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.