Combarro to Biona (Bayona)

Wednesday 4th June 2014

Winds, well, easterly F2, fading to nothing, and then trying hard to blow north-westerly, F2-3
Swell, 1-2m out of the shelter of the islands, but smooth.

27NM (666NM)

Well, contrary to the blog reports from Combarro – we have departed, so the last thing that I write should be that the weather is going to be vile, and that we might not cast off! This seems to have sent the weather gods the other way, because there was more blue than white/grey scuttling across the hatch on Whinchat’s coach roof. Things were looking promising, and we were able to motivate ourselves to shower and prepare to set sail within about an hour and half – quick! Pete had woken a bit anxious about performing a ‘stern-to’ mooring in Whinchat, so after we’d cast our lines, I retied to practice on the outside of the long pontoon. I thought it went reasonably well; Pete successfully steered us backwards, and I managed to lasso the cleat. You can’t ask for more than that!

Our destination was Baiona, potentially the furthest south that we will go this trip, with its ritzy sounding yacht club. Our course would take us back out of Ria Pontrvedra, before turning out to avoid rocks and hazards, and then back in, via islands in the National Marine Park (Illas Cies, Illa de San Martino), before heading out to sea a bit to navigate the headland (and obstacles) around the bay. It was not going to be a straight line, and we rather hoped that the wind would behave. It was forecast to be NW2-3, which would have been fine, but it never really appeared until we were nearly in port.

As we left Combarro, there was rain building in the hills behind us, and we wondered whether we would need to deploy the foulies from the wet locker. We didn’t risk it – and we didn’t need them all day! My weather theory for the day was that was born out of the fact that we had wind in the morning, when we were under the clouds, in fact, initially, we had about 10knots, building, and then vanishing. It seemed that we had the wind (albeit from the wrong direction, easterly) whilst we were under the cloud, but as we accelerated towards the blue skies, and we spat out from under the clouds, the wind died. What do you wish for? Warm sunshine, or winds and clouds? Pete was definitely for the latter, and I think that I was too. It was a frustrating day in terms of sailing, because we never really got going, and then it joined us as it was time to turn towards port.

Pete’s course took us across the TSS (Traffic Separation Systems) in both entrances to the Ria de Vigo, and very close to the islands of the Atlantic Islands National Park. We have the permissions to pass through the park, and when the weather settles, we hope to anchor there (more permissions to gain first). What a tantalising thought to be there! We passed a Dutch boat, off one of the anchorages, and they’d just launched in their dinghy and were going ashore. This was Illas Cies, where you can anchor and land (its neighbour, Illa de San Martino, you can anchor but not land.). A beautiful arch of brilliant white sand, sloping gently to the sea, to show a ring of azure. It looked idyllic; shame it would be only 15degrees. We will have to wait til Thailand before heading into the water (unless I buy a wetsuit this summer and try near home.), as it would be way too cold! On this island, there is a campsite, and various trails. I’m not sure that it’s that big, but it will be in darkness come night fall, and it would be amazing to have a weather break to explore… we’d have to live without WiFi, but that’d be worth it, I think.

Anyway, we motored past there, taking in the its beauty – it really is the most spectacular piece of coastline (strictly not coastline, I guess) that we’ve passed. From here we had to cross out of the shelter of the islands and into the swell. I hadn’t missed that! A rolling 1-2m was coming in, and without the wind to drive us through, it’s not great. Pete had grown sick of the mainsail flapping about earlier, so we’d taken that down, so we were bare poles motoring. However, out of the lee of the islands, we found some wind! Not much, 10-12knots, but enough to sail. It was sort of behind us, so we lazily deployed the Yankee only, making about 5.5 knots. Not very fast, but so much more pleasant than lumping around in the bouncy seas. This wind took us right into Baiona. Baiona lies at the southerly end of a large bay – not a Ria – and from the north, it’s impossible to see as it is hidden by a prominent headland with a fortress on top (now a Parador). I said to Pete that you had to take a leap of faith that there was good shelter, as it was hard to make out the town, and there were all sorts of hazards in the way… such as rocks! Some visible, some not. It’s amazing to think that Pinta returned from her expedition to discover the new route to the east, discovering The Americas. Pinta landed in Baiona, and there is a replica of the Pinta to explore when we arrive.

We picked our way around the shallows and the rocks, gybing the Yankee as we came through. We ran out of water, which meant that it was time to prepare to moor. I went down below to call ‘Monte Real Club de Yates’ on VHF. Fortunately they were listening, and able to speak excellent English, as I was able to establish that we could have a finger berth and not go stern-to. I think Pete was a bit relieved, and as it is, we’re tucked up as far as you can go, almost. It would be much more exposed on the visitor’s pontoon. This looks to be where they are preparing for the welcome for ARC Portugal, a rally lasting a month, with its first leg being Plymouth to Baiona. All tied up, and with very good WiFi, we’ve been able to look up and see what the fleet are doing (and who they are). The clubhouse is VERY ritzy, and it’s by far and away the most superior place that we’ve been to… with a price tag to match. This is three times the price of any other place (at €60 a night), so we are determined to make sure we walk up and down the pontoons a lot (trying to get some sense of value!), or ask lots of questions.

The MRYC from the shore
The MRYC from the shore

We ate a bit of a scratch meal – using up some sausages that we’d bought somewhere (gristly, yuck), a cauliflower turned into cauliflower cheese (not right on a hot night). It wasn’t befitting of the usual standards! At 21:00, with it still pretty light outside, I said that I fancied a walk, so at a time that we wouldn’t usually set off, we did. We ended up walking the headland, with gorgeous views over to the National Park, where we watched the last of the sun for the day. The weather is set to turn a bit Pete Tong, so not really sure when we’ll see it next, and we certainly expect to be here for the next couple of days.

Looking west towards the Galician Marine National Park
Looking west towards the Galician Marine National Park

Today’s haiku:

summer sun sinks low,
casts spindly arms of spun gold,
hasta manana


2 thoughts on “Combarro to Biona (Bayona)”

  1. Hi all, very interesting read, sounds fab, really really narked (used another word in my mind) can’t be there to see some of it.
    What’s all this angst about stern-to mooring, someone you know went to enormous trouble to insist on a long fin hull design that would steer astern!


    1. Wish you were nearly here too! Chris, the someone did a very good job on the design, and it’s not the boat, but the skipper’s anxiety as he’s out of practice on stern-to!!

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