14 August 2019 | N Portugal
09 August 2019 | Arrived Porto
25 July 2019 | Pobra do Cariminal
20 May 2019 | La Rochelle
09 May 2019 | La Rochelle
05 August 2016 | St. Peter port
14 August 2019 | N Portugal
Steve Tuff | windy & sunny
To be honest I think we were both a little disappointed with Porto. As Portugal’s second largest city and a popular weekend break destination we had expected a cool and trendy city full of cool and trendy shops and people. It isn’t really. Our judgement may have been off a little due to a number of factors: firstly the marina is a couple of miles out of the city and other than walking there seemed to be no alternative, secondly, due to bad weather, we stayed in the Porto marina longer than we would have wished. It is true that Porto does have some fascinating historic churches and monuments all spread out over many steep hills. A lot of tourists and too many restaurants to mention but cool and trendy shops there were few. Porto is going through a bit of a building boom as the city attracts more of the aforementioned city breaks and it’s possible that it’s still coming to terms with what it should be providing (if we are at all representative of anything). The Portuguese people are lovely and mostly speak fluent English and due to the strong historic links (founded on port) seem to have a soft spot for the English.
Next to the marina is an old fishing village where most of the enterprising residents have opened small restaurants cooking fish (especially sardines) over charcoal. They were superb.
We decided to take a trip (by train) into the centre of the port region. We went to Pinhau (about 2 ¼ hours by a train which snakes up the Douro river) and spent a very enjoyable day walking the vineyards and touring the Symington Port Estate (Symington are huge; owning Dow, Cockburns and Warres port and claiming to produce 20% of the worlds port). The vineyards are extremely steep and very rocky. This produces low yields of grapes rich in flavour and the 20+ varieties of Portuguese grapes – specially adapted to this altitude and dry climate – have fermentation stopped by addition of alcohol and blended into the various ports. Most of the manual processes, such as treading grapes, have been replaced by machinery and sadly they no longer ship the port from the vineyards using sailing dhows (as I learnt in school). They did have some footage of this though and it was quite incredible shooting rapids in a 60’ sailing boat laden with port barrels.
Eventually the strong Southerly winds stopped and (although there was a residual swell) we set sail on a 62 mile journey to Figueira da Foz. The weather the following day was expected to be fine but after that a number of days of heavy (F5 gusting 6) Northerly winds were forecast. We decided to push on South, skipping out Nazare and heading for Peniche where we are now sitting, waiting for the winds to abate before we can continue to Cascais where we hope to meet some friends. As we passed Nazare we sailed over an enormous under sea trench (about 2 miles wide, 10 miles long and over a mile deep). We have a lot of bathyscopic data on our instruments and could clearly see the trench as we passed over it. This trench does strange things to the swell. Allegedly it is supposed to smooth out the sea (although to be honest we didn’t notice this), under certain conditions it can produce enormous waves (the largest surfed wave of 100’ was produced by this trench) which we were fortunate enough not to see.
A special mention should be made of lobster pots which litter this coast in water between 50’-200’. They are difficult to see, especially in fog and impossible to see at night. Generally they come in pairs (one marking each end of a string of lobster pots) and for any non-sailors reading this blog they are a major hazard because if one wraps around the propeller there is a good chance that the engine will stop and the boat will be tethered to the seabed. So a wary eye needs to be kept at all times – not the relaxing downwind sail we were expecting
09 August 2019 | Arrived Porto
Steve & Susan | variable
It’s been more than three weeks since we last entered anything in the blog. Maybe that is too long as all memories seem to be less specific to each place we visited but more impressions and highlights of memorable events along the way and perhaps that’s all we need to share. We are now in the Duoro Marina, just 3km downriver from Porto, but more about that later.
