Wednesday 23rd July – Thursday 24th July
104NM (1414 NM)
Passage weather had forecast that the wind would turn northerly later in the day, which would be very unhelpful for our return. The met office seemed to indicate it might stay NE which would be just about ok. No meaningful swell was forecast, good news.
We didn’t particularly want to arrive in Falmouth in the dark, even though I know it quite well now finding our mooring on a dark night would be tricky. So we planned to leave about 14.30. In fact we both got a bit tired of the wait and asked the French boat rafted outside us to move at about 12.30, which they did with good grace even though not long before we had said we wouldn’t be going until a bit later.
As a diversion, and to use up some time, we had a little amble up the river as far as you can go (a road bridge stops you going any further). From the chart it looked rather a shallow and narrow channel, but in reality there was much more space and even a couple of visitor buoys at the head of the river. It was very peaceful and reminded me very much of the Fal, though not quite as steep sided.
Shortly after passing the marina again on the way to the river mouth, it was up with the sails and off with the engine. We were leaving in the midst of a stream of gaffers, which made for a great sight. At this point we had about 15kts of wind from ENE and Whinchat was revelling in the conditions. At the mouth of the river we turned north and the gaffers continued west along the coast. Unlike our departure from Spain it was not much more than an hour later that the coast of France slipped below the horizon. The wind was already beginning to back so by this time we were close hauled, occasionally water gushing along the side decks, but also breaking over the bow as we hit a bigger wave. The swell wasn’t that much but at 1-2m was bigger than anything seen on our Biscay crossing.
We safely crossed the main shipping lane with nothing really coming that close to us, and being able to keep a careful watch on everything with AIS that tells you how close a ship will pass. You pick them up on the system long before you can see them and it makes life a lot less stressful. The wind backed a bit more as I handed over to Tom for his night watch (we were back on the same pattern as across Biscay). I’d barely closed my eyes and dozed off than the engine sprang to life and the noises coming from on deck told me Tom was furling the staysail and the yankee. We would be under power for the rest of the trip.
I took over at about 02.00, the light from the Lizard lighthouse was clearly visible and we were seemingly surrounded by other boats, some on AIS and others not. Tom just went to sleep! A bit like an exam question I came upon a trawler (green over white) and a tug pulling something with the tow greater than 200m (three white lights). That one came quite close and of course I had to make sure we didn’t get between the tug and what it was towing. Its hard enough judging distance at sea I find and close to impossible in the dark. Then there were anchored tankers and a couple of yachts too. As you might imagine the time passed quickly.
As dawn broke we were off St Anthony’s Head with the familiar lights of the Fal estuary coming into view. We moored on the outside of E pontoon in Mylor (not my best bit of driving but at 05.30 not many people to see) and it was time for a couple of hours sleep before a well deserved “Full Cornish” breakfast at Café Mylor with Jules.
In his week on the boat Tom had done more sea miles than Jules in the previous two months. We had enjoyed warm weather, calm seas, good food and excellent chat, all a great pre-amble to next years AZAB.
The one disadvantage of here over our originally intended Camaret is the lack of shops. You can buy a loaf of bread but anything more and it’s a 2km walk to the nearest village. But with a bit of ingenuity we reckoned we had enough ingredients for one final meal on the crossing back to Falmouth. This did of course mean that we had to have every meal out whilst here!
The first night Tom had a big bowl of mussels and I a steak, washed down with a nice rosé. We then sat in the cockpit for another hour or two sharing a nice bottle of Spanish red, the next morning that didn’t feel the best of ideas, but luckily we weren’t in a hurry.
On the second day a creperie provided lunch, and of course we both had to have a savoury one followed by a sweet on, and a quirky little restaurant served up a delicious meal. Tom had a huge portion of fish stew stuffed full of mussels, langoustines, salmon, white fish and other goodies. I didn’t tempt fate and had pollack, very fresh and tasty.
In the afternoon we’d cooked up a pasta sauce with chorizo for our trip back across the channel so we were all set to go.
Saturday 19th July – Tuesday 22 July
391NM (1310 NM)
As we now come to the challenging part of the voyage your normal reporter had opted for a land-based life of luxury, a bed that didn’t move about, no squeaky mooring ropes and definitely no big waves. It is therefore up to me to once again take up the pen and finish the account of our summer travels.
I had a couple of days in Coruna before Tom, my son, and crew for the return voyage, joined me. By this time the city had taken on a familiar air and the time was filled by a combination of a few boat jobs, some pre-departure cooking and shopping to ensure that we had an adequate supply of ham on board to sustain Tom through the trip.
Tom’s flight was delayed, not an auspicious start, so it was quite late by the time we were back on Board Whinchat. We decided to eat on board because of the time and enjoyed Spanish steaks washed down with Spanish red wine.
As many of you will know Tom has done more ocean miles than I have, and by a huge margin. But most of them were some time ago. So we had decided to spend the following day, Thursday, essentially doing a test sail. Practicing reefing, man overboard techniques etc. inevitably when it came time to cast off the wind chose that moment to blow at about 20knots, thus giving us an immediate challenge on leaving the berth. Luckily all was completed without incident.
We spent a happy couple of hours out in the bay, watching the antics of the incoming shipping, one coastal size ship seemingly racing to pass a large super tanker before it started the process of trying to turn around, assisted by a couple of tugs. Tom rapidly remembering all that he’d previously known, and mastering the autopilot which, to be fair, is a little simpler than the one on his C17! At least on Whinchat you don’t need to worry about altitude!
Just to ensure that we got our full ration of Spanish pork products dinner that evening was a visit to the lovely tapas bar that Jules and I had previously eaten at followed by another awesome steak at the nearby parilla restaurant. Predictable by us may be, but reliable quality on their part too.
Given the rigours of the outbound trip I was a little nervous about the return, though the weather forecast we had looked close to perfect for the return both in terms of swell and wind. If anything we might not have enough of the latter, rather than too much.
We woke to another beautiful morning and no mist/fog, as had been the case the previous day. We had decided there was nothing to be gained by leaving at the crack of dawn, except a loss of sleep, so we slipped our lines for the final time in Spain at about 9.30.
Both Tom and I had decided that we wouldn’t come straight home, but would make a bit more of a trip by heading for France instead. Some chart work on my part had shown that Camaret was acceptably far away to count as our 300 mile qualifying passage for the AZAB 2015. We were sailing within about 10 minutes of leaving the marina, all was stowed away, the sun was shinning and our course was programmed into the chart plotter.
