn't want to anchor in front of the 20 story apartment buildings and crowded beach areas. So we went into the marina. On advice of some gents at the fuel dock, we took an alongside tie as far away from the shore as possible. They said there is loud music every night. Boy was there! Thumpa thumpa until 2 am or beyond. Lots of obstinate teens on their jet skis. There was officially only one walk-in entrance to the gigantic marina, but the truth was that the security perimeters were somewhat lax. In the office I heard someone complaining about theft of fishing equipment, and we later talked to a cruiser whose boat was boarded while he was asleep. He heard the noise and saw the feet in the cockpit and yelled out an open port. The intruder got off the boat right away, but still...
We next sailed to Moaña in the Ria de Vigo. It's just across the Ria from the City of Vigo, the largest city in northwest Spain, and a major seaport. We had boat parts to pick up from a chandlery in Vigo, and lots of exploring to do. The Ria reminded us of San Francisco Bay, with eucalyptus forests on the hilltops and red tile roofs.
Our first day in Moaña we took the ferry over to Vigo and found our way to the chandlery. It's located across the street from shipping terminals in a long stone building with covered walkways in front of all the businesses. The covered walkway made probably a twenty degree difference between the outside temperature and the temperature inside the stores. It was getting pretty hot outside, so this was quite significant.
As it turns out, we visited twice that day: once in the morning, when we found out they'd ordered the wrong part, then again in the afternoon to pick up the correct one. In between we went to the Praza de Constitución, found a shaded outdoor restaurant, and had a relaxing lunch. Vigo is a city with lots of hills. The winding streets are interesting, and there are motorized escalators in some places - not sure if that's for the tourists or the residents!
After we finally obtained the correct part we returned to the ferry landing by way of an air-conditioned shopping mall where we stopped for some icy drinks.
The next day the heat wave hit with full force. It was in the high 90s for most of our time in Moaña. During the day we pretty much stayed in the boat and saved our outings for early morning and late evening. We biked to two different restaurants recommended by the marina manager, and watched a band rehearse in the bandstand in the very late evening. By then the temperature was almost pleasant, and there was a slight breeze coming off the water to make things easier. Craig admired the band pavilion, which had a nice timpani ramp around the rear (there was no percussion whatsoever in this band, which appeared to be an intermediate level, or perhaps all-comers band. What they lacked in skill they made up for in enthusiasm.)
There were lots of late night walkers out walking in the dusk, including big families with tiny children and grandparents along for the stroll. The restaurants were full, in some cases with people (including us) waiting a half an hour or so for a table. The food was, as usual, quite wonderful.
On August 5, we left in the early morning for Baiona, the last harbor we would visit in this part of Spain. It was the third day of hot, hot weather. Baiona's claim to fame is that it was the first City to learn that Columbus had discovered "the Indies" (as it turned out, of course, it was the West Indies and the New World, not southeast Asia). La Pinta, one of Columbus's three ships, was the first to arrive back, putting in to Baiona. In the waterfront there is a full sized replica of La Pinta, which tourists can explore for a fee. It is a fairly crude replica (steel masts??!), and nowhere up to the standard of other historical ships we have seen restored, particularly in England and Sweden. Still, it does give you some perspective on what life may have been like for those sailors, and Columbus's audacity to think you could make a major trip of discovery, and possibly fall off the edge of the world in a little ship only 65 feet long.
Probably ½ mile away from where we were docked, there was what appeared to be a hilltop castle. It had been converted into a big luxury hotel recently, and lots of theme-park touches were added to castle walls. From a distance it looks great, but close-up the inauthenticity is glaring. Below the castle is a very popular swimming beach and a huge carnival with all the usual rides plus a performance stage. Many of the rides had competing, extremely loud music, and lots of carnival barkers shouted simultaneously through their individual PA systems. In the late evening the performance stage hosted some sort of very loud rock concert which seemed to continue until about 2 am.
We biked through the older part of Baiona and noticed a couple of interesting churches. The first - La Liberta, is dedicated to a first century saint who is said to be the first Christian woman to die as a martyr by crucifixion. We listened to lots of church bells. Each church seemed to have only one bell (or perhaps several bells at the same pitch) which would at times ring over-and-over in various rhythmic patterns. Of interest perhaps only to my musician friends, the most fascinating one rang in triplets for a minute or so, then changed in hemiola fashion to slower notes equal to two of the eighth notes in the previous pattern. It continued in the second pattern for several minutes.
The old town area has very narrow streets which are further narrowed by arrays of tables served by restaurant kitchens in adjacent buildings. We had a nice dinner at one of these the evening before we left to head south.
