We said that if we decided to stay to walk yesterday, it would likely mean two additional days in Muxia – well, it has! The weather Gods have held true to the threat of the frontal systems piling into Galicia, it’s arrived! We updated the weather information this morning, and looking back only at Thursday’s forecast, we were supposed to be in calm, more settled conditions, with the low (forecast, for sure, but not the same track) tracking more north… towards the UK! Well, we have it.
It’s gone very squally. A couple of yachts have piled into the marina, so now we are one of four. The others are all French, and provide such entertainment to watch them moor. It is no generalisation but they do all arrive with barely a fender tied, or a line secured (as blogged a couple of years ago).
We topped up the provisions this morning in town, had a coffee and used the WiFi, and then before the weather closed in, went for a walk for a couple of hours. We decided that we would head ‘the other way’ out of Muxia (it’s on a peninsula, so you have to follow one coast out or another), and ended up on a board walk along the shore, rather pretty, before picking up mysterious arrows on the road, pointing towards a footpath, disappearing up a hill. Why not? We thought. It turns out that it’s another branch of the Camiño, so we were back following a bit of the Pilgrim’s Way. If this is typical of what it follows, it’s lovely! A mixture of footpaths (through woodland, around fields), quiet lanes, and tracks. We took it back a few kilometres, over the headland and back inland some way. We had a minor disagreement on which main road we’d crossed – the one of yesterday, or the one that runs past the Marina – but as we reversed the way we’d walked out, it didn’t much matter (and I was right, incidentally). We walked through another small hamlet of Moraine, a couple of farms and a small church, both working. One had small crops of corn, some sheep and the other seemed to have a jumble of stuff in the yard, with chickens and rabbits. Both had chained dogs, which half-heartedly barked at us. They must see a fair few pilgrims trudging past.
The hedgerows were bursting with wild flowers – nasturtiums, daisies, thistles, cow parsley, small yellow flowers – all lovely, and in some places, we felt that we might have been walking the lanes of Sussex.
We managed to get back to Whinchat just as it started drizzling, so we had a late lunch (with a cup-a-soup, even though it’s apparently 25degrees in the boat) and then played “Hare and Tortoise”, a clever game, which Pete won (he had warned me he was “pretty good” at it). Pete’s been reading (The Goldfinch, which I’ve finished and resisted discussing it with him, as we don’t often read the same book at the same time, so the temptation is HUGE), and me about Krakatoa. I had to have a little snooze (what else on a rainy boat day). Pete’s declared that it must be sausage casserole weather (I repeat the same comment, yes, it’s only 25degrees in the boat.), mind you, I have had to put a jumper on! It’s the sound of the wind, makes you feel cold. We battened down the hatches about 15:00 – and neither of us ventured outside again for the rest of the day!
Hopefully it will blow through overnight, and tomorrow we can make plans to move. Will we break for the coast, or bimble across the water (a couple of miles only) to an anchorage, or perhaps head for Camarinas itself, as we liked it there before – and they have an awesome bread shop. Decisions, decisions….
bright drops of sunshine
nod their heads, caught by the breeze
smile lights in my heart
Miracle of miracles, when I went up to use the facilities, the Marina WiFi was on, which meant a quick update on the weather, before the yomp to get the morning bread. Once again, Muxia was a little sleepy, with a few, men mostly, out walking (marching almost) before the day begun. Over breakfast we poured over the weather and made a plan. We think that the weather will close in tomorrow morning, so whatever we do today will be what we do tomorrow – if we stay in Muxia, it will be for another two days (unless it passes through more quickly) or if we move to Camarinas, it will be for two days. What to do? We decided that we would stay and try and find the path up the mountain.
It was pretty overcast this morning, and very sticky, so I was hoping it would clear and that some ‘air’ would flow around us. The Met Office app for us here said the clouds would break up around 11:00, and it was true to its word. So, we set off in what we’d term a lovely summer’s day at home. White fluffy clouds and plenty of sunshine in between.
Our walk in total we reckoned to be about 12km (we were following distance markers for most of it, so it’s a pretty solid estimate, not a fishing story one!), and we climbed 312m, or 1,000ft – since we started at sea-level, that’s also a statement of accuracy! We followed the route out that we’d gone so far along yesterday, following the coast road out of Muxia. At Praia Lourida we took a track, which took us across the back of the sand dunes at the back of the beach. It is a STUNNING beach, with no one on it. An arc of perfect white sandy beach, rocks around it and sea that coloured from turquiose through to sparkles of sapphire. If only it weren’t so cold! I think on the way down I could have happily gone for a soak, as we were pretty hot after the climb.
The track behind the beach climbed steadily, as we picked our way up as far as a road. Which way to go? There were no signs, so we decided to keep going up, so turned right. This brought us into the hamlet of Lourida. My word! It was like stepping through a window in time – a wormhole, perhaps?! – and we had the distinct impression that nothing much had changed in tens of years. The first person we saw was a young girl, early teens, sitting on the side of the road, with a sheep on a lead. Was it a pet? A couple were near her, ruddy complexions from hours out in the sun, talking. We mumbled a ‘hola’ at them, which they responded to. There were several ‘horreos’ in the village, the tomb-like storage facilities on stilts, and it was very much a farming community. As we passed the half dozen buildings around the bend of the road, a cacophony of barking sounded, as the village dogs chimed with each other, some leaping towards us as we passed. That made me jump, and reach (bravely) for Pete. “They’re on chains, love,” he soothed (as visions of Malta flashed through my mind, a long story, a long walk involving being pursued by a pack of angry dogs, and Pete with a rock in his hand.), as we walked by. Just outside the village was a sign for “Mirador de Monte Facho” – so that was our route. Up, and up, and up! The breeze that we’d had as we walked along the coast disappeared, and the humid air seemed to hang heavy amongst the trees, and the road baking in the noon sun. It made for an ascent that felt very hard work, and we went through at least three ‘nearlies’ before reaching the summit…. One ‘nearly’ was Pete humouring me, and the other two were when we thought we were ‘nearly there’, but the road cruelly bent round and asked another steep section of us. I said that we would surely see America from the top, out west, and Pete said we would probably see the curvature of the earth….. Well, perhaps not.
When we made the summit (marked by aerials) the view was just awesome, with Muxia looking like a model down below. It was well worth the effort, and a real sense of achievement given (1) the climb, and (2) that we had no map! We also knew that the descent would be less taxing (Pete wished for a bike to zoom down on, I didn’t) but a little challenging on the knees. We’d spied what we thought was a road that we might take instead of picking our way around the beach, but this turned out to be a wrong assumption – but it lead us back to the point we’d left the road out of Muxia, in fact, it was the same road (hence the km markers).
Pete bought me a wonderful lunch, taken in the Restaurant O Coral. We have completely ignored the guide book, and had walked past this place a few times – always busy, and looked interesting. There were no tables outside, so we rather chilled in the air conditioning (we were the only tourists inside, the rest were locals, dressed for a Sunday lunch out, us in shorts… Hmmm…). We shared a salad and our favourite octopus, and then Pete had a steak (perfectly cooked, with chips, the first in ages) and I went for monkfish, grilled, with an unmanageable pile of boiled potatoes. A couple of glasses of vino, and a coffee….. Just delightful.
