5 July - Old Ferrol and the Percebes Capital of the World

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Wed 5 Jul 2017 21:25

43:15.8N  8:57.6W


The Spanish Armada sailed from Old Ferrol and got a drubbing from Sir Francis Drake (a previous commander of the Devonport Flotilla…).  So we were curious to visit that famous Spanish naval base.  My old friend Fernando Alvarez is now commanding a Squadron there, so it was the perfect excuse to slip around the headland from Ares and in through one of the most spectacular harbour entrances anywhere.  Imagine Devonport at the end of Kyle of Lochalsh with a couple of serious forts guarding the entrance - and twenty degrees warmer!



Sadly the harbour is not really oriented towards yachts.  There are a couple of glorious anchorages, but the plan was to go on the razzle with Fernando and his wife Helena, so he had negotiated a great berth for us in the old fishing port area of ‘downtown Ferrol’.  Slight problem is that the berth was actually in the commercial port, so subject to Port Police control.  We experienced the worst of Spanish bureaucracy here: despite someone in the port going to enormous lengths to provide charts and aerial photographs of where we were to go, somebody else in a different organisation (no doubt with a different budget) had other ideas.  It looked as though we might just pootle off back to Ares, but we stuck it out just long enough for the obstacle to clear (Julie’s diplomacy skills at the forefront) and we were allowed to stay.  We then found that we could not get ashore: the gates were locked and they ‘could not hear’ us ringing the bell.  So we pumped up the rubber boat and collected our slightly embarrassed Spanish guests by water!


The prime berth – but not for going ashore!


Ferrol is a great town and should be on the yachtsman’s itinerary for all the right reasons.  Always a fantastic harbour of huge strategic significance, the naval dockyard was really built up in the 18th century and the town grew on the back of this investment.  Apparently the town planners were Naval engineers…  Franco was borne there and in the 1980s they built some of the world’s largest supertankers in Ferrol.  More recently the place has been in decline – competition from South Korean shipbuilders I imagine – but there are signs of infrastructure investment here.  Interestingly the British never captured Ferrol.


So the run ashore that evening more than compensated for the small-minded bureaucrats, at least until we were visited by a policeman at 0800 next day demanding that we left at once.  Probably why Ferrol is NOT on the yachtsman’s itinerary.  I got grumpy and the policeman retreated looking slightly dazed, but 20 minutes later we were underway (I departed at full speed just for the pleasure of breaking the five knot speed limit!) and by nine o’clock we were anchored under the beautiful Castle of San Felipe in the harbour entrance.  We were surrounded by clam fishermen with their long poles scratching away at the seabed – what a tough way to make a paltry living – and gazing at History all around.  Idyllic.


Escapade guarding the Fort at Ferrol


Sheer hard work…


Eventually we dragged ourselves away and made passage towards the Ria del Corme e Laxes.  Very little wind blew, so the engine got a good run (again) and we enjoyed the sunshine.  With about three miles to run, the visibility suddenly started to drop and as we approached the harbour at Corme, it was disappearing before our eyes.  By the time we dropped anchor, we could hardly see the shore a hundred yards away.  The fog didn’t lift until dark.


Today we spent the forenoon doing admin,  maintenance and a spot of shopping.  The butchers shop is the social heart of the town, and as cheery a place as you’ve ever been in.  At the fishmongers, we bought some of those gooseneck barnacles (Helena told us that this is the capital of the Percebes industry) and the chap who sold us a couple of fly swats was amazed to hear that we were headed for the Caribbean – this is the ‘Costa del Morte’ after all.  This afternoon we enjoyed a sunny walk to the nearby lighthouse.  Not quite on the scale of some of those Breton masterpieces, but a good place to gaze at Cape Finisterre from.  As we returned to the boat, we spotted a ‘man with a van’ – a travelling outboard motor engineer.  He was working on a couple of fishing boats in the harbour, but we waylaid him as he thought he was setting off home to La Coruna.  What a star!  He spent the next hour and a half sitting in the bottom of my rubber boat fighting the intermittent fuel leak on that pesky outboard of mine.  Time will tell whether he’s fixed it, but regardless, the fuel system is definitely better than it was.  He charged 20 and would not take more.  He has more than enough work in La Coruna, but one week a month he visits all the fishing villages in the area because he wants to do a good job – he doesn’t charge customers for the travel.  Antonio Rioboo Santos deserves a Mention in Despatches!


Quite sleepy for a World Capital!


Tomorrow we will be eating barnacles for lunch.  The liveaboard life!