Then the wind began to die, in fact it disappeared altogether. We probably sat for nearly 45 minutes with our speed through the water reading at 0.00. We had the faintest whisper of a favourable tide so we were at least drifting in the right direction, but our time to our destination was showing as over 15 days!!!
(We only had food for three days, and maybe enough water for another week after that.) It seemed that we would have a view of Spain for much longer than we had intended or wished for. I even suggested putting the engine on, going back to Coruna – which even after 7 or 8 hours of drifting wouldn’t have taken long – and starting again the following day. Tom thought this a bad idea so we persevered. The coast of Spain finally slipped below the horizon at about the time that the sun set and we were then alone on the sea.
The pattern for the next three days was that we did a 4-hour watch each over the hours of darkness and then had a very flexible rota system for the rest of the time. One of us was awake and on deck all the time, but at times there was no evidence that there was another living soul within 50 miles of us. Nobody to call for help either of course, not that we needed to.
The days were hot and sunny, the nights showing the full beauty of the Milky Way with countless stars filling the sky. It did get cooler at night, but never cold, a few layers was all that was needed. We both read avidly, I finished a couple of books and both of the magazines that Tom had brought with him.
We had five of six encounters with dolphins, one very large group who hung around for ages. After the sun had set you could still hear the snort of them breathing as they surfaced for air. They all seemed to want and come and have a look at us, who were these people invading their world?
We tried the fishing line, but it was just as well we hadn’t relied on the bounty of the seas to keep hunger at bay, as we didn’t get a nibble! We thought we’d tell Simon that we exceeded our EU tuna quota and had to throw it all back! In fact we realised that neither of us really knew what to do with a live tuna if we had caught one, so maybe it was for the best. Our plan to have done all the cooking before we left worked really well though and we could have a hot meal quickly and easily en route. Though at one stage it didn’t look as though I had made nearly enough days’ worth. I think the chilli probably got the highest rating and don’t know how Tom ranked the sausage casserole and chicken curry.
On the fourth morning we had the coast of France in sight, and Camaret not that far away. However the wind was dropping so we were going to have to put the engine on. I did some quick checking with the pilot book and discovered that our timing was perfect for a northbound passage through the Chenal de Four. The tidal currents in this passage are really strong, up to 4 knots at spring tides, so we wanted to get the timing right. Should we abort the original plan and go for option B? Our first thought was “no”, but on a small amount of further reflection as the wind died to almost nothing we decided to go for it. So after three days it was on with the engine, roll away the staysail and the yankee, and head north. Also for the first time in three days we were amongst other boats. The sea felt quite crowded, though it was hardly comparable to a bank holiday weekend on the Solent!
The sea was an oily calm, and with the tide we were doing more than 8knots over the ground, faster than the rest of our passage. After an hour or so we passed the Four lighthouse. It’s amazing to think that people have photographed it with waves seemingly breaking over the top. No danger of that today.
Our destination was now to be L’Aber Wrac’h. Jules and I had been there before on our trip to France two years ago. It has a rock-strewn entrance but with a chart plotter and the very benign weather making the entrance was not going to be a problem. Even better we were on a rising tide so you soon float again if you do come to rest on the mud.
The river mouth was full of kids in small dinghies as well as yachts and at the marina there was quite a collection of gaff-rigged boats. We found a space on the outside of the pontoon with Tom doing an excellent mooring manoeuvre as we cam alongside. However, it seems that the whole pontoon is reserved for boats going to a festival at Dournanez and we may well have to move. A quick trip to La Capitainerie confirms this, and we are allocated a space that he believes we will be able to get into. Whinchat is 12.8m long and this space is only 13m at most!
Tom leaps shoreward with a rope in hand and stumbles on landing and takes the skin off one knee. He is very brave about it, though it must hurt, or at least sting, a lot. The owners of the boats behind us shuffle up a bit to make a little more room and soon we are all snug on what is a much better berth than the one we had to start with.
Our passage has been slow, it’s taken us 70 hours to cover the 350 miles so an average speed on only 5kts. We will have to do better on our AZAB trip.
Arriving back in A Coruña I think we both have mixed feelings. We’ve both thoroughly enjoyed the ambling along the coast (for we haven’t covered great distances), some of the places have been amazing (some not so), and the stories we’ve collected along the way we will treasure. However great it is, it is difficult to leave family, friends and the place we call home for too long – and I’m happy to return home. I think Pete will be too, not only because we’ve fun things lined up in the next couple of months, including being part of the volunteer team for Falmouth Tall Ships.
This is where I disembark first, because Peter will bring Whinchat back north, crossing Biscay with his son, Tom. Tom will form the return leg of the AZAB next year, and this will be his qualifying passage. Let us hope they are treated more kindly by the conditions, and that Biscay gives them a joyous ride, unlike the testing one south. We have better weather forecasting sites in our armoury, (www.passageweather.com is brilliant) and therefore Pete will be able to look a few days out and see if there’s a good enough window to go. If we’re lucky, he’ll do a guest blog again for the return.
The absolute highlight for me was Illas Cies, anchoring in the Galacian Atlantic Islands National Park; that image of Whinchat taken from the beach, with the colours of the sea, and her… well, it’s beautiful, and it will stay with me. I loved the remoteness of that spot, except for looking at Vigo behind, but once the last tourist boat had roared away, it was so tranquil, so unspoilt. I’m so glad that we had a spell of settled weather to allow us to do that, and the prolonged stay in Baiona made it worth it. We’ll forget the encounters with territorial yellow-legged gulls, and the blisters, and indulge in a rosy view of the experience.
I’ve loved getting on the bus and getting inland to see some of the medieval Galician towns, and I think Pontevedra would be my favourite place. It was sunny that day (which helps a lot), but it had a delightful of small streets that you could almost get lost in. Noya was also a surprise, we’d gone there out of ‘nothing else to do in the weather’, and loved the market and had a super lunch. And those spooky statues (tombs) in the shell of a church. Fascinating. Vigo was the biggest disappointment, because of the run-down feel to the place, but I’ve slated that place enough.
