Friday 30th May 2014
Winds, initially about F1-2 in Ria Muros, then north-westerly F4-5 out in the Atlantic, then F2 in the Ria Arounas
Swell, less than 1m, slight conditions with the wind, glassy in both the rias.
40 NM (613NM)
We’d shaken our lines just after 09:00, and under blue skies, we left the rather shabby town of Portosin. Of all the places that we’ve been, this would be the one that I’d least recommend. Even Sada, with its bumpy mooring, fared better. We left fellow sailors from Germany there until Sunday (for minor boat repairs); that would have felt far too long.
Pete was determined to sail today, with the forecast for northerlies, F3-4. As soon as I’d tidied the fenders and mooring lines, it was ‘up with the main.’ However, the wind wasn’t really north in Ria Muros, but was decidedly east, and decidedly light. We ghosted along with the wind behind us, the Yankee not really knowing what side it wanted be on, and with about 5-6 knots, not really enough to fill it anyway. Pete went and ‘poled’ it out, himself acting as the spinnaker pole. The only consolation was that it was very warm, so I had my first outfit change of the day. Breaking out the shorts for the first time! Whoop whoop! When the boat speed dropped to below 2 knots, I thought it was time to fire up the engines and head out to sea in search of the wind. Not that we could see a wind line, but Pete calculated that at this speed, we’d take 36 hours to get to Pobra! We were surprised that no one else was out on the water on this beautiful day, particularly as the forecast had been for such favourable conditions, with a very small swell. Ria Muros was busy with activity of the fishing boats, but no other sailing boats appeared. In fact, we only saw a couple the whole day.
Our course was to take us clear of the hazards in the endurance to the ria, and then west out to sea, before we could turn south. Pete’s course was a prudent one, since there are all sorts of shallows and rocks in between the two rias – Muros and Arousa. I could see the odd white horse appearing on the water ahead, and wondered if it was wind…. Perhaps. I said nothing, but watched as the wind speed indicated a slow increase – 5, 6, 7… then 10! At this point I announced that the wind had arrived! With that, Pete slowed the engine, set the sail, deployed the yankee and then killed the engine. Awesome! The wind was from the north-west, not quite as bid, but good enough! We had a fantastic beam-reach for a couple of hours, and as we turned more south, we enjoyed a broad reach. With the benign seas, Whinchat was making great speed, effortlessly dealing with the running sea behind. With this change of wind, it brought a change in clothes. A deck shirt (a thick cotton shirt) and my summer sailing shoes. It was a bit too cool for bare feet now.
So why had the wind suddenly appeared? And why hadn’t it funnelled in the ria? I’m pretty sure the wind hadn’t just arrived, but had been blowing all the time – so that it was rather us that had gone out to join it, rather than it joining us, so to speak. The only thing that made sense, but possibly a coincidence, was that we were now clear of the headland of Cabo Finisterre, and therefore this might have been creating some wind shadow. Why it didn’t whip up and down and around the ria, I don’t know. That’s my notion for what had happened, but whatever, the 15-18 knots of wind that gave us a great sail was very welcome.
Pete did most of the helming, or being in charge of Doris, only taking over from her when our course swung a little more south-easterly and Pete wanted to goosewing.. with much better effect that we’d had earlier coming out of the ria. Me, what did I do? Changed my clothing, again! The wind was cool, but also the skies were filling with increasing cloud, so it was a jacket and socks/daps and trousers. The shorts were very short-lived! However, the good sailing wind and gentle seas I think were a good trade-off. I gazed at the sea for ages, watching the constant motion, quite hypnotic in a way, with flecks of white horse rearing up and charging down the small waves. Wonderful.
As we approached the Ria de Arousa, Pete wanted to go down below and check the charts, so after gybing, I had the helm. I was intent on reaching the waypoint on the chart plotter, as I figured that Pete would have plotted that with some care. I got us back on course to a xte (cross track error) of less than 10 metres (not so tricky with the wind behind you). No need to gybe down through the wind, because we were doing a nice speed, some 7 knots, and with hazards around, it was plenty fast enough.
Ria de Arousa is Galicia’s largest ria, and is a massive open bay, once you get through the hazards at the entrance (lumps of rock and an island or two, notably the Isla Salvora, a bleak outcrop that we rounded). The hills around it are low lying, so you have this feeling of great space, even though it is enclosed. The entrance is just over two miles wide, and we continued sailing up for another 10 miles, bending around the course of the water. The entrance is quite beautiful, with these islands and then a curving coastline on the left (as you go in) with golden sandy beaches. It’s hard to make a photograph do it justice, but perhaps this will go some way…
It looks like a prime area for anchoring, but the book cautions against the floating viveros, these mussel farms. They seemed to occupy all the best spots! As we sailed further up the ria, the amount of development seemed to increase. Pete had read that Ria de Arousa is the most commercially developed, with many towns along its shores… so this wouldn’t be the place for quiet anchorages, we’ve left those in the north, apparently (to return, hopefully with better weather).
From about 20 knots as we were turning around Isla Solva, the wind faded as we headed into the ria, much to Pete’s displeasure, however the sea was glassy calm (see photo above). We were in no rush, so we were both happy to drift up river with the wind, picking our way through the channel via channel markers I sat on the bow seat for a while, watching the world as we drifted by, and took a couple of lovely photos of Whinchat looking back through the sails…
As the channel narrowed, the viveros seemed to increase in number.. I took a photo of them – they seem to me like battleships lined up ready to go to war. Something a bit sinister about them – and there is quite a fleet, and you can certainly see why the pilot book cautions against straying too close to them (and warning against night sailing).
As we headed up the river, the geography must have been such that the wind found its way back to the water, picking back up to speed, so we were short tacking near the top, dodging about a couple of little Spanish yachts who were out for a play (both with heavily reefed genoas; it wasn’t that bad). Whinchat must’ve looked a sight, in full sail, powering up the water. There are also few blue hulled boats around, so we like to think she’d look distinctive.
Of course by the time we came to moor, the wind was pretty unhelpful, and it wasn’t our finest manoeuvre. We were assisted by an English lady (and later her husband), but there was a fair amount of driving, thrusting to bring her alongside. At no time were we in any danger, or risk of damage, but it was just less smooth than the skipper likes. All snug, we are on the end of the long pontoon at the edge of the marina – a little exposed if the wind shifts, but with beautiful views over the town’s beach. I wasn’t sure that Pobra had much to offer (from Pete’s descriptions, having tread the books and the CA app), but on first pass, it’s a busy town, with some character. It isn’t charming, like Muros, but it’s not past its best, like Portosin. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, a market, and a delightful park along the sea-shore, which when we walked through this evening. It was thick with the sound of small children playing. I think Pobra will serve us well – and the best thing, they had WiFi installed only today, so Pete was able to get his emails and discover that we have the permit to visit the National Marine Park islands (them with the very long name).
white horses ride out
wind hollers out, flicks the reins
a summer day hack