The impressions and memories. The Spanish Rias are impressive, all having amazing, natural beauty.and for the main part are quite undeveloped. Each Ria seems to have plenty of anchorages and one, two or even more marinas of varying size. We noticed that despite the tourist development around the marinas, which were always fishing ports as well, there really didn’t seem to be that many tourists, no need to book in the restaurants. The area felt quite poor overall with prosperity improving the further South we got. We loved being able to anchor for nights at a time in the quiet protection of the Rias. The restored fisherman’s village built out of granite in Combarro, at the head of Ria do Pontevedra was definitely worth visiting. An excellent marina and plenty of restaurants, encouraged us stay a little longer and walk two more branches of the Camino de Santiago, this time part of the Portugese Way. In Combarro we complete the final stages of the permit we needed to visit the Galacia Atlantic National Park and headed out to Isla Ons and Isla Cies the only two islands boats are allowed to anchor off in the Park. The first thing that struck us about the islands was the crystal clear turquoise sea. Ons is quite small with a circular walk taking no more than three hours, but by the time we added in various detours to lighthouses and view points we were quite exercised! As you’re only allowed to spend three nights in the Islands we moved on to Isla de Cies the next day. Cies is a larger Island so we planned to stay for two nights to give ourselves plenty of time to explore. When at anchor a dinghy and preferably an outboard is important if you want to get ashore comfortably. As mentioned previously we’ve done quite a lot of anchoring so have buzzed ashore on numerous occasions. It did not occur to us that this occasion would be any different. However we soon realised as we got closer to the shore that there was quite a powerful onshore swell with a steeply sloping beach. What happened next wasn’t our best dinghy moment. One minute there we were sitting comfortably in the dinghy, aware of people screaming with excitement as the waves propelled them on to the beach, the next we were upside down in the sea, we were, for want of a better description, ship wrecked. The dinghy including the engine turned turtle and we were deposited in the sea under the dinghy loosing sun glasses, shoes, rucksack in the waves. What a moment. Anyhow we managed to scramble out from under the dinghy and laugh at ourselves as the very kind Spanish helped rescue our lost items. No physical damage done but the engine is yet to recover. This little incident left us dripping wet on the beach without a change of clothes. Anyhow, we decided to lay down in the sand, no towels of course, and dry out. Walking with dripping wet clothes and sand in everything didn’t seem like a good idea. The following day was much more successful. We used the paddles to get ashore and were prepared for the swell which wasn’t anywhere near as bad. Cies is a beautiful island to walk round providing lots of opportunity to be ‘at one with nature’. Although we were a little surprised to find fishing boats bringing in their nets, almost within touching distance when we woke up in the morning. We could definitely see the colour of their eyes. No fish exchanged hands! From the Islands onto Baiona, our last stop in Spain. Baiona is another attractive town aimed at tourists – by this time we’d seen quite a few and were ready to move on to a different culture. Its main claim to fame is that it was Columbus’ first landfall after returning from the New World. There’s a scale model of the Pinta in the harbour! From Baiona we headed into Portugal. The Spain Portugese border went by unseen from the sea as we were shrouded in heavy mist which is a feature on this coast. We spent two days sailing in thick fog taking overnight stops in Viano do Castelo and Povoa de Varzim. Even though we’d only travelled twenty miles each day sailing in poor visibility is extremely tiring. Portugal is very different from Spain. English is more widely spoken and we understand better what they eat (we found the Spanish use of Rations, half rations and tapas very confusing – resulting us often over or under ordering and perhaps more importantly everything in Spain seems to arrive at the same time). We’ll try to give a more detailed impression of our thoughts about Portugal in the next blog.
25 July 2019 | Pobra do Cariminal
Steve Tuff | Wet
As we left A Coruna we passed Torres de Hercules which we had previously visited on foot. Torres de Hercules claims to be the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. This is not quite true. It was built by the Romans and then rebuilt in the 1900s on top of the original foundations to a different size and plan. It is still working but this all seems to be just a little too economical with the truth.
We left A Coruna for a short, unnecessary stop in Corme after another fantastic sail. The unnecessary stop meant that we then had to motor the following day, through fog, into Ria Camarinas.
The Spanish rias are a little like small fjords with steeply rising cliffs and mountains in the background. They are all really beautiful and getting more so (and more gentle) as we travel South. All the rias are littered with huge viveros which are large (20mx20m) floating fish farms, mostly unlit at night. During the day, as you look across the ria they appear like the massed ranks of destroyers before a major sea battle. It really looks like the fleet is in town.
As we move South the towns have become less impoverished and the tourists more plentiful. There is still much work to be done in the Asturias and Galician tourist boards.
In Camarinas, after a couple of days in the marina we anchored higher up the ria and spent a fabulous afternoon walking up the ria to the very top (about 4 miles). A really pretty walk though pine forest alongside the ria.