We both think that we’ve got the balance between marinas and anchoring right. We didn’t manage it at all in Scotland (although I did point out that the weather was vile) nor in France… but there, we were in August, and it was so busy that the anchorages we did, we didn’t enjoy. Pete likes his strategy of getting as far as you want to (although he still had hoped to get to Portugal), and then ambling back, and I think it worked. I think we could have even spent longer in Ria Arousa (the largest of the rias, the most built up, the most viveros, but the most potential for anchoring), but somehow we decided to move on. Circumstance needing us to be home early means that it has worked out, but I think there were a few more nights to be had there. I wish we’d taken a closer look at the weather when we anchored on Illa Ons, as that was a real low point of the trip. Small hours anchor watch was no fun, although I cope better than Pete in that (which is why I sent him to sleep).
Given that I pretty much had last year off sailing because of my knee ligament damage, I was worried how I’d cope with some of the more challenging conditions and whether I’d find my sea legs (I still don’t enjoy the sensation of big waves), but I think I was broadly OK. Our mini-trip in April was a good test, and I think I’ve emerged at the end of this trip a more confident sailor – I was going to write competent, but I’m not sure that’s right. Pete, I know, reading this will say “but you’re brilliant love!”, but I don’t always believe it. I still wish I was more brave, although I have been mindful of the “do something at least once a day that scares you”, in order to grow and not stagnate. Rustler build incredible sea boats, boats that were meant to be at sea, in any conditions, and Whinchat continues to delight and impress me. I completely adore her.
When we are both back, August might yield a couple of sailing days here and there, with some overnights – I hope. Cornwall is so beautiful, and we shouldn’t neglect our own county. We also hope to go out with friends and family, which brings new joy, as we get such a buzz from people who fall in love with her too… On that note, we’ve heard that the Yachting Monthly feature we did will probably be run later in the year, so Whinchat will have to wait before she has her 15 minutes of fame! Peter will go to The Boat Show in September, but perhaps again we will get to go somewhere later that month. October he is diving, and by then it will be time to take her out of the water and get her ready for her maiden race in 2015. An event I am happy not to be active in, although judging by my reaction of them crossing Biscay, I shall be a nervous wreck!
What an awesome trip. How lucky are we?
Winds, south-westerly F5-6 (gusting 7)
Atlantic swell 2-3m north-west, wind ‘wind sea’ from the south west
I had a completely rubbish sleep – not exactly preparing myself well for the passage today. Anxiety (the sea, had dreams about tsunamis) coupled with an increase in the swell finding its way into the anchorage, making it a little rolly. I gave up and moved bunks about 04:00, after an hour of tossing and turning.
More obsessive checking of the weather for me, just incase the forecasters had decreased the sea. Nope. But neither had they changed the wind direction from south-westerly – very good. Pete was checking that I wanted to go, and I did, because the winds are so favourable for heading north and east!
We were efficient in preparing Whinchat for the sea, taking care to stow everything, as we were expecting a bit of a bumpy ride, and we didn’t want anything flying around the boat. I even made a pile of sandwiches, so we could just lift them from the fridge and not have to worry about being braced in the galley to make something to eat. We left at 09:30, the anchor coming up without issue, so there was nothing for it but to put to sea. Pete thought that the Yankee might be enough sail to move us through the sea, ‘nothing crazy’. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind, consistently, to give us enough speed – for both of us! So, we furled that away and Pete decided that he’d motor out to the edge of the Ria, to see what the wind was doing there. Not really enough to sail on the Yankee, as it was trying to be a F4. Not even much attempt to muster any white ponies. So, we had the joyful task of raising the main in the full swell of the Atlantic. Deep joy! I have to say my heart was in my mouth, hoping that my stomach wasn’t about to join it. I was on the helm, and Pete went to the mast, with the intention of me tailing the halyard. Pl-llease! He’s released the main sheet, so that the reefing lines were slapping me in the face each time the boom swang past (and on a turbulent sea, that’s quite a lot). I was supposed to use one hand to haul, and the other to steady the boat into the wind. I was screaming at Pete, but he kept pulling. Clearly didn’t hear me, as *whack* the warps slapped me again. I felt like I was being punished! I screamed louder, and then he came back, but as I hadn’t explained myself very well (hard when you’re a bit frazzled, and whipped, to be fair to me), he said “Right, back to the harbour!” “What? Noooo!” I said. I said I couldn’t do everything, not nothing (although I declined the option of grinding up the main). So, with both hands on the wheel, and an ability to look up at the wind-vane without fear of being slapped, Pete had the long grind on the winch. He looked a bit hot! With the main up, we turned on our course (north easterly, 340), and let things settle. The wind was being a bit random at one level – not in terms of direction, it was absolutely consistent here – but in terms of its strength. At times about 15knots, then a period of 22knots, then 19knots, then 26knots. The highest gust was 34knots, I think when Pete was helming (the wind had gotten a bit peaky, so he stood Doris down a bit). So, at times it felt like more sail would be beneficial, and at others, you were thinking it was enough. Doris (autopilot) did the helming most of the time, and she was amazing. I had a go at one point, but I couldn’t work it out with the sea moving in two directions behind us, perhaps I could have tried harder. I would like to see a pressure chart because I’d like to understand the wind (I had a theory), and I want to go to Weather School this season – it’s been a “voucher” from Pete for a few years.
Anyway. The big scary Ocean. Today it was so grey. Very overcast skies, casting gloomy shadows over the water’s surface. Only the spume and white horses gave the sea any definition. It was very swelly, but for the most part, quite manageable. More so than the other day (even though that was blue), because it was behind us. We were not ploughing into to it. The Atlantic swell was consistently piling in from the north-west, more noticeable earlier in the passage, perhaps, when the wind wasn’t so strong. This massive body of water just seems to heave, let go, heave. It’s like it takes massive intakes of breath, and then blows out. The belly of water just moves in this very rhythmic manner – and it is quite hypnotic. Pete and I were playing spot the land disappearing (when it wasn’t drizzling and you could see the shore), as the swell rose up above our eye level in Whinchat and obliterated the land… and then a few seconds later, it was back… and then gone. This quite fabulous slow rhythm. How can that be scary?
Even when the south-west wind picked up, generating enough body of movement to push the water in the way it wanted to, meaning we had swell coming one way and wind-sea another, the latter with white-horses charging at times. Whinchat was amazing in this converging of the waters, she just seemed to dig her back into it, and rear the bow and surf away. Doris had the record for the top speed, reaching 9.60 knots. Pete saw this, and was determined to try and out do her, but no, today he was outsailed by a mechanical device.