From there we wandered back to Whinchat, I for one was weary (awake reading in the small hours for some reason), and had to have a snooze. Pete spent a long time trying to download the paper (Marina WiFi is very, very slow), and so the afternoon has ebbed and flowed. Supper was modest, given the scale of lunch, a Julia-omlette. The front is piling in, as evidenced by the cirrus giving way to altocumulus, and the pressure no doubt will begin to tumble (1030mb currently). Another conference tomorrow morning as we decide what to do – there’s a lovely looking anchorage in the Ria that I’d really like to go to, but that doesn’t need a south-westerly pounding in.
Nestled on the slopes,
Lourida stares, unblinking.
Tears holes right through us.
My morning began with a longish old walk around Muxia. I’d gone in search of bread (following the suggestions in the Cruising Association’s App), but at 08:20, it was shut. Eh? I walked back towards the supermarket, also shut. Eh? So, I turned about and walked to the other port, where we’d walked past a Panaderia… And? Open! I bought an artsean loaf, which if stood on its end would be half the size of George, and took it back to Whinchat. I had certainly earned my coffee! We were talking about the difference between our experiences in Spain and France. In France, they begin early, boulangeries are open from around 06:30, and markets are fully operational by 08:00. In Spain, it barely manages to lift its head until 09:00, as evident from Muxia, and markets, well, they are setting up about 10:00. Of course this means a shift in time, things are wound up by 13:00 in France, and in Spain it seems to be more like 15:00. I think I’d be more French than Spanish, but in both cases, I wish we had the same proliferation of bread shops, panaderia and boulangeries, where you can go in and buy lovely doughy, artesan breads, which won’t be fit come the end of the day. There are fewer preservatives, less refined materials, so I am able to enjoy bread that I just can’t at home. Hey ho!
I decided that I would avail myself of the laundry facility at the marina, but Marcus (the Marineros) was nowhere to be seen. The bar manager was there, so I asked him, and he explained how it worked. All good. I selected a “super rapido” cycle (15minutes, not quite sure how effective it was, but washing on board is no longer an option given the break in weather), and wandered back to the boat. At the allotted time, I walked back to find the washing machine was dead… and no sign of the bar manager. Hmmmm…. He then appeared from the equipment shed, on the phone, waving some metal tool at me. My washing had frozen just about since I walked away, a power issue, as when it flicked back on, the washing still had 13 minutes to go. I stood and watched it, as the bar manager (need a name!) went back to his work. The power failed, again, but this time he knew how to fix it. He came back and said to me, in English, that the coffee machine would have to “stop” whilst the washing was done!! I didn’t like to tell him that I wanted to dry my clothes too. So, I hung around until the washing bit was finished, then transferred it to the dryer, pumped some more coins in and waved that I’d be back in 45 minutes. “Big problem for us,” he said, “we need to contract more power.” Yes, not ideal, the marina users can either have coffee or do their laundry, but not both! When I returned to collect my dry laundry (“super seco”), it was hot and wet. No water seemed to have been taken out, and the tray was bone dry. It wasn’t worth putting more money in it, so guess what? Whinchat again turned into a Chinese laundry, but with rain in the air and high humidity, it was unlikely that it was going to dry fast. So annoying.
Pete and I had lunch (more bread!) and then decided to go and try and find some WiFi in one of the cafes. It is another difference in Spain. No one seems to care that you can nurse a coffee for an hour whilst you chat to your friend, read the paper or busy yourself with the WiFi. There is no sense that you’re being cheap, or taking up space. Most of the people in the cafe lingered as we did, so that I was able to upload a series of blogs and photos (I will write them outside of the website and then only load them up when we are connected). From there, we walked back out to the headland and across the ‘back’ of Muxia, and out along the Camiño route for a way – as far as Pete’s summer sailing shoes would allow, to the town’s football pitch, right by the coastline, and if the stands were on the other side, you’d have the most amazing view over the ocean! In getting to this point, Pete has spied a hill, and what looks like a path, and therefore we might try that tomorrow – if we stay.
Excitement of the afternoon was the arrival of the Coastguard in an enormous boat – Rodman 101, which has moored where the two crazy French guys were. It looks like they are in for the night. One of the crew took a look at our boat, but did only that. When we went up for a drink at the newly opened marina bar (only customers), he seemed to be inspecting the fishing tackle of an old boy on his little motor boat. Is that what they do? We mean to try and find out what they do and what their powers are.
The rest of the day was lazing around and reading the Saturday Times – just brilliant to indulge in a little of home. The late afternoon drifted into the evening where it was Remoska curry for supper… tried and tested, and the last of the jar, so no curry until Blighty! Some supermarkets stretch to Mexican style products, but curry? Not a chance!
We will assess the weather and see what we feel like doing in the morning. Weather forecasts today suggest that the wilder weather is due to come back on Monday, a south-westerly, which would make the anchorages in the Ria very uncomfortable. That decision can wait until tomorrow.
early morning stroll
men following their bellies
me, searching for bread
Wind, struggling to find any to speak of, maxed at 7knots approaching Ria Camarinas, but really ‘nada’
Seas, westerly swell 1-2m (very rolly)
Just as predicted, the swell triggered by the southerly wind was just about gone when we got up, leaving a glassy, near still surface to the water. It was beautiful, just beautiful. The sun was also up, casting soft light everywhere, and putting colour back into the landscape. We weighed anchor about 09:45, and set off, with the prospect of a day of little winds – but we always live in hope!
There was one other boat, in the same bay, different beach, when we left. We were musing that Cap Finisterre is a place that relatively few must stop off in. The conditions have to be ‘right’, and whilst our first night was perfect, the second wasn’t, and perhaps if we had arrived in the rolling southerly swell, we wouldn’t have stayed. But… I am so glad that we did. It really is beautiful, these great hills around the coastline, the rugged Finisterre itself, and the human interest of the Camiño. Sure, there was a bit of discomfort in the anchorage (and a bit of stress) but that passes, and on a gift of a morning like we’ve had, what’s not to like?
Out of the protection of Cap Finisterre, we were put into the Atlantic swell, from a westerly direction (perhaps just north of westerly), rolling in at 1-2m. Oh, that was hard work over a few hours. Especially, as Pete says, without the wind. If the mostly threatening wind (westerly) had blown, we could have had an amazing beam reach, which would have seen us ploughing through the waves, as it was, the swell was crossing us, making it the ‘tippy-rolly’ and you certainly needed one or two hands on the boat all the time, as every now and then a big lump of water would knock Whinchat, and if you weren’t holding on, you could have be knocked over (and no, we weren’t in any remote danger of being tipped over). The longest leg, about 90 minutes, was just after I’d emptied the holding tanks, and I could have done with less swell, but I recovered and didn’t end up going down a queasy route. In fact, I set off a cloud-spotting session, with these amazing convection clouds – we agreed on hare, and snail, but mouse and dragon took some convincing of the other. The cloud started filling from the south-west, so that rather squashed that distraction.
The route that we’d taken when we came south was off-shore, because we were heading straight for Muros, but going north, Pete had chosen an in-shore route, which was delightful, because we were able to get a better look at what is the most lovely stretch of coastline. It’s so deserted! Pricks of golden sands, and lots of rugged cliffs. It would have still been nicer to sail, but the wind just didn’t arrive. Saving itself for Saturday!
