Ensenada de Barra to Illa Ons

Monday 16th June 2014

Wind a north-easterly F3-4 with very slight seas, some swell out of the lee of the islands (less than 1m), going F4-5 later, with bouncy seas on a not-sheltered anchorage.

14NM (722NM)
The wind that had brought us into the bay receded over night, so that we woke to a perfectly still anchorage. Amazing. The forecast that I’d downloaded showed that wind might come back today, and we were in luck! We’d hauled the mainsail on the anchorage, and then as soon as the anchor was up (it was very weedy, we’d obviously sat in an underwater garden), Pete switched off the engine, and we sailed out of the bay. The shelter from the land meant that the sea was flat calm – just lovely. The sound of water lapping as Whinchat eased through the sea. We headed out and on to our first ‘proper’ course northwards, and of course we were going into a wind with north in it! So it was a beat, but a gentle wind, as the wind wasn’t so strong, and there was little swell. Conditions have generally been pretty benign of late, so even when we’d cleared Illas Cies, we were only in less than a metre of swell.

The main ‘excitement’ of the morning was that the clutch holding the vang (the bit of string that pulls down the boom, something to do with sail shape, and probably efficiency, I’m not sure, that part of my Dayskipper passed me by.) failed. This meant that it couldn’t hold it tight, so Pete loaded the vang around the main halyard winch, and all was good.

We had a long port tack, with our destination in our sights, but the wind wasn’t going to take us directly there, so we had to look at it for a while knowing we weren’t making ground on it. At one point Pete declared that we should fly the StaySail, but vang was in its place… so we thought we’d just leave it. I was on the helm, enjoying the ride, but Pete really wanted Whinchat to sail as well as she possibly could, and therefore he fixed the clutch! Genius! With the staysail flying, it increased our speed… Not that we were in any rush, but it’s always more satisfying to sail as well as you can do. With a XTE to the course of 2.8nm we tacked, with Pete on the winches. I’d had a reasonable helm, and a little bit too much sun, so Pete took the helm. As we headed towards the mouth of Ria Pontevedra, the wind began to fade. We came very close to a German boat on a run (57metres according to AIS). It seemed crazy that with all that open sea, we’d be nearly on top of each other. The wind was ever dying, and then Pete lost concentration, and ended up tacking us accidentally, but then tried to sail back through the gybe, which Whinchat just about did, but we were making no progress, so that was that. Engine on!

Pete had gone to check the anchorage details, and I’d had the helm back, holding a course on to the lighthouse on top of the island, and Pete was on look out. He spotted dolphins! Two sets of two, but they were some way off, and certainly not coming our way. We’d only been saying earlier that a one-dolphin-spot wasn’t a great average for a month of sailing… and now we’ve doubled it. Although I found them difficult to keep track of, and wouldn’t like to claim that it was a major sighting.

We motored up to one of the two approved anchorage points on the island. The first is near the ‘village’, and to the north side of the quay. There were a series of blue mooring buoys, which we think must have been visitor’s buoys. They looked very close together, and neither of us were convinced that it would take Whinchat… more suited to smaller boats… let alone thoughts of when it might have been last serviced, etc. So, we continued the short distance to the next anchorage. Well, this was a lovely little sandy beach, with a couple of boats already rafted at anchor. Oh, the vital ingredient (ironic to have forgotten about it, as we’re now sitting and the wind is troubling us), was that as soon as we were motoring along the island, the wind appeared! A stiff breeze. You can’t get as close as the Pilot book would have you do, as the National Park authorities have laid buoys across the bay, for swimmers, fine, but they’re some way off! So, in this breeze, we dropped anchor, and have ended up further off shore than is desirable – at one level.

We arrived here about 15:00, and we had lunch and avoided the sun for most of the afternoon! I did a little bit of laundry, and it dried so quickly, from dripping wet. We sat in the saloon for a couple of hours, because the direction of the wind has been holding Whinchat into the sun, and I’ve definitely had too much of that over the last few days.

At about 18:00 we decided that it was cool enough (perhaps less hot is better) to head for the shore, but by now we were being bounced around a bit on the anchorage. The wind has a little bit of sea running underneath us, and Whinchat was bucking a bit. It did not make for a very elegant dismount into the dinghy, with Pete giving me a firm instruction to “sit down”, so I sat on the bottom of the dinghy, midst the grimy sand, as Pete rowed me to shore. It was further than we both thought, and Pete, when we got to shore, said “that was bloody hard work!” It wasn’t apparent from the boat, but the beach is a sand mountain! It was almost impossible to drag the dinghy up above the tide line, so Pete hauled it from the top, and I pushed it from the stern. We then took the path out of the beach, and headed towards the village. We passed the signs for the beach on the way out – guess what? Another nudist beach! Although, not evident from the people that we passed as we headed out.

The walk was about a mile, along a track that wound up and down the topography of the coastline. Not that we had sea-views, mostly it was, as Pete said, like being in a submerged Cornish lane, the verges thick with bracken and hedges. We had a glimpse of Whinchat over the bracken at one point….