We had the most spectacular visitors today, a pod of dolphins who were playing in our bow waves. I could barely splutter the usual cry, because the first dorsal fin that I saw was just to starboard – I’m certain I could have reached over and touched it. They must have played around us for about 15 minutes, torpedoing alongside the boat, then jumping in the bow wave, circling back, diving under the boat, coming up behind us, surfing the waves of the running sea. It was mesmerising! It’s impossible to say how many, but there were at least half a dozen, including a couple of babies (smaller fins and bodies). The water was so clear, that when they were zooming next to us, you could see their ‘grin’ and the whiteness of their belly as they spun in the water. I swear that I heard one squeaking as it leapt out of the water. Of course we were whooping like loonies – having been told when we did the dolphin swim, that they love laughing and whooping. Well, it’s not like there was anyone around to hear us! We have had very quiet waters today. No fishing boats, no traffic to speak of until we got near Coruña – when we had a tanker on our stern and a racing fleet were piling out of the ria! This kind of thing stresses Pete, well the tanker did. Had he seen us? What was his course? We suspected we were both heading for the same way-point, following leading lines in order to avoid the rocks around the Tower of Hercules. When it was clear his path would take him clear of us, on the port side, Pete relaxed a little. I was quite anxious about the racing fleet, but we were on starboard tack so had the right of way. In fact, it didn’t seem that any of the half dozen that passed us needed to take avoiding action, which they would have to have done. Although Pete will say that there’s no point in having a collision and being right! The wind was being particularly noisy here, blowing up in the twenties. You’d’ve thought that Coruña would have provided shelter from the south-westerly, but no… it would seem to funnel it.
We sailed up the ria, and then it was time to moor. I called up Marina Coruña on VHF and got an Irish guy! Result. He directed us very clearly, although changed his mind where he was putting us, but we would be port-side to, and mooring in winds of 25knots! Eek! The same guy cycled to show us where to go, and then cycled around to take our lines. I decided that I’d throw him the mid-ships, and when he had that he said ‘I’ll use that to stop the boat’ OH YOU ANGEL, I thought, but said ‘yes’. Someone who really knew what we try and do. So he duly did that, but because of the wind, he had to fend off a bit. I’d flaked the bow line along the rails, so his marineros buddy just had to pick up the lines and tie that on, so I did the stern, and Pete went ahead to do the starboard bow. It went surprisingly well, given the wind, and not one blast on the bow-thruster (which will have pleased the skipper). Job done.
Whinchat’s stores are running low, so we elected to eat out. Only the Spanish eat so late, that we nearly didn’t make it! I had a snooze about 19:30, a pre-supper nap, and Pete struggled to rouse himself from the paper at 20:30, when we’d agreed to head out. We stopped for a drink and jamon at the jamoneria (Pete will be taking Tom there), which was really lively. However, most of the places we walked past were devoid of people eating. We decided to go to the same Parilla, and the place was half-full sometime around 21:15 – by the time we’d left, 22:30, it was full to the rafters, with some people only just arriving. It’s something I don’t think I’ve still accustomed to. I love the Spanish way of eating, sharing dishes, but I would sooner eat earlier, although some night we are quite Spanish. As I’m writing this (the following day), it’s 21:45 and I’m just about to serve boat tapas supper (but more of that tomorrow…. !!)
When we left the restaurant it was tipping down with rain, and the streets were rather more devoid of people! We had our Rustler jackets with us, so fully zipped in, made a dash for it, but it was a bit insane, so we stopped to join a couple sheltering under a canopy. They were not prepared for rain, so when they headed out, we did too. We got back to Whinchat slightly soggy, but having had a really lovely evening.
atlantic swell meets
tropical maritime wind
Whinchat whoops, surf babe.
Friday 4th July 2014
Winds, very light, south-westerly
Seas, benign, with a slight swell rolling in from the west
By the arrival of the morning, Pete had had another idea! He’s been thinking about the potential change of plans, and thought that we might head for another anchorage today, potentially our last rather than take the slow wind eastwards… There’s more wind forecast for Saturday (but not crazy amounts, but from behind, the strength is less of a concern) although the ocean is producing 2-3m rollers (I’m trying to be brave at the thought of it), which would make for a better sailing experience than today… so…. perhaps we might go to Laxe (this is the Galician name, Lage, is the ‘Spanish’) instead. Over breakfast we decided that this was a good plan, so were off by about 09:30 (good for us), and making for the town across the bay.
Laxe was no distance, and we didn’t even pretend to sail. I was on the helm, and about 0.7NM off the breakwater (I had happened to glance at the screen, so I know this), what did I see? Not only dorsal fins but three whole “D-D-D-D-D-oooo-llll-ppp-hhh–iiiinnnnnssss” I could barely speak, and they were moving fast. Another set behind them! Through my spluttering, Pete picked them up on the port bow, about 200m ahead. Awesome. We think it was a group of six/seven, absolutely shifting. They were in full leap out of the water, and then steaming on. We’d heard about the fishing technique when we sailed in the Pacific North West, but these were hunting. Pack-formation, a squadron (as Pete said), driving the fish into the shore. And ahead was a steep cliff. Just as soon as I’d seen them, they vanished. I’d brought Whinchat to a stop, so we were both just scanning the sea to see if they would appear, but no. Totally vanished. It was a truly spectacular sight. Still not exactly dolphins playing around in our bow wave (perhaps tomorrow), but what a sight to see. Dolphins on a mission. It quite made the *epic* journey over – and how can dolphins not make you smile? They are incredible creatures.