As we approached Ria Camarinas, the wind seemed to land on a direction, and was building slowly. I could see a succession of small white peaks (very small) on the waves running behind us. Not really enough to sail, and with only a couple of miles to run, it was hardly worth it. We’d decided to try out the ‘new’ marina at Muxia. EU funded, with space for 230 boats. When we approached the harbour wall, Pete could only see ONE mast, a French boat on the hammerhead. We had most of the marina to choose from – so Pete went for one in the middle, which turned out to be a shorter pontoon. No worries. We took two attempts at mooring, because the wind that had arrived was a cross-wind, blowing us off, and I couldn’t get onto the pontoon. Back out, and in again. A French bloke came and took the bow, and tied that, and wandered off. It didn’t really help very much at all, but fortunately I’d lassoed the midships, so I could haul us alongside, and then leap off and do my usual dashing about until we were all secure. Pete noticed that we’d moored with electricity supply that didn’t fit – they were super sized plugs, so we were wandering around to another pontoon to see if we needed to move… at that point a bloke on a bike came up, and jabbered at us. “Slowy!”, said Pete, waving his hands downwards, at which point he switched to English, and produced an adaptor for our electricity cable! Result!! Along with the usual requests to bring our papers, he also told us it was the inauguration of the Marina bar tonight! Party at 20:00 (early in Spanish terms, it seems to me). We will see!
The marina itself is shiny new, and reminded us of arriving in Portland Marina, the one we built for the Olympics. We’d arrived in Whinchat (with our friend Tim helping us) and there were miles of empty pontoons. It’s a scaled down version of that. I can’t comment on the facilities of the marina at Portland, as I never left the boat (we moved on early the next morning), but the facilities here are a green shed for the office, portacabins for the loos/showers, and the bar is another shed. The EU money can’t have extended to the facilities. Mind you, there is also a washing machine and dryer – a bit unexpected!
Muxia isn’t as charming as Camarinas (across the water) from first glance, not as busy a place with locals. There are pilgrims here, for some reason another extension from Santiago, but not sure why, and so a few cafes and a couple of hostels add to the ‘usual’ collection of shops. We had a wander when we arrived, ahead of the front that was beginning to dominate the skyline, and out to the church that I’d mentioned before. The church where the fishermen have a festival, making models of their boats to have blessed…. well, the church is covered in scaffolding! Totally prohibited from going near it. I’m quite disappointed because I really was intrigued by it. However, there are great scrambling rocks around the headland, and a spectacular display of crashing waves! Awesome. We stood and watched that for ages.
We climbed the hill next to the town and looked down over the marina (photo is above). It’s so deserted! So, this evening has been a portaloo shower (good, surprisingly) and the party (in the pouring rain), which involved people standing around eating bits off the BBQ (pig products, of course). We think we will be in the local paper as a photographer came to snap the grand opening (no bunting!), so we shall have to google and see what comes up. The wind and rain arrived as forecast, and it was gusting 25knots when Pete came to bed. Not the best sleep, with the wildness of the night – the wind was howling and the rain sounded like small artillery fire on the coach roof. Grounds for a Saturday siesta, methinks.
Blue mountain rises,
About had enough.
winds initially southerly, stiffening (F4-5) going through west and north, fading F2
seas, a bit choppy with the running wind
I had a vague recollection in the night of waking with Whinchat rolling a bit, and thinking to myself it was a passing ship (unlikely really), and therefore not determining to take any notice of it. It was, however, the arrival of the south wind, and an accompanying swell. Whilst standing brushing my teeth, it was some effort to stay still (and upright). “I’m on the wobble board in the gym,” I yelled at Pete – still dozing, not really responding… until he had the same experience. “I see what you meant!” Whinchat was unsettled in the water, with a constant buffeting by the sea underneath her. It wasn’t great, but not horrendous.
When I emerged on deck to peer at the world, we were surrounded by a fleet of small boats, with buoys in the water. Each was attached to a diver (free diver, no tanks) who spent most of the morning diving for shellfish. No idea what kind, but the haul looked reasonable for a few hours work (but rather them than me). Pete reckons they had decent wetsuits on, complete with hood and gloves. At 19degrees, they would have needed it. A couple of guys were ‘fishing’ very close to the boat, so I was very reluctant to move when they were in the water (despite the rolling). Pete had watched a glass-bottomed trip boat mooch along the coast yesterday, so presumably we’d anchored above some reef (not as in coral reef).
With the pitching and rolling, Pete’s forehead had a little furrow in it. He never likes the rolling motion on the anchor, a kind of tugging, and it’s not so comfortable (although I’m surprised at myself at how unfazed I am, I’ve created more fuss in much less). I was glad that we’d gone with the still waters of yesterday and completed the walk, because I wasn’t so convinced that Pete would want to leave Whinchat for a few hours today. I figured that he might be persuaded to take a walk along the beach, and head for coffee. We’d re-checked the weather, and the sting seems to have gone from Saturday (still windy, and a lot of rain forecast, booooo), and the winds today were forecast to come in from the south, and switch and fade through to the north. Neither of us had really calculated for the wind-swell (the Atlantic swell is from the north-west, perfect for this little stop) brought by the south wind. Duh. Pete thought that my idea was a good one, so we unhooked the outboard (makes hauling the dinghy up the beach so much easier, and it was a relatively short distance to the beach, a couple of hundred metres), and set to leave Whinchat. It was bouncy getting into the dinghy, but I’ve developed a technique for doing that, minimising the growing collection of bruises on my shins (involving boat shoes, a good start), and so we cast off, down-wind. Pete wanted to check that we could get back, under oar, which he was comfortable with, and so we drifted ashore.
The beach is beautiful, a long sweep of sand, and enough activity to make it interesting as an observer. The guys diving for one, and the steady stream of pilgrims making their way to the lighthouse. The shore is littered with sea-shells, the most we’ve seen on any beach, and the small girl in me would have tried to collect all of them. Pete picked one out for me, just like the pilgrims have, and I will take that home and place it somewhere special. We crunched our way around, finding shelter from the wind in the western end of the beach, where we had spied the cafe. We were the only ones there, and we weren’t sure it was open, but I was successful in getting two coffees, which we sat outside and drank, watching a steady stream of walkers.
I took a photo of a couple (the lady was trying to do a self-timer on the bins, and said something in English, so I offered), and we ended up chatting to them for a good half hour. They were Australians (out of Sydney) and had spent the last 42 days on the Camiño. They said it was unbelievable, and were happy to give their observations and reflections. They walked from 00:60-12/13:00 each day, and then hung out in the afternoons (when it was hottest) and ate early and were in bed by 22:00. The younger ones walked from 17:00-22:00, and slept late, and took a siesta. They said there were 350 who registered when they started, and 1,000 when they got stamped in Santiago. “Radio Camiño” exists along the way, where information is passed, stories traded. Rather like a yachting community, where suggestions for anchorages, or places to stop are shared, as are the wind conditions. For the pilgrims, it is blisters, injuries and events. They spoke to us of a man who was pulling his wife in a wooden cart, with one story being that he’d been less than faithful, and that for every affair, 10 km he would pull her (he apparently did the whole route), but another said that she was infirm, and it was his ‘gift’ to her. They told us about an Italian man who was with his donkey, and a blind man walking with his guide dog and his wife pushing two small children in a cart. Would you believe than ten minutes later they walked past? They spoke of people walking with dogs, bandaged feet, and people that you’d spend five minutes with, or five hours. There is a camaraderie, and they insisted we do it. Perhaps the most remarkable story was a cellist who carried his cello all the way, complete with film crew making a documentary. Last night “radio caramiño” had broadcast that he would play at Faro Finisterre, and he performed for two hours from 20:00-22:00, amongst pilgrims who had taken their supper to watch as daylight faded. She told us that was one of her highlights. In thirty minutes we had more sense of the emotion of the pilgrimage than we’ve had all trip. Would I like to do it? I’m not sure.