You'd think this would be a lovely spot
You’d think this would be a lovely spot

There is a much more substantial sense of occupation on Illa Ons than Illas Cies, with this little village, and yet it is so much more tranquil. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the lack of parties of school kids, but this had a sleepy feel about it. Illas Cies is beautiful, but has more of a ‘whoo-hoo let’s play’ feel. I’m not sure which I prefer right now, as we’re being bounced around on an exposed anchorage, and it’s likely to cloud my judgement. We stopped and had a beer in the village, which was just perfect, and set us up for the walk back. Getting back into the dinghy wasn’t quite so elegant, as the waves were crashing about a bit, so when I stepped in, the dinghy launched itself in the ‘surf’ (too strong a sense for the smallness of the waves, but can’t think of another word to use), so I collapsed onto the seat. It seemed ages for Pete to get the rhythm to come in too, but we were both back on our launch. We rowed back together, and the wind seemed to have dropped, so it felt a bit easier to disembark.

We’d talked about moving our position when we walked back, a bit further up, but I wasn’t convinced that it was any smoother, so we elected to stay. We are regretting that right now. The galley’s menu tonight has been Remoska roasted chicken, potatoes cooked around it and some sliced green beans. Absolutely delicious! We didn’t eat until 22:00, so we’ve definitely been Spanish this evening. Perhaps I even should have taken a siesta.

Somehow we’ve both ended up with munched up feet. The blisters from the sandals the other day are going, but Pete’s developed Haviana blisters between his big and second toe (ouch), and I’ve stubbed my left foot twice today, with the impact on the same toe. A lot of sand gets under the skin of a blister! Eurgh! Pete would do better to wear socks and boat shoes until they’re healed, but you can’t ask him to do that in the heat! My toe is now purple, a lovely concentric bruise around the base of my nail. It’s a good job that Fitflops have cushioned soles! Pete has now banned me from bare feet on deck, so it’s summer sailing sandals from now on.

Guess what? We are now being quite bounced around on the anchorage, as the wind seemed to build this evening – 20knots. The direction is the same, but because we can’t get to the shelter that should be there, we’re quite exposed, and being thrown about. Pete is very stressed, and I’m apprehensive. Not because we are in mortal danger, but because it’s just it’s uncomfortable, it isn’t resolved, and we might end up making a mercy dash for calmer waters. It’s now totally dark, so we have lost any advantage that daylight gives. However, the wind IS due to drop in the next couple of hours. We are therefore not going to bed, but are on anchor watch. Both together at the moment, but if the wind doesn’t drop, then we could be on this all night. We are both wishing we’d have heeded better sense when we got back from the walk and moved somewhere else then, however, it wasn’t even a conversation we didn’t have. We didn’t think about it. Crazy really… but it’s all learning. For now, it’s a question of sitting tight, and keeping an eye on the instruments (wind and GPS position). We have shifted since we got here (we always record the GPS position when the anchor is set), but it’s been constant over the last hour. The trouble is, we are snatching in the water, and that’s probably destabilising the anchor. Oh, this is miserable. And so avoidable, that is the really annoying thing.

01:40: The wind hasn’t faded early! But it is due to in the next hour. There seemed no point in the both of us being awake, and Pete was yawning and I’m totally “ZING”. So, he’s crashed on the ‘couch’ and I’ve been writing a couple of book reviews, reading The Sunday Times, taking position/environment readings every half an hour. It’s been pretty constant – you think the wind has eased, but then…. It’s blowing about 15knots right now, and we’re still bouncing. Oh my, we had a massive rolling sensation about an hour ago, where Whinchat was pitching around like she was being rocked from side-to-side as well as this bow-to-stern ripple thing that’s going on. I was full of dread that it was a new pattern (I was dreading a wind shift), but fortunately it didn’t last long. It must’ve been something going past, creating some wash.

It is beautifully clear out. The beam of the lighthouse keeps on giving me a start every time I go on deck for a visual check. Why haven’t I locked that in? The rapid sweep of the beam of light isn’t reassuring! Perhaps it should be, as it’s always in the same place. There are many little fishing boats out, and there is a bright moon, which is helpful because it’ll show us up even more than the anchor light does. Oh hello, bouncing again. That’ll be another fishing boat passing.

03:00: I’m about to stand down, and as the wind is gradually easing, and we haven’t dragged on our position, I’m going to wake Pete and tell him to stay sleeping. It’s a wearing motion, but I’m shattered. It’s like driving over hump-backed bridges in the forepeak, so I’ll stay here, in the saloon. Time for some sleep.

Today’s not-a-haiku:

Rock-a-bye Whinchat
On the sea bed,
When the wind blows,
The boat she will bounce.
When the anchor yanks,
The chain it might snap,
And off will drift Whinchat onto the rocks.

PS It’s a happy ending, but we’re off to find a calmer anchorage tonight.

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