Anyway, when we were both concentrating on the anchorage, we saw that there were no other yachts in, but a couple of small fishing boats with divers in the water. Not that they affected where we wanted to drop anchor. I’m glad to report that this settled in its normal pattern – a good bite first off, which just meant the usual settling in period before we would go ashore. Pete made the ‘usual’ mistake of underestimating how far we were (at least half a mile) from the shore, and so had a stiff row against the wind, with me in carriage on the back of the dinghy. We landed on the beach and hauled the dinghy ashore (such sparkly sand, absolutely picturesque), and wandered around looking for WiFi. We found a tourist information that was open! The last couple of places they’ve been shut, but Laxe has done a good job on its material, so delivered good information. We wandered back through the town, not exactly classic or even remarkable, but functional – and with a stunning beach. Another arc of perfect white sand (you get the picture, even if I forgot to take one). We stumbled upon a cute cafe, Ventana, with incredible views over the beach and a good WiFi. Mission the first – Pete’s flights sorted for next week. A decent coffee, and directions for the bread shop (me asking in Spanish, he answering in English). As we stepped out, we came across the mobile bread lady, so bought a ‘centeno’ off the back of her van. Back on board, it was my turn to sort my flights (a little bit hassled, but fine in the end, no thanks to BA in the UK being very busy – something to do with baggage handling, and lots of calls…. Anyway. That amended. The car hire amended, the plans are forming for next week.
We had decided, despite buying bread, that we would have lunch ashore. We didn’t even bother to look at the guide book! How rebellious! After a short promenade, we opted for a little bar near the port, with a table outside. There we ordered jamon (see photo), chiperones (calamari) and croquettes. We were given a little beer-snack, fried sardinas (yum, yum) and then the food we shared. I really like the Spanish concept of sharing food, where plates just go on the table and you share what there is. I shall miss that when we get home. Fat from lunch, it was time for a walk… just a small one, to the faro. We took the yellow/white path that we’d followed when we were in Camarinas, and had a gorgeous walk around the headland to the lighthouse – probably 3 miles in total – although in not following the road, we were on a bit of a goat track. Through thick bracken, gorse, then soft heather, in pine trees, scrambling across curved rock boulders. It had everything – including several things to get scratched on. Probably for the first time I wished I had walking boots on!
At the lighthouse was a beautiful statue, called ‘Esperera’ (I think), or ‘Waiting’, which was of a woman cradling a baby to her, waiting for the return of a fishing boat. We’ve seen this on postcards, and it is truly beautiful. So evocative.
We opted to walk back along the road – and not the goat track – much quicker, but perhaps not so satisfying. From here, it was back to Whinchat to kick back, and gaze at the view. It’s our last anchorage, our last look at a pretty beach – this one of particularly sparkly white sand…. that seems to travel well. Whinchat needs a good clean, as there is crunchy sand everywhere. We spent some time on the phone making plans for next week, and seeing what was possible. I think we have an outline that we’re both happy with, but it has to start with a dash to Cornwall to collect a suit that Pete can attend a funeral in.
Supper tonight was a change of menu when I spied a packet of Merchant Gourmet Lentils (they are just lush, and you don’t need to ping them, just boil in a pan for about four minutes), so I roasted the chicken breasts in the Remoska – with a few rescued mushrooms – and then that was served with a crisp salad. Lovely!
One last obsessive check of the weather before heading to bed. Not much changing of their minds, although what 12 gusting 27 means (it doesn’t really stack up to me), and I’m not looking forward to 2.5m swell. Pete doesn’t much believe that either – that’s 10ft, he says – so we will see, but Coruna, here we come.
acrobatic torpedoes –
that’s fishing with flair!
Thursday 3rd July 2014
Wind, north-easterly F5-6, dropping to F4
Seas, Atlantic Swell of 1-2m, plus the wind sea of the white horses
I didn’t sleep well, and ended up decamping to the rear cabin, and as I’d forgotten my glasses, I couldn’t read, so lay there listening to the slap of the water on the stern. The wind had died off, but not completely. Despite the poor sleep (on my count, skipper A-OK), we were ready and ship-shape for our departure, north and eastwards, so broadly north-east… which is EXACTLY where the wind was coming from.
It was blowing 15knots as we exited, which took some careful controlling. Whinchat was the largest boat in the marina, and the marina is not that big. We were moored next to a tiny German sailing boat with two ladies on board, and we were going to be blown their way. We had the bow and the stern lines singled up so that we could slip Whinchat back, using the wind – as far as we could so that the wind didn’t just take the bow and plough us into the Germans to port. A fishing boat was leaving port, so I couldn’t hear Pete’s commands above the engine noise, so I told him to yell – he doesn’t like doing that, but he had no choice. I’d just about run out of rope, so it was up to the helmsman. “Are we clear?” he yelled – of the pontoon yes, but not the next boat along to starboard! I think he was running out of space behind him, but another couple of metres saw clear water. Really well controlled by the skipper – and very pleasing.
We knew the wind forecast, and knew it would be a beat to Corme. We could have waited another day or two for the westerly wind to arrive, but we were both ready to move on… and you should never wait too long for the wind, as it has a habit of changing its mind. The conditions were ‘good enough’, so we were both happy to leave. The sea had decreased, or was forecast to, and it had, and the wind was doing exactly, and very unhelpfully, what it was supposed to. It would be a long day beating to windward.
In the shelter of the harbour, we raised the mainsail, and I sailed us out, with the wind running behind us. All very civilised in 15 knots of wind, so we deployed the Yankee ready to make the turn – and BANG we hit a wind wall. We were on a beam reach, flying out of the Ria, suddenly in 20-22-25-28 knots of wind! Water running down the decks (not itself a problem), but I could hardly control where we were going, and it’s an exact pilotage out of the Ria in order to avoid some rocks. Pete put a reef in the main, which was very much needed, and so we continued out – flying a bit less. The next part of the course we had to be precisely on track – rocky shore to starboard, and isolated rocks to port. The wind was absolutely on the nose, and so we had no real choice but to roll away the Yankee and motor through the water until we could get to ‘safe’ water. You know, it isn’t called Costa Da Morte for the fun of it! Plugging through the sea was not great – sailing gives for a much nicer motion through the water – so we were pounding into the wind-sea. Thump-thump-thump, for at least a mile, until we could turn…. off-course! Off-course, because we couldn’t make the course with the wind direction. The wind was pretty strong, so we had a reefed main, and the stay-sail. This was fine if we had a ‘decent’ F5 (22+ knots), but any less, and we really didn’t have enough sail out to make progress – particularly given the lively sea. It meant I helmed one LONG tack (almost to America, or so it felt), about 10 miles (encountering and having to take avoiding action to two fishing boats, putting us more west as we bore away, sob-sob). We lost sight of land! However, the plus side, was that we were under blue skies, away from the bank of cloud on the land, and in lively conditions, it’s always better to see a blue sea, and not a grey one.
