Sugar 'n' Spice – Diary May 2008

Thur 1st May

A French Bank Holiday.

Prompt departure from Camaret to catch the tides right at the Raz du Sein. A beat to & through the Raz, then cracked sheets. Almost immediately a thundery black squall hit us, so 2 reefs in the main, 20mins later it was all over & we were motoring in no wind, & in another 10 we were sailing again under full sail! Later we reefed again & as we got to the Odet river we could see a huge racing fleet entering the river ahead of us.  Above Benodet (where the racers were rafted several deep) another squall caught us as we were taking the sails down. Very inconsiderate as it really only lasted long enough to get us (& sails) very wet!  Anchored for the night in the Anse de Combrit above the bridge at Benodet. (69nm).  A very tranquil spot, very similar in aspect to the upper reaches of the River Dart, with egrets & heron on the banks, large mullet under the stern & terns giving diving displays onto shoals of little fish moving with the tide.

Fri 2nd May

Leisurely departure (10am) from anchorage to miss the racers & down to Benodet marina (now empty) to visit fuel berth, then across the river to the smaller marina of Sainte-Marine.  Then biked into Benodet, via the bridge with its birds eye view of the river & town for a look around & provisions.  Back on board it seemed a huge racing fleet as they came up river under spinnakers & Sainte-Marine got busier with other yachts coming & going – not as peaceful as the night before, although we had no trouble finding a restaurant.

Sat 3rd May

A stroll around Sainte-Marine & harbour office for weather information. Then back to the Anse de Combrit anchorage to wait for our hoped for ‘weather slot’ for Biscay tomorrow, with an afternoon watching canoeists, fishermen & the vedettes plying to & from Quimper (upriver), & then a quiet night, apart from the owls hooting.

Sun 4th May

9am ish start from the anchorage in no wind. Once out of the Odet we were able to sail with full sail, either close hauled or just cracked. Early afternoon the vis went bad & a quick look at the radar showed a nasty rain storm headed our way.  That was followed by the arrival of a pigeon on board. We assume it was the ‘homing’ variety as it was sporting several rings on its legs & seemed unperturbed by us humans, but did insist on sitting on the outboard (on the pushpit) with the obvious results. After a couple of hours it departed & we saw some ships – well 2!

Mon 5th May

 Still sailing, but we used the engine to charge the batteries.  Bright stars, no moon, lots of phosphorescence.

Early hours Doug called me as some dolphins had arrived, but were only really noticeable because of their phosphorescent trails! Quite weird, he said he’d seen them first because this ‘torpedo’ was aimed at the boat at a great rate of knots, then started leaping around the bow.

By dawn we’d had another ‘dolphin’ visit & were motoring in little or no wind.

Mid morning a swallow arrived & spent an hour or so sitting on the guard rails preening, before setting off again. I do tell these birds that I’m sure we’re going the opposite way to what they want, but they don’t seem to take much notice of me! After it left we saw another ship & more dolphins, then the wind picked u p & we were able to sail again.

At dusk more dolphins – seemed to be 2 species, the smaller common dolphins & larger, probably bottlenose, who leapt higher, but were fewer in number. The little ones stayed bow riding enthusiastically for longer. The night was darker than last & when fishing boats started to appear I was glad to pass the watch to Doug & let him thread the way through them.

Tues 6th May

With dawn the wind fell light again, the engine went on & around 8am we had the high rocky promontory of Cabo Prior to port, in a misty landscape.  We passed the Tower of Hercules – a very tall lighthouse built originally in Roman times, & arrived in Darsena Marina in A Coruna mid morning.  A trip of 332nm in 50hrs from anchorage to pontoon.

We spent the rest of the day doing a few chores, relaxing in the glorious sunshine, then took a stroll along the prom & the old medieval quarter with its walls, narrow up & down streets, & picturesque buildings & gardens, before crashing early to bed.

Wed 7th May

A provisioning trip & a new sim card for Doug’s mobile phone. As a concept it should provide internet access much cheaper in Spain, but the practice of getting it working (in Spanish) requires a lot of time & patience with which I will not bore readers.

Later we took a bus to the Tower of Hercules – quite spectacular & set on a headland with pleasant walks amongst the native broom (well in bloom & turning the hills yellow), chattering birds & various modern sculptures.  We walked back via the prom along the City’s beach (golden sand) on the other side of the isthmus from the harbour, & had supper of mixed fish in a restaurant near the main grand colonnaded square, the Praza de Maria Pita.