Leaving Camarinas we set sail (actually a lot of motoring ) for Muros (the next ria south). This meant passing Finisterre; the most westerly point of Europe with a fearsome reputation. Actually it's not the most westerly point; that is Cape Torinan, about 5 miles North of Finisterre).On the day that we passed, Finisterre was a pussy cat. and we passed without incident. I think we have now left the Coast of Death which has thankfully failed to live up to it's name.
There is a conveyor belt of people/yachts working their way South along the Spanish and Portugese coasts. Everybody going at the same rate (us faster than most, obvs!) and crossing paths from time to time. I'm sure that if you got delayed a week or two a new set of boats would keep crossing your path.
At Muros, after being boat bound for a few days we undertook one of our longest walk to date walking around the lagoon (some nude sun bathing, but not us) and around the lighthouse. The only way to recover was to go out to dinner. It seems that, as long as you eat fish or shellfish, the restaurants are all of similar quality (good). The shellfish here are fantastic: razor clams, grilled small scallops (zambarinas, which are amazing), giant mussels and bizarrely goose barnacles (as I spend a considerable time power-hosing them off our boat every winter we haven't had the courage to try these yet). This coupled with octopus, bream, swordfish, tuna and bonito makes this a pescatorian delight and Susan is very happy.
We are now settled into Pobra do Caraminal for a couple of nights plotting a weather window for a 4 day trip out to the 'Spanish Islands' (an enormous marine nature reserve off the NW coast which needs special permits to visit and anchor).
Asturias to Galicia
18 July 2019 | A Coruna
Susan and Steve | good enough
We’ve been back on Weverbird for just over a week, adapting to life on board and starting to think nautically. Really what that means is being alert to the weather, particularly the wind, the direction and speed of the tide and the state of the sea – how big are the waves and the swell. Another area given close attention is provisioning. Always ensuring we have sufficient fresh food and wine for a minimum of three nights away from the shore. No popping to the corner shop for forgotten items.
We left the industrial port of Aviles on Sunday 6 July having spent much of the previous day removing the not so thin layer of coal dust that had settled everywhere. We headed west along the coast toward the small old fishing port of Luarca, in very gentle seas, lots of sunshine and no wind so under engine. We covered the 30 odd miles in no time at all only to be disappointed by the complete lack of mooring facilities for yachts our size in Luarca. We were expecting what sounded like an intriguing system of mooring buoys but they didn’t exist.. Plan ‘B’ was put into action and off we headed to our first anchorage of the season. Punta del Cuerno just 3 miles west of Luarca. It turned out to be perfectly fine, only us in it, slightly too much swell but good holding and we had a reasonable night. The following day we headed for Ribadao. Another 30 plus miles further west under engine. A good marina and pretty town a couple of miles up the estuary. The Camino de Santiago has a starting point in Ribadao (indeed, in most of the towns along the N coast of Spain!)so we decided to be pilgrims for the day and followed the route up into the hills, through deserted countryside. Passing through small villages which, other than washing on the clothes lines could have been uninhabited. Not a hostelry in sight. Well into the fourth hour of the pilgrimage we spotted a very welcome sign promising hospitality to pilgrims only 7km further on. By the time we finally got there we joined other fully fledged pilgrims enjoying homemade cakes and liquid refreshment. The way back to the boat was by taxi. A couple of days later we set sail for Cedeira, an anchorage in the first of many Rias we are hoping to visit. Apparently they get more impressive the further South West you go. It was another 30 plus miles easily covered and another peaceful anchorage. There really are very few boats about. Some of the little sandy beaches in the Ria had an almost Robinson Crusoe feeling. Fine golden sand, crystal clear water, so tempting but, so cold!! No swimming yet then! First BBQ of the trip. Delicious dorade, fresh fish is remarkably cheap here. The following day we had a blistering sail, in brilliant conditions, to A Coruna. 8 knots becoming the norm’. We arrived just ahead of an unsettled weather pattern we could see on our weather app. Aptly called ‘Windy’. It is a wealth of information including swell height. We decided to go into Marina Nautica/Real rather than the new Marina Coruna, one because it had been recommended and two because it’s right in the town and has a good buzz about it. We decided to spend the next three nights in the marina to let the weather pass, get on top of some boat jobs and visit Santiago de Compostela. We had two fairly essential jobs. One being the installation of our own WIFI router and ariel which means we can now easily access the WIFI signal provided by most marinas. This may not sound like much but believe me up until now access to WIFI has been tortuous, if not impossible. Three cheers for Steve!! Job two; the repair of the sacrificial strip on the head sail. It’s been four years since the sail was serviced – normally it happened every year in England. In the meantime the strip has been performing it’s job and is now starting to disintegrate in various patches and we can’t get a new one till the end of the season. To slow down the sacrifice we spent a morning taking down the head sail and meticulously repairing each tear with special sail repair tape. As a result the strip now has a slightly harlequin look about it but seems to be holding together. We arrived in S de C by train (no ‘walking the camino certificate’ this time). It is an interesting and well preserved city, very pretty streets and squares. Plenty of the requisite pilgrims around, some looked real some not so real. The cathedral was undergoing restoration work but the enormity was still there and we could feel the idea of the incense ball swinging through the aisles. The staff in the Marina office are very friendly and helpful and on their suggestion we visited a small, extremely lively, family tapas bar in the one of the back streets behind the port. Definitely no English spoken but plenty of hand gestures and with the back up of google translate we managed to order an interesting and delightful selection of local tapas. And we’re definitely getting into Spanish time as it was well after 10.30pm by the time we ordered!..We left the marina yesterday heading to a well protected anchorage in the Ria. The wind is still gusting 27knots plus and bearing in mind the next leg of the journey is along the Costa da Morte we thought we’d wait another day. Just time to get into the wet suit and do a few laps round the boat!