My musing on the sea today was that it wasn’t quite rough, but it was more than moderate. There were constant white horses riding towards us. Some of the waves were big (you could see the horses rearing up at you), and when they hit, when the wind was not quite enough for the sail configuration, it slowed us down. Pete called the tack line, and before we did, he wanted to heave-to so that we could pump the holding tanks. Under supervision, I brought us to a stop, but, urgh…. We were stopped, it’s safe, and a good way to take a moment, but the motion… Blergh. Had my guts a-churning; vile. There was no way I could go down below and pump out the tanks, so Pete had to (despite his elbow). I felt bad in more ways than one. I’ve just got no constitution for the flailing about. The tipping, the heeling, isn’t what sets me off – I’d been fine until that point – so I had the edge of nausea chewing away at me for the remainder of the trip. Not that bad, until near the end, when I had to pee, but a stint on the helm and calmer seas helped there.
Pete took the helm for the port-tack back in, and gave it to Doris. He claimed Doris was better at steering, and she didn’t mind the cold wind. I was trying to snooze in the cockpit, but unaided by Stugeron, I couldn’t settle, and the wind was whipping around my legs. I was sitting next to Pete, and noticed that we were back in sight of land. Was it Finisterre? No, it was Cabo Vilan. Pete went to check the distance from us. It was four miles! FOUR MILES. We’d done about 12 miles into the Atlantic and back to make FOUR miles. Thoroughly dispiriting – when I knew that we must have another 10 in this beat to go. Actually, we were about 55degrees to the wind, so it wasn’t close hauled, but it was slow, partly because we couldn’t make very far to windward. Like I said, when the wind blew like it meant it, it was fine, but otherwise, we were barely making five knots. It made for a long feeling day at sea, and I found it better to not look at the speed indicators at all. In fact, it was better to just look at the sea.
After my bout of nausea-enducing pee, I took back the helm, for the last half hour, for what was the best sailing of the day. By now the wind had dropped to about 15knots, with flattening seas, so we had all sails out and we were steaming along. 7knots – that is more like it! It’s always heartening to see your destination in front of you too, especially when you’re tired, bit icky, and just want everything to stop moving! Pete did all the taking down of the sails, and as we approached Corme, he took the helm, taking us right through to the anchorage. Here, we found four boats in, so we’ve done the nice thing and dropped the hook just off the line of the two rear boats. It’s the first time that the anchor dragged, so it had to come up, with a forest of seaweed on it, so perhaps that stopped it from digging in properly. Our noise had brought Mr Frenchman up into his cockpit – smart trousers, shirt-with-collar and a red jumper – I waved. He didn’t. Apparently Pete waved too. Same response. Very irritating, and I may not have said some kind words. Anyway, second attempt, all good. Except that the anchorage is quite small, and we were one of five boats in. There is a ring of viveros to sea, and a mooring field along the coast, so this strip of water is all there is. Pete was worried about our proximity to the viveros, but the wind was due to die, and in the frequent checks the GPS position, we hadn’t moved.
As anchorages go, it wasn’t the most pretty, perhaps it would have been if you were closer to the little beach, but we felt we were a bit in a working port – we were! With the viveros and a couple of fishing boats having come in to land their catch. The gulls were also really noisy here, constantly calling and arguing. Even when I woke in the night, I could here them… going on, and on, and on.
I had no desire to go to shore, so we didn’t even take the dinghy off the coach-roof. We knew that we would move on tomorrow, probably the long day to Ares for WiFi. There’s a change a-foot in our plans, and we need to lean heavily on the internet to see what is possible – can we get home next week?
Supper was the veal steaks, flash griddled by Pete, with a pile of roasted veg in the Remoska (we’d missed lunch due to the conditions, well, a chewy bar and half an apple doesn’t really make a lunch in my book), so we were both ravenous. I was very weary, given the poor sleep the night before and the rather wearing conditions at sea. Let us hope for better tomorrow on both counts.
white horses thunder
rearing and bucking to shore –
Whinchat has the reins.
Wednesday 2nd July 2014
I woke early, around 06:00 early, and in the half-light of the morning decided I might as well get up. I wasn’t rewarded by a spectacular sunrise, unfortunately, but then there are hills to the east. Pete also woke early, before the alarm, so activity was unusually prompt on Whinchat.
First event of the day was the cafetiere (?sp) exploding! I’d sat down with my poached egg on pumpernickel, and plunged the coffee to a whoosh of hot coffee coming over the table. Pete leapt up. I sat there somewhat stupefied. What had happened? Pete whisked the offending cafetiere (it’s on its fifth seasons on board, so not bad going) into the sink as I surveyed the breakfast carnage. There was hot coffee everywhere! And so, before we’d had a mouthful of food, it was mopping up time! The table in the saloon also doubles up as our wine store – there is a kind of trap door in the top, and it houses several bottles of wine – and most of the coffee had found its way in there. There is a ‘well’ at the bottom of this feature, so we were inch deep in coffee. Not to mention the grounds, seeping everywhere. Somehow we’d both pretty much managed to escape the tidal wave – except Pete’s bare feet, and thankfully none found its way to the seat covers. Pete had to dissect the table to make sure that we almost every drop, and when we’d mopped and dried, we sat down to breakfast. One very cold egg, but still runny in the middle. Very pleasing! We have a fall-back on coffee (serious business on board), the Italian percolator, so that was deployed and gave a suitable alternative. I’ve never been convinced of the wisdom of glass on board, so now we might be re-writing how we serve coffee on board.
I’d downloaded the weather in my early morning activities, and wasn’t wholly convinced about the sea – mainly. The wind is in the ‘wrong’ direction, north-easterly (where we need to head towards), but that will be true over the next couple of days. It’s the swelly sea with the north-easterly. I just couldn’t decide. Was I being a woos? There was no rain forecast, so it would be a sunny passage (which always seems better), but I kept on thinking about my passage south, where I was travelling comatose class courtesy of Stugeron. I rather wanted better.
Pete took the decision that we would go in search of the bread shop with the awesome bread – further than we thought – and we took a look at the anchorage in the bay. The north-easterly would have ripped through it, but lots of space, and not putting us onto a lee shore, so all good… except that you’d moor in front of a factory! Not what we’re used to, so that had us both pulling faces at each other. Success at the bread shop, even though it was so much further than either of us had remembered, and we headed back to top up the depleted caffeine levels at a cafe on the harbour. What would we do? I was most certainly in a vacant space, just slightly removed; never that reliable then, so we deferred a decision until we could look at charts and the weather, again. Oh, we’re good at putting off decisions. And the very-slightly deferred decision was to stay where we are! We are in no rush, and tomorrow should be less swelly sea, even if there’s not so much difference in the wind.