Thur 8th May

Exploring further afield to the other side of the city. It’s bigger than first impressions with some nice gardens & architecture, helpful people & relaxed atmosphere.  We rounded off the day with a ‘bad’ evening in a jamonaria (a combined tapas bar & shop selling cheese & meats of the area) whose ceiling was hung with umpteen legs of cured smoked ham, sampling the wares.

Fri 9th May

A prompt start departing from A Coruna out past Hercules again. A mixture of full sail cracked sheets & some motoring.  The occasional fishing boat, a yacht in the distance, a brief visit from 4 dolphins, Doug fishing – usual success rate, but it brought the wind back for a while - in all a very relaxed day’s sailing.  Then about tea time we arrived at the little fishing village of Corme, & dropped anchor in what the pilot described as a crowded anchorage, except we were the only yacht there.  (40nm).

We sat in the sun enjoying watching the little port & the comings & goings of various fishing vessels, including a fishery protection vessel which we saw in the Rias on several more occasions (they clearly don’t know of Doug’s fishing prowess!), & were too idle to go ashore.  I think the locals sat by a very nice fountain in a little garden on their sea wall  & watched us in return!

Also all the hill tops are covered with wind farms – what does that tell you about the weather? & this continued all down this coast.

Sat 10th May

A prompt start again, for what turned out to be a fairly rumbustious sail.  We started with full main, went to 1 reef almost immediately, then the 2nd & then a furl in the genny. We turned into the ria of Camarinas past Cabo Vilano, a lighthouse on some unfriendly rocks & arrived at Camarinas YC pontoon late morning – pretty quick if not as relaxing as yesterday.  (21nm).

In the afternoon we wandered further along the ria as I had declined the walk to the lighthouse on the paltry grounds I did not wish to be blown, or washed, off the rocks.

Sun 11th May

Another prompt departure, with 1 reef still in the main.  Out past Cabo Vilano our course was more downhill.  Late morning we gybed to round Cape Finisterre & found ourselves surrounded by dolphins, in what turned out to be our best encounter yet.  Again there seemed to be 2 species.  They stayed with us for about an hour working through the repertoire of rolls, jumps, bow wave riding, & whenever we thought they were leaving reinforcements would rush in over the horizon.  They finally left as we hardened up abeam of Finisterre & we had only a fishing boat for company as we entered the Ria de Muros.   We tied up in Portosin Marina about tea time (46nm).

For interest.    The coast between A Coruna & Finisterre is called the Costa del Morte (coast of death) because of the number of shipwrecks there have been along it.  Hence lighthouses from Roman times.

Mon 12th May

A stroll round the little local town.  The main industry is catching & processing sardines & it did not seem as prosperous as first appearances suggested.  The marina is large & well appointed, & the local school had its own beach, or 2, of nice golden sand.  Then we took the bus to Noia, the town at the head of the ria, which had some nice medieval churches, lots of narrow streets & squares & a convenient (next to bus station) supermarket for provisions.  In legend this is where Noah (hence the name) & the Ark landed.

Tues 13th May

Westward on the bus to Barona, a hill fort from pre Roman times, set in a very dramatic location on a rocky isthmus with the sea crashing on all sides.  It was a pleasant walk down through trees full of chirruping birds to the fort area with the walls of its rock buildings still clearly visible.  We scrambled up to the top of the crag to appreciate the commanding position the fort held with views all round & rocks to seaward.  A local bar yielded a late lunch then we headed back to the next hamlet to get the bus back to Portosin.

Wed 14th May

To Santiago de la Compostela by bus, not walking or biking as ‘proper’ pilgrims do!  And the City was full of them, leaning on wooden staves, large packs on their backs, equally large rain capes covering both them & the packs, & wearing a scallop shell as a symbol of St James.  A tourist destination since the middle ages all the roads lead to the great Cathedral.  Inside a service was in progress & the benches were packed tight with pilgrims, their packs piled against the pillars, while more (& the tourists) stood in the aisles.  We wandered on, found some lunch, & then further wandering took us to a park with a superb viewpoint over the medieval City with its many spires & towers.  Heading back for the bus we were caught in our first rain shower of the day, lucky as Santiago is also famed for its rainfall, & also as it lasted just the time of the bus journey back to Portosin

Thur 15th May

A relaxed departure from Portosin.  A beat out of the ria, & in company with some dolphins we bore away & then rounded Salvora island into the Ria de Arosa.  Late afternoon we anchored behind the viveros (rafts for mussel farming) off the beach at Pobra de Caraminal for the night. (44nm).

Fri 16th May

Awoke to find crowds on the beach & in the water (fully clothed) gathering shellfish with a combined rake/net.  We later established from the number of shells on the beach that these were cockles, but have no idea the reason for that morning’s crowd which didn’t reoccur the next tide or the following morning.  We assume it was either some festival, but there were no other ‘celebrations’ or the start/end of the cockling season.

