Ila Ons to Ria Arousa, Ensenada de Banana

Tuesday 17th June 2014

Winds northerly, perhaps bending north-easterly (until the top of the Ria) F3, smooth seas

22NM (744NM)

Pete talked about going back on to the island and walking up to the lighthouse, but after such a short sleep, I didn’t really have the appetite for it. We woke about 09:00, so somewhere around six hours sleep. I didn’t even bother to get undressed last night. We were in much the same position when we surfaced, and the wind had died overnight, but it was still a bit lumpy. We didn’t do anything very quickly, but were both keen to move on.

We lifted the anchor about 11:00, with our destination being to the north and the Ria Arousa. The anchor came up without incident, and we’d hauled the mainsail almost immediately. We motored along the edge of the island, watching a fisherman in his little boat. He is well inside the boundary of the National Park, and therefore must be one of the so-called Artesan Fishermen. This method seemed to be securing two mooring bouys, and dragging himself along between the two, hauling a basket along the bottom. Sure, it’s not powered, but it will destroy everything along the sea bed. Anyway, when we were clear of the island, we turned north… straight into the wind!

I thought i might be a bit grumpy, with lack of sleep, but the sail was bracing. We were sailing into the wind, which generates breeze through the boat. It’s like walking into the wind, you feel it more when it’s in front of you, than behind. Sailing to windward meant tacking, and I was on the winches. Pete had the helm for most of the day, because in the time between winching, I was happy to sit and watch the world pass us by. The first couple of hours took us to the mouth of Ria Arousa, and to the island of Salvador, one of the National Park islands, with smaller islands around it. The volumes of gulls had given way to cormorants, and there were a whole line of them sunning themselves as we came by. I thought it looked like they were making a guard of honour! We’d rounded the islands before in a great blow of wind, and this time, we had about 12knots, enough to see Whinchat sailing along very nicely, all her sails deployed (well, not the cruising chute), and in calm seas, she was making good progress.

Ria Arousa has some navigational challenges – lumps of rock mainly, until you get to the viveros further up river – so we had some tacking to do to stay within the channel. Pete decided that today was the day that he was going to give me a lesson in tactics, and calling the tacks. I wasn’t sure that I was entirely in the mood for it (edge of grumpy), but I managed to humour him, and he wouldn’t say whether he agreed with me, or not. It was up to me. Pete was on the helm, so I was making sure that he was sailing as well as he could (close to the wind), so that he couldn’t tease me and say I’d called it wrong. I made two major tacking decisions, and both were, well, perfect.

Pete says that the definition of a race is two yachts travelling in the same direction, and as we approached the mouth of the Ria, there was a sailing boat ahead, a Dutch boat. As we tacked into the Ria, we crossed tacks. All that space and we were within metres of each other. We were on starboard tack, which meant that we had right of way. But do people who sail boats know what they call ‘the rules of the road’? (You need no qualifications to sail a boat, unlike a car where you have to be licensed). We were both watching the boat, wondering what it would do, and then he made a marked course change! What a relief! We waved as he came behind us. Pete said that we’d probably cross tacks again, and we’d be on port-tack, so would have to yield to them, but actually we didn’t come close again. We were going much faster than they were, so we were making a lot of ground over them, and they also were heading somewhere else in the Ria, so were choosing different tack lines.

We had two anchorage choices for the night, and after last night’s experience, we were being more choosy! Both were on Illa Arousa. The first looked like we’d end up moored outside a warehouse – not good on the grounds of being unscenic! The second was on the northern edge of this little island, and with the northerly wind, that would put us on a lee shore. No thanks to that again! So, Pete had to go and consult with the pilot book, and I took the helm. We were up near the head of the Ria, and trying to tack up into a bay on the northern shoreline. We’d just turned through the wind to make what I hoped would be the ‘last tack’ on starboard, when the wind wobbled and delivered a 90degree wind shift. We were heading back out to sea! I couldn’t believe it, so we had to tack back quickly, in order not to lose too much ground. Pete’s turn to grind on the winches!

The available channel between the shore (a harbour wall with rock hazards) and the viveros wasn’t huge, and we nearly made it through the gap. We ended up putting the engine on, because it was easier! When we’d passed these hazards, it opened up into a big bay, with an arc of sandy beach along the shore. It is, indeed, banana shaped. There was only one boat moored, a power boat out for the day, so we had an overwhelming amount of choice. It felt great after the rocky shoreline of the night before. Plenty of space, and a lot less wind. It was really hot when we stopped, and you appreciate quite how fierce the sun is.

It was about 19:00 when we finally anchored. I’d made it through the day without a siesta! I’d expected to have a big snooze. What was called for was a ‘we have arrived beer/wine’, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Pete had marinated some pork loin for Raxo (paprika, wine, garlic, oilve oil), but we both agreed it was far too hot to eat. We actually ate nearer 22:00, so again, pretty Spanish.

We talked about what had ‘gone wrong’ last night, and we both agreed that the most frustrating thing was that we could have avoided it. It wasn’t that it was a bad anchorage, but it was for the conditions. One of the things we do is lock in the GPS position when we arrive, and check it. I’d wondered what it needed to change by to suggest the anchor was dragging. Pete ended up sketching out a series of scenarios, to try and work it out. I think we said 200th of a degree, but I can’t remember! I think that was the point when the anchor would have dragged.

Whatever it was, the wind was down to a mere breath, which meant we could enjoy a more peaceful night at anchor. Phew.

Today’s haiku:

standing cormorants,
wings spread out in ecstasy
like goths at a gig.

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