18 July - at Illa de Arousa and Pedras Negras
By early afternoon, the fog had lifted sufficiently that we could resume our planned move across the Ria to the island of Arousa itself. Our friend Peter Davies knows these waters very well and had recommended the anchorage on the NW corner of the island at Punta Caballo, so we motored through the viveiros, across the open stretch of water in the middle and picked our way into the bay.
Guarded at one end by a small lighthouse on a granite outcrop of huge boulders reminiscent of the Swedish archipelago, Plouman’ach in northern Brittany or parts of the New South wales bush, the central feature is a beautiful beach backed by pine trees on the hillside. Just around the corner in either direction is the fishing village of San Xulian. There’s a research institute for breeding shellfish there, a small shipyard focused on the fishing fleet and a gentle mix of tourism and traditional fishing amongst the streets. We anchored in 12m of water, which is relatively deep for these parts, with three or four other yachts from UK, France, Sweden and Spain. We are starting to see the same faces crop up regularly – the majority of boats are cruising Galicia, the next biggest crowd are making their way to the Mediterranean, but so far we are the only ones with a declared objective of ‘New York via Grenada’! The largest single group just now are the Irish, perhaps surprisingly. But then again, perhaps not: the Irish Cruising Club is a very fine institution and they have organised a rally of this part of Galicia starting later this month; we have been invited to join in one of their little ‘soirees’ next week…
The lighthouse at Punta Caballo
The sun came out rather reluctantly, but the breeze was warm and there was no threat of rain as we stepped ashore and did a circuit to San Xulian and the lighthouse, where an enterprising soul has set up a small bar with glorious views in every direction. The vegetation did remind us of the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney, with huge granite boulders, eucalyptus and pine elegantly spaced and inviting exploration.
The beach and anchorage at Punta Caballo
On Tuesday morning, with no sign of the sun appearing, we set off for the southern entrance to the Ria de Arousa and the beach at San Vicente de mar, reckoned by some experts to be Spain’s finest beach. The wind was on the nose, but there was sufficient sea room to sail and we had an enjoyable beat upwind past the Isla Arousa and the headlands of O Grove, where we had been in the car with Anna a few weeks earlier. At one stage the wind strengthened to over 20 knots and we had to reef the sails, but as we bore away around the south western corner of O Grove, it veered and eased enough to put 8 knots on the log and a smile on the skipper’s face! Offshore, the island of Ons provided a lee as we turned north east and headed towards the beach at San Vicente. We were never going to be able to anchor off there because of the swell and the wind direction, but there is a small marina at Porto Pedras Negras who swore blind that they could accommodate a 15m yacht when Julie rang them to check.
So we nosed our way in and were met by an efficient young man in an inflatable who, for once, seemed to understand the finer points of parking heavy boats in tight spaces. The berth we were given was… far too small. The finger pontoon was designed for a 30 foot boat, not a 50 footer, so we stick out into the channel rather a lot and the back end isn’t secured by much. As a palliative, our new friend offered us both sides of the berth, so we laid out a network of lines to keep us more or less in place should the wind get up again. I was more concerned about carrying away the pontoon and any other boats that might be attached to it, but he seemed quite chilled. After a really lovely walk along the foreshore, so was I.
‘Does my bum look big in this?’
We walked a couple of kilometres out to Punta Miranda. The Spanish have done it beautifully: a solid ‘decking’ boardwalk goes most of the way, weaving amongst delightful little coves with pristine sandy beaches, rock pools, granite boulders, pine trees and fine views out to Isla Ons and the beach at San Vicente. Not many poor people live here: the houses along the foreshore would not be out of place at Sandbanks in Poole and although the port has some fishing, the wealth is in second homes and tourism, not clams!
The beautifully presented walk to Punta Miranda
We returned from our walk to find an Irish yacht alongside us. John Bourke owns ‘Grand Slam’ now, but has a massive yachting CV going back decades, including time as the Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, the Irish Cruising Club and a senior position in the Ocean Cruising Club. His crewman Terry was the Commissioner for Irish Lights and a Board Member of RNLI under Sir Jock Slater, so afternoon tea in Escapade’s cockpit turned into a splendid ‘dit-spinning’ session as we enthused over the finer anchorages of West Cork and Kerry and the politics of lighthouses.
Interestingly, John is organising the ICC Galicia Rally mentioned above. He and I have been corresponding via email in the preceding weeks and now find ourselves in adjacent berths – the moons have a way of lining up!