August 7 was our day to cross the border into Portugal. Now the geography would change. There are no more Rias (inlets). The coast runs basically north and south with an occasional river allowing for a harbor inside. Sometimes the rivers have bars which means one must be conscious of the state of the tide and wind which can make entry dangerous or even impossible. Fortunately there would be no such problem at our first harbor, Viana do Castelo.
Viana do Castelo is, however, not without its problems. Docking was the first of those, and there were new experiences in store for us here. Entering a strange harbor you never know what you'll find. We're lucky if we know in advance whether it's a port or starboard tie. In Viana do Castelo, you wait outside on a pontoon until they open a pedestrian bridge.
Then when the bridge opens you head inside - and it's not a slip at all, it's backing up to a pontoon, picking up what we have dubbed a "slime line" to attach at the bow and putting our own stern lines to the dock. The slime line goes down to an anchor in the bottom of the harbor, and of course its tightness changes with the tide. We saw this being done at Svaneke
on the island of Bornholm in Denmark, but in Bornholm there is no tide to worry about.
You must keep the slime line taut or the boat will move diagonally with the wind and current. That becomes even more of a problem if the boat adjacent to you doesn't keep their slime line taut, because it means their weight may be added to your slime line's holding capacity.
The second night, the system was further tested. The winds came up quite strong. Then a larger boat came along and picked up the slime line next to us. They pulled and pulled on their slime line and finally pulled up some chain. We think that the chain may be part of the anchor system which ought to be on the bottom. There ensued a lot of negotiation between four boats (including us), Swiss-Italian, French, Dutch and us (English). The Dutch guy spoke the most languages the most fluently, so he turned out to be the best mediator. The harbor representative came around, but he was a relative newbie and had very little experience or knowledge that might have been helpful, not to mention he really only spoke Portuguese. We finally got it all sorted out, but there were some tense moments.
The next morning, all the boats except the Dutch one wanted to leave at first light. The French boat headed out first. It was approaching low tide, and they immediately went aground in the harbor entrance. The Swiss boat (which had a partially retractable keel) went around them and out into the river. Finally about 2 hours later the French boat was able to float off and they left, followed by us. Whew!
Don't get me wrong, Viana do Castelo was a beautiful and interesting town. The big bridge there was designed by Gustave Eiffel of Paris tower fame. It has been well-maintained, and is very impressive. There is a wide esplanade along the river which makes for great bike riding. (We rode along it at top speed trying to make it back to the boat in a sudden rainstorm.) The narrow streets of the old city are scenic and interesting.
We met an American couple from Forest Grove, Oregon, who were about to move to Viana do Castelo. They were delighted with the prospect and had just taken a year's lease on an apartment. It was apparent that part of their motivation was the less expensive cost of living, and in particular medical care for pre-Medicare aged patients.
While we were in Viana do Castelo, the Tour de Portugal came to town. The streets were lined with pedestrians for blocks. The bikers themselves were through in a flash, but they were preceded by many police cars and motorcycles and then followed by about 60 vans, each of which appeared to have 6 or 8 bicycles on top. There were multiple booths selling biking "gear", local folk art or total junk.
Immediately after the Tour de Portugal went past, the traffic jam started. For about 3 hours, all streets, including the narrow streets of the old town, were an absolute parking lot. I happened to be walking in the area, and some of the streets were so full that it was impossible for even a pedestrian to get through.
On August 10, after escaping the low tide exit from the Viana do Castelo marina, we headed south to Porto, and had a beautiful sail along the way. The prevailing winds in the last few weeks have been northerly, starting very light in the morning and increasing to 12-18 kn as the afternoon progresses (and it seems like 20-25kn when we enter our destination marina!). A north wind is great when you are sailing south, but from dead astern we really would like to see 20kn to get us up to hull speed. (If the wind is behind us at 15kn, we might make 5kn, which subtracts from the apparent wind; the boat sees only 10kn.) An additional complication is that the best configuration of the sails in this case is with the mainsail all the way to one side and the genoa on the other. This requires care at the helm to avoid backwinding one or the other of the sails, and also they tend to collapse and fill as the boat crests each swell. On this passage, we kept the main furled and deployed the genoa to one side and the small staysail to the other, held out by the spinnaker pole. The result is kind of like having a spinnaker set, but with a lot more control pus the capability of handling stronger winds. For the price of 30 minutes setup, we were able to make 5-7kn and avoid using the diesel. We carry three sails rigged and have three more down below but it seems like there are dozens of alternate ways to set the rig!
I will leave this blog here (it's getting too long) and save the lovely City of Porto for another writing. Apologies that there is only one picture with this blog. The sorting and uploading of illustrative photos is prohibitively time-consuming and will happen later!
Best wishes to all our friends and family, at home and along the way.
Craig and Barbara Johnston