Moved into Pobra de Caraminal marina, & set off to find a walk up the hills behind the town.  From the water we had seen a river with waterfalls which we hoped to follow, & this turned out to be the Rio de Barbanza just to the east of the town.  A rough path following the river led up into the hills between scented woods of eucalyptus trees, & we passed women using the old stone troughs for their washing.  We were balked briefly by construction works for a new road, but found the path again & continued the ascent with views of the river through the trees.  Above the woods the path got steeper & rockier, & the river ran in a series of pools & falls – a nice picnic place.  We went a bit further & could see back to the ria over the intervening hills before we returned, this time finding a better route round the road works.

Sat 17th May

The breeze filled in about midday & we had a very lazy sail, just unfurling the genny, to do the 6.5nm to a tiny anchorage between the headlands of Punta Mixeluida (to East) & Punta Pineira (to West).  Both had rocky shoals extending seawards, in the east to Isla Ostra, which ceased to be an island as the tide went out.  Another very secluded anchorage with a beach, a few dwellings & little wooded picnic area ashore, & a few fishing boats & lots of viveros afloat, & the obligatory diving terns.

Sun 18th May

After a rainy morning motored the 5nm across the bay dodging viveros to the marina at Vilagarcia.  Here we obtained the boat a ‘passport’.  For a small sum this covers a group of marinas & entitles you to fairly useful berthing discounts.  We had tried to obtain one earlier at A Coruna, but they had not been sent any this year so could not supply one, & we wondered if the system had lapsed.  Different here where the Harbour Master pressed it upon us!

Mon 19th May

A relaxed day in Vilagarcia, with some chores in the morning, lunch overlooking the harbour & then a very nice walk in the sunshine along the prom to the next town up the ria, Carillo.

Tues 20th May

Away early to catch a train to Santiago de Compostela & on to the airport & home.

Tues 27th May

Arrived back in Vilagarcia, from the UK early afternoon, this region does look green, I wonder why?  After checking the boat was still afloat & all was well we were in time for the lunchtime (late by English standards) menu de dia at the Marina restaurant.  After that the siesta was over & it was a provisioning run to the shops, & an early night after a rather long day.

Wed 28th May

A mid morning departure from the marina, after the various regular jobs of topping up the water & returning the security card for the gate, & then there were all the extra miles of warps the boat had been secured with to unscramble.  At least it all gave the overnight rain a chance to just become a drizzle.  We threaded our way out through the viveros again, with the wind on the nose, & after being checked out by a couple of dolphins (they didn’t stay –we weren’t going fast enough to be interesting), were able to sail ( hard on with 1 reef) as we turned south round Isla de Arosa.  We had to put in one large tack for a fishing boat crossing our bows, then entered the ria Pontevedra & anchored off Melide beach on the Isla de Ons (19nm).  A very peaceful  spot this early in the season, & occupied solely by gulls, as far as we could  see, although there was a lot of other bird song from the grass & woodlands behind the beach.  Most of the islands in this region are National Park & although they are popular with holidaymakers there are restrictions on landing & access, especially in the breeding season.

Around teatime we upped anchor as the breeze started to pick up & with just a reefed genny galloped across the sound to our overnight anchorage behind the viveros in ria Aldan (7nm), arriving just before the rain started again.

Thur 29th May

Wet. Poor vis in the rain. We did some chores & some round tuits.  The one other yacht in the anchorage departed.  Wet.  Pretty place, nice beach, fishermen tending the viveros.  Wet. Stayed put.

Fri 30th May

Still murky & a large swell when we left anchorage for a short (9nm) trip to the Cies islands (isla Faro – the middle one) anchorage off playa Arena des Rodos.  Sun out by the time we arrived, so after a visit from Al, an American Canadian, from another boat already at anchor, we blew up the dinghy & went ashore.  The local bar yielded a lunch of fresh fish, then we climbed to a magnificent viewpoint – Alto do Principe – with a view of the sandy isthmus joining isla Faro to isla Norte, with seas breaking to the west & calm to the east.   Back on board we were amused by a gull, with very shiny yellow ‘plastic’ legs (not surprisingly we decided it was a yellow legged gull, close cousin to our herring gull) which was into healthy living – it ate apple cores!

Sat 31st May

Upped anchor & unfurled genny for another major voyage (7nm) to Cangas, opposite Vigo, for a provisioning run.  After the chores we strolled around the old town, & the gardens near the promenade, & reckoned it a nice town & efficient marina.