That turning point in the day reached, it was time for a walk. Pete had gone up to the marineros to pay, being declared his most best ‘amigo’! Pete had spied a map on his cabin, with different walks marked, so cleverly he took a photo of it on his iPhone, I made a picnic lunch using the awesome bread and jamon (of course), a fat apple to share and a couple of squares of chocolate. The back-pack was full – our Rustler jackets, the picnic, a supply of plasters, double water, phones and money. I’ve become default bag carrier, not through anything other than habit, and I’ve come to be used to the tortoise sensation of something on my back.
Finding the start of the track was the tricky part, which lead from the second church in Camarinas – I wasn’t sure we knew where the first one was, but we had a vague notion of direction. Up, and in the middle. Camarinas is also on a geographic promontory, and we’d walked along both coastal routes, so we knew we had to head up into the hills. Blind faith, despite an absence of signs, worked, as we headed up into the outskirts of the town, with bigger houses, small holdings (and a very cute kid with his ‘an-pa’, who gave us a wave (invited by said ‘an-pa’) and then nothing very much. We had the vague notion of a village in mind, en route, Moulin (perhaps) and couldn’t believe it when we spied a sign. From here we picked up the spray-painted route markers – a white/yellow for us – as we took a road towards the ecological park across a dust road. We were promised a ‘mirador’, and we weren’t disappointed. I wasn’t sure that we’d see the coast, as I thought that Pete had selected a route inland, but from the top, you could see Faro Vilan, the ocean, and the beach with the wrecked boat. We’d walked some distance already!
My friend Sue is right; the turbines have an elegance despite their size. Their majesty is amazing, and I find myself marvelling at them more than I do anything else. They have a lovely ‘whoop-whoop’ sound, as the blades switch through the air. As we reached the top, we thought it was time for lunch. We’d picked up another trail, a bike trail (green arrows), which we knew connected to the path we’d been on yesterday (the white/yellow trail), so we headed down there. Pete spotted a flat rock, a perfect picnic space, until a horse fly bit me, and that was that. No WAY was I spending another moment there, and off I toddled down the hill. It was some 40 minutes later that we reached the bottom, near the coast, and I deemed it windy enough to stop for lunch. Pete gave me his wonderful half-smile, sympathy with an edge of irritation. There were still flies, but if I kept moving, I could keep them off. Funnily enough, less than half a kilometre away was a bench, overlooking a lovely bay, but hey…..
Before making the return, we decided to go and take a look at the salvage of the wreck that we’d seen from the sea, and from Faro Vilan (photo back there somewhere). In five weeks they’ve made reasonable progress, although I’m not sure what my photo will show in comparison.
We joined up with the track that we’d walked on yesterday, but a couple of kilometres further along the coast… so we knew we were in for an epic walk back, but fuelled by lunch, it seemed all good. At the decision point of whether we went via the road (more direct), or the track (more scenic), we opted for the scenic… much further, and with about three kilometres to go, I was, I admit, staggering a bit. We’d been walking for almost four hours with barely a break, and it was suddenly very hard work. We wouldn’t make good Carmiño people on that effort! The last downhill to the marina was amazing – nearly there! We were back into the wind (the wind shadow parts were baking hot), and Whinchat was in sight! 20km, enough! There were certainly white ponies across the water, with the wind/water slamming into the outer pontoons. THANK GOODNESS we’d moved from the hammerhead, which would have sent the skipper’s BP through the roof, and as it is we have two boats to windward, and we’re big and chunky, so not that affected. You should see the wee German flimsy thing next to us, inside us, being buffeted around. Even the Norwegian Pocket Rocket is sturdier than that (one along).
And so another day has slipped by. Tonight’s offering from the kitchen was a ‘chiperones stew’ (squid cooked in red wine), with the rest of the awesome centeno loaf in mopping up! The trouble is, it is just the best bread, and now we’ve hogged it, will I want to make the 3km round trip in the morning to replenish stocks? ….. TBC….
cloud shadow passes –
whoosh; faster than usain bolt.
Best keep feet on land.
Tuesday 1st July
Winds, westerly, F4 (until we moored, then ++)
Seas, very lumpy, 2-3m swell rolling from the west
When I went up to use the servicos this morning, as soon as I got off the boat, I could hear the sound of a distant roaring, as if it were coming through the town. It sounded just like the ocean, but a part of me thought it couldn’t possibly have transmitted through the town. When Pete went up, he heard it too, but thought it more mechanical – air conditioning units, perhaps – and as there is quite a bit of active building work in Muxia, it was possible.
When we went out to top up our provisions, I requested taking the long way around, via the headland, to see if my assessment was right. Was it the ocean pounding the little bay in Muxia? We walked through the town, and before we’d come out the other side, you could hear it – for certain. The waves were thumping into the bay, and were absolutely the sound I could hear in the marina. That’s impressive! The waves weren’t *that* big, nearer three than two metres, but enough to create quite a disturbance to the air, and the roaring. The breakers were curling, and smashing the shore in an explosion of surf. It looked great for surfing – had it not been for the rocks that studded the coastline. We walked out to the headland, by the little church, and the sea was a churned up mass of white spume – perhaps a little disappointing. The photos we had the other day were cleaner, and therefore it wasn’t worth taking a picture of.
It was a little chilly in the wind (Pete hadn’t got a jumper on, I had), so we turned back into town for a delightful encounter with an old boy and two of the smallest puppies – sort of beagle-ish – who looked too young to be out, but were so adorable. They were following us along the path, and the guy was trying to coax them back, and talk to us. I think we could have had both of them if we’d wanted (and we did, in that moment), especially the one who took to my toes! Anyway, I had to tear myself away, but was soon distracted as we discovered it was market day…. mostly cheap clothes (and a whole stall dedicated to shell-suits) so a bit disappointing. Had we needed to top up the stocks of chorizo, it would have been perfect, but there’s only so much of that you can eat (and Tom doesn’t arrive for a couple of weeks!!). So, back into EuroCity and then a stop at Cafe Marina for our usual top-up on the WiFi. It’s almost time to move on when the lady who runs it knows your order – we laughed.