We left them, like we do with most yachties, with calls of “lovely to spend time with you”, as we made our way back to the dinghy. We had our own adventure ahead, as the wind had freshened and the sea was quite choppy. Pete declined my helping with the rowing (“with all due respect, love…”) and so I was to launch us against the waves. Pete had the harder job, and I wasn’t sure that he would have the power to keep plugging through the wind and sea. I didn’t want him to look around – not only would it be dispiriting but we’d also lose ground. He had to keep going, and I think it beat any effort he’s done on the rowing machine at home! It may have been 200m, but he was flat out in a sprint, not a marathon. I was very happy to grab Whinchat and get us on board, and by now she was bucking away. The forecast was for it to fade, so I said there was no point in us moving, so we sat and read and I wrote. About 16:30 Pete was making Whinchat ready to head off to another anchorage, more for a change of scene. The wind had switched, and faded, but the sea was still running in. It made retrieving the anchor a bit bouncy, as I was now on the bow, and moving up and down with every wave. That would not have made for a comfortable sleep in the forepeak.
We motored around the headland, with a couple of places in mind. Fall back was behind the mole at Finisterre if the seas were too rolly. The first choice bay was rolly when we came into it, I think more so than the one we’d left, but there is a second bay, so we thought we’d try that… and it surprised us both when it was less rolly, or seemed to be. We decided to drop the anchor anyway and see. That was a few hours ago, and we’re still here. It is certainly easing, but it’s not the tranquil, still anchorage that we favour. It has grown less since we arrived, and I’m sure it will be fine, with touches of wobble-board about it.
south wind tickles ocean,
waves flutter; we groan.
Winds very light, north-westerly F2, peaking at F3 as we sailed in behind Finisterre
Seas, rolling swell of about 1m.
We were seen off the pontoon at Muros by the younger of the two marineros, with a very hearty goodbye. Of all the places we’ve been, Muros has had the best team. A warm welcome, friendly service, and the fabulous assistance of Ana to get us our permits for the national parks. As someone commented somewhere (a yachtie that we met), ‘you just don’t get this service in the Solent!’ We were not expecting much wind, and had the prospect of a motor on our journey north along the Costa de Morte; yes we’re back with the Coast of Death. The calm conditions meant that the Skipper was happy to take an inside route, so we chugged along the coastline a couple of miles out, moving in between the coast and off-shore islands. The wind may have not been around, but neither was the sun. It seems we’ve seen the last of it for a while. The influence of the Azores high has receded, and whilst the pressure is still high (around 1020mb), the maritime effect is giving us cloud. Boo! Already I miss the sun – and the shades of sapphire, azure and turquoise of the sea that it conjures up. The light is flat, and so flattens the colours, so that the coastline fades up and down the spectrum of greys, the same with the sea, so that it’s like looking out in monotone. Occasionally there are bright strips of white, sandy beaches worn by the constant pounding of the ocean.
The one advantage of light winds, and the glassy seas that somehow glow. It makes for easier spotting of you-know-what (ever hopeful every time we set sail that today will be THE day). Off the port bow, about 300m out, I spied a fin. “DOOOLLLLLPPPPPHHHHHHIIIIIIINNNNNN!”, the usual response. Pete slowed up the engine, and we both kept a look out. “It’s too big for a dolphin”, says Pete. “WHALE?!” With one enormous leap, the creature seemed to take a big breath, showing it’s entire length, and disappeared. Just as I went to fetch the camera. I scoured and scoured the seascape, and Pete spotted him, way of the starboard beam of the boat heading to San Francisco Bay. That was that. And we think it was just a very large dolphin.
I love this coastline, it is dramatic and relatively unpopulated. It’s pretty hostile, or you can imagine it being so, but perhaps there’s a clue in the title, as the saying goes. When we travelled south, a month or so ago now, there were few sailing boats around us, but in the short passage today, we saw about a dozen, so the season is certainly picking up. We had passed Cap Finisterre offshore when we came south, hoping that the conditions would mean that we could linger on our way north. We’d stayed in Muros long enough to let some windy weather pass through, to give what we hoped would be a couple of nights inside Finisterre. We’ve long passed the Rias with islands at their mouths giving protection from the swell, but in Finisterre, it is open to the south. People we’d talked to in Muros had tried to come in here, but the south-westerly swell made it uncomfortable, so they’d moved on. The forecasts told us that the swell had moved north-westerly, which Cap Finisterre would offer superb protection from. There was enough swell as we motored up that you needed a hand on the boat to help steady you, and for little boats to bob up and down, but under the protection offered by the headland, the seas flattened out… and a little more wind arrived, so for the last 40 minutes of our passage, we sailed into the bay, fairly close hauled, but the wind was bending around and so Pete reluctantly gave in, as we motored towards a very beautiful long swooping sandy bay. There was a group of people in the middle of the bay, and pilgrims making the last of their passage towards the lighthouse at Finisterre. As we prepared to anchor, we could make out that it was police, onlookers, and then the awful realisation that a body was being recovered from under a large white sheet and placed in a body bag. Costa de Morte, indeed. We’ve been thinking about this a lot – there is no crime scene, and the people left when the body was taken off the beach. Who knows what it was, and we’re not mawkish enough to search for a local paper (a reflection perhaps because where I am in the book I’m reading, Goldfinch), but it was a bit unsettling.
We dropped anchor, and everything set OK, so I suggested that we go ashore and walk to the lighthouse – Pete had thought we might do that tomorrow, but I thought we should take advantage of the calm conditions, because you never know what errors are in forecasts, and we had plenty of daylight left to make the trip. Walking along the headland to the lighthouse was something I said I wanted to do when we came south – after such a beautiful walk at Caraminas to Faro Villan – so it was silly to be so close, and risk not being able to achieve it. The beach is someway (rowing terms) from the little harbour at Finisterre, so we put the outboard on it and zoomed across the bay, picking our way through the fishing boats moored behind the long mole. We spied a set of steps that we could tie up to, and then wandered ashore. Another town where we had no map, but we followed our noses out of the town, eventually picking up the road to the lighthouse. We knew we were right when we saw weary pilgrims making their way to the final destination, another 100km from Santiago. The walk took about an hour from the village, and wasn’t the most attractive, walking along the edge of the road, but it was a satisfying stretch.