31 May 2019
Steve Tuff | sunny
If you read the sailing pilot guide about Aviles it isn’t impressive. Being described something along the lines of ‘an unattractive, industrial port, with not much to offer sailors’. With this in mind and the observation by a fellow sailor that Aviles, ‘is dirty’, we approached with low expectations. This was purely going to be a mooring of convenience. With easy access to the airport and very favourable long term mooring fees. To an extent, everything we’d read and heard is true. When you approach the town from the sea you travel upriver through 3 miles of docks, fishing wharves and commercial activity until finally mooring up next to a railway line and opposite three chimneys pouring out who knows what. You have to cross a busy main road and the railway line to reach the town. Despite all this the town is an unexpected delight; full of old charming squares, fascinating architecture and a very laid back feel. Outside the town, along the commercial river frontage the Spanish are once again power walking throughout the day. Inside the town they are sitting in bars, socialising. In Spain it’s significantly cheaper to buy drinks with alcohol than without.
We like it here. It was easy to escape the industrial port. Within fifteen minutes we were able to access both the unspoilt coast and the very beautiful countryside. With the input of an extremely helpful Signora in the tourist office (footpaths in this area have little or no signage or maps) we were able to put together two excellent walks. Firstly along the coast, through a surfing town (Salinas) and on to the first Spanish coal mine (Arnao) which has tunnels under the sea. The coast is dramatic, with miles of sand dunes, precipitous cliffs and tiny coves. The second, going inland to experience the rural life away from towns through verdant countryside and prosperous ancient hamlets.
Today we washed all the warps on the boat in fabric conditioner to soften them all up. Now we’ll smell like a Spanish laundry when it rains!
The delivery phase of this year is now over. We’ll be leaving Weverbird here for a month whilst we return to the UK (Aviles is only 16km to the airport) and be back in July for the next leg of our travels.
A walking day
24 May 2019 | Gijon
Steve Tuff | Fine
Gijon is, we think, a typically Spanish town. Very few people speak English (why should they?) and we feel a little lost culturally. But it is an exciting adventure. The population of Gijon seems to be predominantly elderly but all are out walking, running and exercising. It's very refreshing to see.
Trying to recover from an excess of squid and Spanish wine we decided we'd go for a long walk today. I think we've been spoiled by France. The French diligently mark out their footpaths, provide maps and generally make the business of hiking the countryside very easy. The Spanish; not so much. We stumbled around the Spanish countryside broadly in the direction we were supposed to be going. The first half of the walk was along a river bank and we seemed ok. The second half was along a section of Camino a Covadonga.., which is a proper pilgrimage walk, scallop shells and everything. After losing our way a number of times by the end of the afternoon, after 5 and a half hours walking, we were still 23 km from our supposed end point. We decided to call it a day and taxi home. We learnt that the Northern Spanish countryside is really beautiful and lush, the farmhouses are very pretty ( all with ancient store houses on pillars), that you can't just pour a glass of sidra but rather must make a spectacle by pouring from the bottle into a glass at least 4 feet away (one mouthful at a time). The Spanish, despite an inability for us to communicate with each other, have been wonderful.
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