25 July - an Irish party in Galicia
Tuesday was a sun and wind day – very appropriate for a short hop from Cangas around to the Ria de Aldan and an eagerly awaited rendezvous with the Irish Cruising Club and the Ocean Cruising Club, who were holding a joint social gathering there. The ICC have deployed sixty yachts to northern Spain this year in a really impressive Rally of the Rias de Baixos. Since La Coruna, we Brits have been outnumbered by the Irish just about everywhere, in well sailed, well maintained boats with good local knowledge and a sense of adventure. I have written previously about the organiser of today’s event, John Paget Bourke – a legendary figure in European yacht racing who is cruising these waters with a couple of mates and a combined age onboard of 247 years! Apparently, they are not the oldest either!
Ria de Aldan faces north west. It has the usual fleet of viveiros which help to disperse the swell and it’s quite a bit smaller than the other Rias we have visited. From seaward, there are a dozen fine sandy beaches backed by well-spaced family homes half hidden in the pines. There’s a scent of luxury here, although you don’t have to look too far to find the abandoned fish cannery occupying prime waterfrontage.
We had a splendid sail round from Cangas, leaving the Cies Islands to port and escorting an Indonesian sail training ship out of Vigo. It looks as though they have been refitting in Vigo and are undergoing sea trials; clearly a Union man wrote the contract because they don’t go to sea overnight and get up at much the same time as Escapade’s crew! For a while, the wind reached 20 knots and we reefed down to make better progress to windward, but as soon as we turned east in towards the ria, the wind eased and we accelerated into the calmer water inshore. We won a little race with a local boat and then set about finding the beach for the Rally rendezvous. There were a few Irish boats right at the bottom of the ria, but our instructions pointed to a beach tucked into the western shore. We were the first to arrive which was good as we could pick the best spot to drop the anchor. As lunch got underway, so others began to arrive, including the boat we had ‘raced’ from Vigo – who turned out to be Alberto Lagos, the OCC Port Officer for Vigo and the man destined to fix our bent pulpit later in the week.
Indonesian Sail Training Ship on sea trials with Islas Cies in the background
But as some boats arrived, so others left and eventually one of them told us that the rendezvous had been changed to a beach on the north shore of the Ria de Vigo. This was a sensible decision: a much better lee from the fresh north westerly breeze and quite a bit more room for the large number of yachts expected! So we weighed anchor and sailed back the way we had come!
Escapade showing some speed on the way into Ria de Aldan
There was a fair crowd gathered off the Ensenada de Barra by the time we got there. It was a public holiday to mark the Feast of Saint James of Compostela, so the Spanish were in party mood too! A couple of very big Irish yachts had rafted together and the rest of us anchored nearby. Our host boat was the splendid Celtic Spirit of Fastnet, owned by the Dublin-based hotelier and property tycoon Michael Holland. He and his crew looked after us really well and we met a great cross-section of seasoned yachtsmen from Ireland and the USA. We were the only English, I think, so we flew the largest RNSA pennant we have! Everybody brought wine and nibbles (we provided some hot raxo – pieces of pork loin cooked in pimento and garlic) and the party lasted well beyond the appointed hour… well, it started late, let’s be frank.
The ICC rally has almost run its course now: they have a dinner for 300 in the Parador in Bayona on Thursday and then I think they will disperse. Which English yacht club could pull together such an impressive overseas deployment, I wonder?