Cap Finisterre itself wasn’t all that. It belongs to the pilgrims, and as a visitor, it was another example of tat-central. As Pete says, it’s like Lands End, where milking the tourists has become the enterprise. There were many walkers who were celebrating the end of 900km of walking, and one cyclist who’d passed us, a gold-helmeted chap, with different flags flying from a pole behind him presumably marking the countries he’d come from, with Italy being the furthest by the look of it (via Austria and Switzerland). We chuckled at a couple of dogs, beagles, completely conked out next to their owners, who were buzzing. Beyond the lighthouse, the cliff descends, and this has become the place for the pilgrims to take their photographs and to ‘leave something behind’… or at least, that was the tradition, and there are a collection of boots, flags, scarves. It seems it is more the tradition to burn your something, so there are blackened rocks, charred remains, and an unpleasant air of burning plastic. We’d expected to stop and have a drink at the advertised bar, but we decided we’d leave the pilgrims and the tour bus to it, and headed off back down the hill to the village. Here we sat and took a beer, listening to the chatter of the pilgrims around us, watching a gazillion seagulls mobbing something in the harbour.
I have to say it was lovely to head back across the bay to the solitude of Whinchat. One other boat about 200m away and a handful of people on the beach. Supper on board was a spanish-style stew, with chicken, chorizo and chickpeas, all cooked up in the Remoska. Pete abstained from a glass of Rioja, but I had one after opening the bottle to put a good slug in the stew. With the conditions set to be fairly gentle overnight, we were expecting quiet night, which is exactly what Whinchat delivered.
Today’s haiku (with a nod to Finding Nemo):
a tumble of gulls,
all wings, in an airborne scrap
cries of ‘mine, mine, mine’
The Night of Fires wasn’t dampened by the rain. The festival of St Juan attracted an entirely different part of Muros’s population. None of the generation shuffling along in the street to the sound of a brass band. The towering inferno was created by a group of the town’s ‘youf’. We were in bed before they lit the bonfire, but we heard the music that thumped out of the sound system, all night. It eventually was turned down at about 08:30 (in the morning, this morning, for the avoidance of doubt), and some were still bouncing around, the bonfire a pile of ashes. They had a trailer filled with ice and spiked with beers, when emptied would presumably mark the end of the party. I said to the Marineros, if that was in the UK, the police would have shut it down, but he just shrugged. It was what it was. Pete had the worse night because of it (I never travel without ear plugs), but I managed to sleep through it.
Our alarm call was the earliest in a while – 07:15 (!) – because we had a bus to catch (at 09:30) and neither of us were convinced we’d be able to accelerate into the morning! As it was, we were ahead of ourselves, to arrive at the bus stop a bit early. That wasn’t necessary, as the bus wasn’t early, and when it arrived, it was full! WHAT? I went to climb on the bus, but the driver wagged his finger at me, shaking his head. He held up his index finger – one person only. I looked at Pete, and looked back at the driver, who was circling his hands. I took this to mean that another would be along, but we weren’t convinced – was I just being optimistic. We decided to go back to the Tourist Information hut and see if we could glean any more information. Pete suggested going for a coffee and waiting there for the next one due (10:15), but I wasn’t convinced about that (no loos on the bus). So just as we were sighing a lot, I saw one come around the corner, which meant we had to leg it back to the bus stop. Fortunately he stopped, and it was going to Santiago, and there was hardly anyone on it? Go figure! (actually, we do have a theory, which is linked to the pilgrims, more later). The journey from there was uneventful, and took about an hour, and we seemed to be on the ‘direct’ bus. The bus dropped us at the bus station (none of repeating the same mistake as Pontevedra even if it did try and drop us at anywhere else in the city), which then left us with a problem of where to walk towards. There were no maps, no obvious information point, but fortunately Pete had spied a road sign to the centre, the old centre, so we walked out of the bus station and towards this sign. Like most towns, the bus station never is in the most salubrious part of town, so initial impressions? Not so charming – but push those thoughts aside.
We picked up signs for the cultural centre, and ended up following brass shell shapes on the pavement. This scallop shell, it turns out, is one of the symbols of the pilgrimage (along with an empty gourd, for water, and a wooden staff), and we were walking into the city on the ‘official’ route. Evident not only because of the brass shells, but the walk-weary people we trailed, and then picked off. Our legs were much fresher than most, it has to be said. Many were limping – quite wince-making to see. By now Pete had orientated us to the small map in the guidebook, and had an idea of where we were, and where we needed to head towards. The cathedral!
We approached it from behind, through a series of lovely old lanes, for the most part quite quiet, until we reached the heart of the city, where it felt incredibly busy. Lots of ‘tat’ shops and lots of tourists. It is by far and away the busiest place we’ve been to on this trip. There is an enormous square in front of the cathedral, which saw groups of walkers, modern day pilgrims, gathered. Some were smiling, some laughing, but some looked mighty relieved to have made it. Whilst the square is impressive, sadly the cathedral was half covered in scaffolding, taking away some of the drama of the sight. Pete asked if you’d pilgrimed for 100km, would you be disappointed? I wasn’t sure – as I suspect it’s more the achievement of the task, rather than looking at an amazing sight. The early pilgrims did it for St James, who is reputed to be entombed there, but how many are truly religious, I’m not sure. Is it a bit like doing The South Downs Way, or Lands End to John O’Groats? It’s a challenge. I hadn’t appreciated that Chaucer’s Wife of Bath was on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago (and it was my O’level text!!!), nor that St Francis of Assisi had made the long walk from Assisi. We went into a beautiful building (old convent, I think) and saw an exhibition that we couldn’t understand about it.
We went in search of a better map, hoping for something like we enjoyed in Pontevedra, a walking tour of the city, but this wasn’t to be. We stopped for coffee whilst we tried to work out what we might do. It seems to involve the potential for mooching, and also a lot of religious art (museums) or Cathedral museums (four different parts, according to the ticketing system). We weren’t sure that was really what we were up for, so we headed back to have a look at the Cathedral. It was now past 12:00, and there was a special mass going on for the pilgrims. You couldn’t get in the front entrance, but I’d seen a back door, so we went in search of that. You could get in, but not get very far because it was wedged with people attending mass – and those who weren’t attending mass were watching those attending (it was quite odd). Pete and I didn’t feel very comfortable, so we snuck out, wandering around the streets around the cathedral. Pete noticed an photographic exhibition in a building near the cathedral (no idea which one), so we went in. It was super. The concept was in taking an old photo, and interpreting it, and creating a new photograph, inspired by the original. There must have been 30-40 images, each with a thumbnail of the original – and then some explanation of the new interpretation… in Spanish! However, the inclusion of the thumbnail, and a little imagination worked for us.
We’d seen everybody pour out of the cathedral when mass was over, so we walked in against the flow of people. It’s a massive space and the alter area is incredibly opulent – shades of the Vatican, dripping in gold. Impressive, at one level, but still rather uncomfortable.
We now had the ritual dilemma about lunch. Did we go with the guidebook, or the trusty formula? The trouble with Santiago is, that around the cathedral, it’s a complete tourist trap, and we’ve been spoiled by more authentic places, and both of us wanted more of the latter… so guide book it had to be. The first one we selected was shut (!!), the second was empty, so we searched for the third choice, near the police station. It looked busy and interesting (the criteria) but it was a poor choice. It was like eating canteen food – we both had the “menu”, me a crab salad (with crab sticks!) and then grilled salmon (fried, tasteless, with awful potatoes). Pete had squid (good) and then pork shoulder (actually thick slices of pink ham). The waiter was harried, no smiles, no time to do much. The coffee was on the cool side, but strong. A lady behind us had opted for the desert, and was given a 0% Activa yoghurt! Total canteen experience, and really, well disappointing. We had to have an ice-cream later to recover (!).