Topped up with weather, and emails, it was then decision time. Should we stay? Should we go – and if so, where? The weather didn’t look that great for breaking from the Ria (and that sea wasn’t talking to me), but we were after a move. So we decided that we’d head across the water to Camarinas, all of a couple of miles, but it meant that we could do the walk to the lighthouse, Faro Villain, that we’d enjoyed so much before.
We settled up (Marcus is great, but Pedro at Muros is still my favourite), and off we went. It was barely worth de-rigging, so I flipped up the fenders, and coiled the mooring warps, leaving them on their cleats. We hauled the Yankee, as when we had got out of the marina, there was a nice breeze, and the action of sailing is usually nicer through a lumpy sea…. and it was LUMPY, with Whinchat being rolled a bit as we came across the mouth of the ria – probably not enough sail out to plough through it, but certainly not worth putting any more out given we had about 30 minutes at sea. Our timing was totally rubbish, as the most ferocious downpour attacked us mid-way through our passage. I could see it coming (from behind Pete at the helm), so had dived down to get the coats. There was no way of avoiding it in the cockpit, and there was no way I was going down below to roll around in the swell, so we both got a soaking! Pete’s shorts had a distinct tide marks, and I had rivers running down my legs as I was huddled under the spray hood. Of course, with this mad rain came an increase in the wind, so suddenly we were in 20knots of wind – with five minutes to mooring.
We were rigged for a port-side-to from Muxia, and we could see a vacant slot that would work, mooring us into the wind (always the preferred option). No sign of the marineros, so I realised that I’d have to be the one to get onto the pontoon, run the mid-ships back, so that we’d have an active spring to secure ourselves with. First obstacle was a frame at the end of the pontoon, so that I simply couldn’t drop down, but had to wait until quite late before leaping…. and then the pontoon was SOOOOOO short, that Whinchat barely took a third of it, meaning my fenders were next to useless. I got another line on (the bow, probably), and then saw how much of the rear of Whinchat was hanging out. So, now half-tied on, soaked, and bewildered. We wandered up the central pontoon to see if the finger pontoons on the ‘port’ side were longer (yes) and whether the Marineros was there to advise (no). We decided that this was not a good place to lie, so we came out and I rigged for a starboard-to mooring. Everything over the other side of the boat, in the rain. Pete was holding Whinchat in the harbour, testing her against the wind – still blowing 20knots. The other side of the pontoon meant a downwind mooring, with a slight chicane into the vacant berth. I’d rigged and was ready, but the wind… Not helpful. We made a slow approach, but slow and controlled wasn’t possible and neither of us felt comfortable, so we aborted that and went for the hammer-head on the adjacent pontoon. That was a superb mooring, with me calling the distance, getting off, and Pete using my spring to bring us alongside. We had Whinchat all tied up, but knew this wasn’t the visitor’s pontoon…. so decided to have lunch and work out what next later. Pete had tried to get through the gates to the dock, but it was very locked, and we weren’t sure that we’d ever get off.
It’s amazing how much better you feel with lunch inside you (and a totally deserved soup, as we were both pretty damp), so we felt equipped to make the move onto the visitor’s pontoon. When we’d come some five weeks previously, we were one of two visiting yachts, with all the space to choose from (not that we had any choice, as the marineros was here to direct us), but we had a couple of spots only. The squalls of the lunch-time attempts had also died down, so the wind was about 4knots as we left the hammer-head for the third time lucky. Of course the wind senses it’s time to moor, so plays games with you, so it built, and I think was about 12knots when we manoeuvred through the chicane… still no one around to help, so I leapt off with the midships, to secure a rear spring, given that we were downwind. All good. Head still down, and going for the starboard bow (as I could reach it), and that was secured. Pete then yelled, and was waving/pointing from the stern. Eh? Could I decipher it? Nope. Not afraid of yelling back, I shouted… “I have no idea what you want me to do..” (!!), so he came forward to throw the port-bow (which I’d secured, but couldn’t reach), as this one would make us more secure. Ah… I understand. He chucked it at me, but it got caught around the seagull wires, so I had to retrieve that as Pete disappeared to the business end of Whinchat (the helm). Then I dashed back and got the sternline, and that secured… we were going nowhere. Only, the anchor was hanging over the central pontoon, and was a complete hazard, so we had to adjust all the lines so that we’d dropped back half a metre…. and only then were we completely happy. Third time lucky!
As we were just tidying up, a couple came from their Bowman 40, Betsy. They were from Helford (!!) and were making their way south, so we were able to share our thoughts for the best spot – and advise them how to get permissions for the Atlantic Island National Park. Let’s hope that Ana or Pedro or other lovely chap helps them when they get to Muros.
We decided that we would walk to the lighthouse, Faro Villain, as the weather looked like it would help us out for a couple of hours. It did, almost, with one frantic unearthing of waterproof coats from the backpack, for the minute that the heavens opened on us. We could see the squall across the ocean, and were unlucky to just get caught in the fringes of it. We hadn’t hoped so well for Pete’s shorts that were supposed to be drying on the rails – in fact, because the sun was so warm, any ‘damage’ by the rain had been undone by the sun. At times it was like walking in a steam bath as we wandered back from the lighthouse.
Back in port, we stopped for a beer in the bar (no beer snacks – it must be just the the weekend), and watched the Marineros direct two boats that had arrived at the same time into berths. Both wanted the now vacant hammer-head of the visitor’s pontoon, but they’re diddy, and no way were they to be allowed on there! A large Dutch boat has moored where we were, so we probably could have stayed, but it’s all good here. We are surrounded by French boats (Pedro was certainly right about it being their month), and watching them moor is always so entertaining.
Tonight’s meal is some very thin pork chops (wafer thin, almost), in the Remoska with a sort-of Lyonnaise potato cooking on top of them – a good slug of white wine, onion, tomato, garlic and mushroom anyway. As it’s so cool (27degrees in the boat!) we will deviate from the customary salad and go for green beans. All good.
The weather looks promising for a break to the next ria tomorrow, although the sea might still be a bit on the lumpy side, but that’s not going to change in the next day or so, but like any other day, decisions happen in the morning!
Wind laughs, blows a kiss
Pete shrugs – Whinchat is ready
Oh crikey – am I?