As we were near a park, Pete suggested that we walk to a viewpoint. Leaving the throng of the city was a great suggestion. We didn’t wander for long, but it was like we’d stepped through the green lungs of the city (pinched from the guidebook describing Pontevedra’s park). Gone were the tourists, but a few locals with their dogs. We passed by a derelict church in the centre of the park, which lay shrouded in leafy branches. Graffiti was thick on its doors, plants were growing from the stones along the roof, and the windows had been target practice for someone, as the glass had signs of stones being thrown. It was sad to see, on another hill, looking towards the much fussed-over cathedral. Same religion; different treatment.
We found our way to the main mirador of the old city. Not in our guidebook, but it should be. It’s a great view. It reminded me of a viewpoint we stumbled across of Carcassonne, and there are parallels – not just in that you have a wonderful panorama. There is something of a caricature that Carcassonne has, and something I feel about Santiago. The tourists, the likes of me (granted) who want to visit these places, turn it into a bigger version of itself, and the ‘tat’ that comes with mass-tourism is a turn-off. It stops places being those that you’ve experienced, travelled through, and somehow become part of a tick and click collection.
We’d talked about leaving Whinchat for a couple of days and spending time there; I’m happy that we didn’t, deciding to take the bus back to Muros. And here’s the theory. It’s become popular to extend the walk from Santiago to Finisterre, the almost-western point of Spain, so for some Santiago is a stopping point on their challenge. The bus that didn’t stop for us in Muros came from Finisterre, and we think that it was full of walkers heading back to Santiago to connect with flights. On the bus back to Muros, there was hardly anyone on it.
After our longish day out, it was super to come back to the relative quiet of Muros, and kick back with a book. We weren’t really sure what we wanted for supper, sort of not much, but at the same time something more satisfying than lunch! Step forward the chef – a Julia-omlette, thick with onion, courgette, jamon and cheese. It was quite Spanish in shape, and a wonderfully sunny yellow. High on the satisfaction stakes with a crisp salad.
Santiago had been a good excursion, always feels good to go on local transport, and whilst we found it overwhelmingly touristy, we imagined that early morning, or into the evening, it could take on a different charm and reveal the best of itself. A bit like coming to our Cornwall out of season.
abandoned church lies,
damaged and desecrated,
words the open wounds.
It wasn’t a great night – the dinghy is on the coach roof, which made it incredibly hot in the forepeak cabin. I nearly gave up and favoured the saloon, but I reached for a scarf as a bed cover instead, trying to drink the air that was coming through the hatch. When the alarm went off, I could have stayed asleep longer, but the prospect of a lovely shower was enough to prize me from my bunk… with an additional couple of bites. I cannot bear these little creatures – so small, and cause me so much discomfort. After breakfast we went to the Pharmacy to buy some more antihistamine, with my using more Spanish than English (better than last time), and we have some more of the magic pills that stop the worst of the swelling and itching, and some more bite cream (the last lot wasn’t half as good as anthisan!). Anyway. From there it was to provision, at a moderate Gadis, enough to keep us going for a few days – whatever we decide to do!
We’re both feeling a bit homesick; not really bad, but just a bit gloomy. I’m not sure why, but we’ve been away for more than a month now, and we’ve missed some glorious Cornish weather, and we miss regular contact with our family and friends. We’re half worried that we’ve missed summer! I’m sure it’s partly a bit of cabin fever. Living in a small space is challenging at times; you can never really spread out, and the small space leads to a sense of ‘ground hog day’, where our world just seems to shrink. I think it’s worse in the marinas, because the views don’t change as they do at anchor. Here, I look up and see another pontoon behind me. The tide is low, and therefore we’re much lower than the town, so Muros seems to be above our heads. At anchor, you tend to swing around a little, as the breeze takes you, or the tide, or both, so that the view is constantly shifting about – this can make it frustrating when you have a pair of bins that you’re trying to train on something, but it’s a delight too, because the ‘picture’ is constantly varying.
Armed with updated weather forecasts, we had a conference on board. We talked to a British couple (on a boat called Pistachio 3, we think) who’d come into Muros last night having rejected the Ria Concorbion (Finisterre) due to horrible swell running in. It’s all anchorages in there. With this in mind, we not only have to assess the wind, but the swell forecasts, because even a metre of swell will set Whinchat off. As Pete says, she rolls like a pig! Whatever that means! Anyway, the wind is due to blow harder tomorrow, from the north, so it would be an unpleasant beat for the 20NM to Finisterre. The swell is also due to come round to the west/north-west, which would be perfect. So, the plan is stay here for another two nights, and hopefully head north on Wednesday.
There is another festival in Muros at the moment, the festival of San Juan (big in Galicia) and we think it is the night of fires tonight (good old google), where there will either be bonfires or fireworks (this has been corroborated by Pete, who spoke with Pedro, who said not to expect to sleep tonight!). Perhaps we will see something of this.
We’ve taken advantage of the extra day and I’ve done some more laundry! Oh, the excitement. It’s dried in the warm sun in no time – just as well, as there are clouds building on the other side of the Ria. I’ve been watching them darken, and a great darkening cloud building – cumulonimbus will likely mean a thunder storm.
Pete has been getting stir crazy, so suggested a walk to the church, which I was happy to. However, I don’t think he really meant only this, and wanted to walk on. I didn’t! So, he’s gone somewhere, and I’ve come back to Whinchat, as the skies darken. I hope he’s right and that he doesn’t come back soaked – my expectation is that the heavens will open.
The marina has become busy this afternoon – Pedro says it’s because of the weather, it always brings people in. Pete’s missed a couple more French boats arriving (why do they arrive with no warps tied, only a couple of fenders out?), a German boat nearly mount the Spanish boat on the other side of the finger pontoon to us, and then a visit by Customs. I showed them the papers of when they came three weeks ago, and they were happy with that. One of the guys was the same, but he didn’t remember us, not that I expected them to. Once again, they were very friendly and polite.
Pete came back, dry, and since he returned, we’ve had a couple of hours of torrential rain, and squally winds as the thunder storm has passed around the bay. It seems that we’ve had the last of it, as it goes, grumbling into the distance. The poor people trying to light bonfires (there were six going earlier, but I think the storm has probably ruined them, clearly Thor is no fan of San Juan!).
We have a cauldron of bolognese sauce bubbling in the Remoska, so tonight it will be pasta for a change. I’ve ‘had’ to open a bottle of Ribera del Duero to slug into it (a goodly slug as Pete observed, but I soaked the mince first in the first slug), so it would be rude not to finish it…. well, in this heat, it just won’t keep. ¡Salud! as you’d say in Spanish.
angry cloud towers
flashes, bangs, rumbles around
sun peers, smiles again.
Winds southerly F1 becoming F3-4 by the time we’d crossed the bay
Seas, glassy, but with a westerly swell of about 1m as we crossed the bay
We had a very still night at anchor, and woke to an incredibly still morning. What a contrast the wind we’d arrived in! However, the still air meant that somehow a mosquito got through the screens, and I was munched in the night. I wish they didn’t like me so much. I’m getting low on antihistamine, so that will be another funny conversation at some point in a pharmacy. We had breakfast, and decided that we’d head for Muros today. We think we must be getting slower, because despite being up at 08:00, we didn’t manage to weigh anchor until 11:00. Where does the time go?
We weren’t expecting to be greeted by much wind, so we planned to motor across to Muros. Pete had the engine on tick over speed, so that he could “catch lunch” (!). He was trailing his fishing line, with Simon’s tuna lure. We were doing about 2knots, which apparently is perfect mackerel catching speed, but Pete reckoned the lure would be too big for mackerel. We didn’t think that there would be tuna in the bay, and Pete said if he’d caught one, the line would be too weak and it would snap anyway! So, rather unsurprisingly, Pete’s fishing was unsuccessful! We both said we weren’t exactly sure what we’d do if we caught anything. My sister still has the record for a catch on board Whinchat – a single mackerel, which we threw back to sea.
The wind built steadily, and by the time we’d reached Muros, it was blowing around 15knots… just in time for our first mooring in over a week! It’s great coming back to somewhere you are familiar with because some of the anxieties are less – we knew exactly where to go once inside the shelter of the wall, and even which pontoon to head for. There were fewer boats in than when we’d been before, so we rigged for a port-side berth. The marineros was there to take our lines, which was good as it was blowing us off the pontoon. He took the bow and made it into a spring, so I then lassoed the mid-ships onto the rear cleat. All good. I then took the stern line to the cleat, but somehow (being tidy in my mind, I think), undid the rear spring, to secure the stern line. The marineros had moved the bow, so that we had no rear springs. Oops. My fault, so Pete was in astern to keep us from running into the pontoon. All done, as a quick yelp from the Skipper saw me correct things, with the help of the marineros. They are so friendly here, I think it might be my favourite marina of the trip (and I love the ladies showers…). It was only when we’d tied up that I noticed the sound – a brass band. We hadn’t been here before, so figured that Sunday must be band practice day, because the same tune was being played.
Pete went to complete the paperwork, as I went in search of bread. I took a spectacular fail on that, because I got a bit distracted by the sight of women (mostly), making carpets of flowers. I’ve only ever seen it in Brussels, in the main square (and well-dressing in Derbyshire, sort of similar). The old streets in Muros are narrow, and run around the back of the main ‘drag’ along the harbour. I’d got myself on one side of a long ‘carpet’ and didn’t dare leap over it to get to where I thought I wanted to be, so I abandoned it and went back to the boat to tell Pete about it. Muros also felt really buzzing (perhaps it is too much time alone at anchor!), but the cafes were filling up, and there was just a lovely vibe in the town. and I rather wanted to feel a part of it.
Pete hadn’t found the marineros to register us, so we sought him out, for the formalities, but also so that I could try and find out what the flowers were for. It’s in celebration of Corpus Christi, and there were a series of masses today, which would end with a procession in the evening, from the ‘newer’ church to the ‘old’ church (near the harbour), via these old streets. We both went into the town. I’d suggested that we maybe have lunch ashore. Of course, the first street that Pete turned us down, we found bread (not that great a bread though), but also where a group of women were guarding their flower creations, so we turned and wandered along these carpets of flowers. It must easily be a km in length – from the bit that I’d found near the start, winding through the streets, until it emerged at the old church. I took a great number of photos, but the WiFi here is slow, and so, I can only upload a couple of pictures. They give a good impression.
I thought at first they were making the outlines with coffee – but it’s probably a very fine soil. The regularity of the patterns is incredible, but this is achieved by a stencil, with chalk, which is then outlined with the brown soil/coffee (all using fingers to trace). They then put the leaves down – pine leaves, so the smell is amazing – and finally the flowers. Lots of hydrangea, and then different petals for different colours. Roses, and I’m not sure what they used for the yellow. Perhaps sunflower petals as they were so bright. The overall effect was just beautiful. Thankfully it wasn’t windy in the little streets, otherwise the effect would have been ruined. They are sprayed, presumably with water on completion, which must holds the formations together and keeps them fresh. Not that they have to last long, by the end of the procession, they will have been trampled on and kicked about.
We adopted a busy looking bar, with tables laid out under a big awning, as our lunch stop. Dusting off a few words in Spanish (not much call for it on an anchor with the two of us), I asked if the waiter had a menu. “Si,” came the very affirmative reply. We joked that we’d either get a wine list, a map or, hopefully, a menu. The latter came, and I ordered (too much, again), but calamares, ensalada, sardinas and tortilla. We were surrounded by Spanish, some who’d come to meet for a drink, before carrying on with their Sunday. A family with a small baby stopped by for some lunch. It was just nice to feel part of it, whatever ‘it’ was.
As the day went on, other boats arrived. I did a load of laundry, and it dried on the boat in no time at all in the hot sun. Pedro, the marineros who’d kissed me goodbye last time, was on shift in the afternoon. He was going to ‘throw in’ the drying, but I chided him that the sun could do it and it would be better for the environment. I’m not sure he really followed!
We were going to go and watch the procession in the evening, which was departing from the newer church at 19:45. We were watching the sky darkening, and I thought there was going to be an almighty thunderstorm on top of them, but it just poured with rain. It didn’t deter them, as we could hear the band leading the march. We could see the rain blowing in from the hills around Muros, and just about as soon as the procession was underway, the heavens truly opened. We lost the sound of the band. Shortly after was the most incredible “BANG”, Pete was laughing on deck (cowering under the cover of the spray hood), and teasing me that it was thunder. But no, it was a series of explosives being launched. Like fireworks without the sparkles. There were two sorts, one that let off a series of pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, and then another that just went ‘BOOM’. This one was excellent at scaring the seagulls, and sent sound waves echoing around the hills. These cracks of sound seemed to be let off with great frequency (every couple of minutes), and lasted throughout the procession. We weren’t sure what it had to do with Corpus Christi, but it added an unexpected dimension to the evening! The rain had passed, so Pete went up onto the quay to look, and could see the procession slowly making its way along the harbour. I then realised I could watch it through the bins, so picked up the sight of a rather bedraggled looking bunch of people making their way so slowly towards the other church. The bangs and cracks from the explosives sounding off all the time. They were greeted at the steps of the old church by a priest, who was waving his arms about. When that was done, the whole procession turned along the back streets, walking over the carpets of flowers, towards the newer church. In terms of a spectacle, the flowers and the ‘fireworks’ stole the show. It wasn’t the turn-out by the town that I’d expected, and the procession was not massive, perhaps 50 people, plus a brass band. The marineros had told us earlier that he had no time for religion, so perhaps that is more true than not for the people of Muros.
Supper was jamon, cheese, salad and some bread in view of the feast at lunch time. We discovered a mosquito in the boat over the evening, which is annoying. I went to bed with bug spray on, horrible stuff, in an attempt to dissuade the little critter from taking any more of my blood overnight (it wasn’t successful).
Our plan is to continue to head north, and now, of course, the wind has turned north! North is great for the shelter of the anchorages in Finisterre, but not for the direction. We’ve decided not to decide to day what happens next, but update ourselves on the forecast tomorrow and then decide.
folk trample floral carpets –
for the love of God.
Winds: Unscheduled! From nada to southerly F5 gusting 7!
Seas were smooth and then moderate, a rolling, peaky sea with the wind, with no discernable underlying swell.
It was all great excitement aboard Whinchat before we even hauled anchor this morning. We were having breakfast, and I was vaguely aware of a mechanical noise somewhere, like a grinding noise. However, it grew closer. “What is that?” I said, so Pete went to have a look, and back came this half-laugh, half ‘OMG’. It was a local working boat, laying buoys across the bay! Buoys to keep the likes of us out of the way of the swimmers, and people using the beach. “Should we move?” I asked, a bit wary of the Spanish busy working away, VERY close. “Na,” says Pete, with a confidence that I didn’t have. He reckoned they knew where we were, and would tell us to move if it were a problem. Of course we were fine where we were, but they came so close. It was fun watching them, all shouting at each other, over the noise of their engine, dropping these massive yellow buoys.
We hauled anchor, about 10:00, with a lot of seaweed to pick off the anchor chain – not the long, rubbery helpful kind, but green, stringy, sticky – a bit snotty to be honest! Pete had the mainsail up just as soon as we were outside the viveros. There was a sniff of wind, which I wasn’t holding out much hope for. It was trying to be northerly (not as the last forecast we had), and not trying very hard. It was incredibly frustrating on the helm. With a green channel marker on one side, and an island to miss further downstream, the course was a bit exact. We gybed one way, but then couldn’t make a course back. Pete’s idea of gybing down was given up when the wind faded to a couple of knots. It was going to take us nearly three hours to make the two miles to the first waypoint. For me, it was a relief to have the engine on, even if it’s noisy. We had about 10 miles to the mouth of the Ria, where we were going to take the ‘inside’ route. Now, when we first approached from the north, we took a very prudent route around the islands and hazards. Well, despite not having good enough charts, we chose this route to leave Ria Arousa. The prudent sailors have very good passage notes from the pilot book, and Pete has a better set of e-charts on the iPad, and the conditions were due to be soooooo benign. I was supervising Doris as we made for the navigation, and as we hit ‘crunch’ point, through Paso del Carreiro between the mainland and Illa Vionta, before making a sharp turn to port (left) through Canal del Norte. The wind was building, and was now coming from the south – the direction forecast. Although not a F3-4. We like this wind strength, so we’re not complaining! The last of the hazards done, and a big ‘whoo-hooo’ from the crew, and it was now time for sailing.
We deployed the Yankee, with Doris on the helm, steering to the waypoints. The wind was building all the time, and we were on a broad reach. We weren’t sure what the wind was going to do (as this was well beyond our expectations) so Pete rigged a gybe preventer = just in case. Doris was doing well, but she can wobble. Pete went down below to liberate the holding tanks, as I stood, wrapped around the backstay, supervising Doris. The wind was really building, over the 20knot threshold, so the running backstays were deployed. This secures the mast, which can ‘twang’ at the top in high winds, so the backstay adds a degree of stability, and safety. We were making a course in an almost northerly direction, but we had to alter course around Cabo Corrubedo (the southern headland at the entrance of Ria Muros). Pete de-rigged the gybe-preventer, and allowed Doris to turn the course, only she was going to do accidental gybe all over the place (this is very bad in significant winds, because the uncontrolled slamming of the boom puts considerable strain on the mast, risking, well, all sorts). So Doris was stood down as Pete took the helm. Unfortunately for him, his bladder capacity had reached full, so I got to take over. By now we were back on a broad reach, having abandoned the plotted waypoints, to avoid another inner passage. It would have meant short-gybing in a small space in 20-25knots (gusting higher), so I took Whinchat out to sea for a mile or so. It was like she’d been released from being cooped up! She was off! We were flying at 8knots, the sea behind her, making nothing of it. We needed to gybe back in, which is a bit of a pfaff with the running back stays to deal with, but on starboard, heading around the headland, with the waves running behind us. She almost put her sunnies on, as we surfed down the waves. Not much really, (and nothing to rival Carter’s 14.5knots) but heading towards 9knots is exhilarating… and hard work. Fortunately we were heading landward, so I had a reference point on land to work with. Merely a lump in a hill, but enough to focus on the course (0 XTE at the waypoint). We had a rocky shore to one side, and a rocky outcrop to port. I was braced against the wheel, legs wide, passing the wheel through my hands to make the most of the down, the ride down the waves, picking up with the wind as you bottom out. It is awesome. I never thought I’d see that, fully canvassed, with a fairly constant 25knots behind me. Another course change around a headland, and I was worried that the wind might die in the Ria, so I handed the helm over. Did it die? No, it built. Did I get the helm back? No! Well, perhaps just as we were about to anchor, as the skipper needed to pee. What did I get? Another two gybes to handle – so much string with the addition of the running back stays. What with the helming, my arms are feeling a bit leaden right now.
The winds, if possible, had built even more, and we were consistently above 20knots, with gusts heading north of 30knots. All the sails out, a running sea behind us, which was building. Whinchat loves it. She just seems to dig her shoulder in, and go. I decided that I’d try and capture what it was like, and it’s so tricky to give a moment in ‘moderate’ seas, but here’s a photo to try and convey it…
Our destination today? An anchorage! We had anchored in the bay before in Muros, so we knew the landscape, but what would it be like in these conditions? Both of us were keen not to repeat the “Illa Ons” experience, but you never know until you have a look. By now, I was back on the helm, and we were preparing to stop, however, with the course around the headland, we were now heading to windward – well, almost. Pete was furling in the Yankee, and we were still steaming too fast to the beach (for my liking). “I can’t slow her down”, I yelled, a sense of panic rising (along with not thinking). “Well stop” says Pete. Blank look, edged with panic. “Turn to the wind…”
So obvious! I steered her into the wind, as the seven knots of speed slowed. Lots of flapping of sails and warps, but no speed. All good. I put Pete back on the helm (his responsibility as skipper, I think, to work out the details of stopping), and we lowered the mainsail, and edged in to the anchorage. It is a truly beautiful spot, but with 20-25 knots heading off the beach… We decided that we’d drop the hook and have some lunch… and check the weather forecasts.
Weather forecasting these days is supposed to be as accurate for the next five days or so as it used to be for a day. I know it is only ever modelling, but it’s incredible how things change. Two days ago we were due to have NO wind for a week, that’s how out of date we were. When we got here, we downloaded the latest. Slight change of plan, and a spike in wind today (and then some more mid-week by the look of it), although not as strong as forecast. I’d checked the barometer, and we’ve had a 3mb drop since this morning – now that’s why there’s wind. All we needed to know was what it was due to do this evening.
The anchor bit very well, and lunch turned into a siesta for Pete, and reading of books, watching the world go by. Let me be clear, no one has passed us! There is a French boat in, and the beaches were deserted when we arrived. I’ve watched the sea rolling in, the wind farms whirring and the clouds bump along. We have not seen much in the way of ‘life’ today.
The wind has slowly ebbed, the underlying speed dropping, with occasional gusts – like it had woken from a nap with a start. The sea has continued to roll in across the bay, but we are secure here. We’ve consulted the weather charts, and with no shift in direction, we’ve decided to stay. Of course, then we had a horrible rolling motion for a while (across the boat, so tippy/tilty), but that has died down.
Supper tonight was Pobra market steaks, flash cooked on the griddle, and a little blue cheese melted on top, with roasted cauliflower/potatoes and a crisp salad. Lovely. We’ve been joined by another boat at anchor, so we’re thinking this will be a good place to stay. Perhaps not as settled as last night, but good enough.
Today’s haiku – no tanku!:
Cloud gorged on moist air,
soars high over sun-baked hill,
Rabbit, dragon, maybe horse?
Don’t be silly – only rain.