6 Aug - of islands, the Romans, bling and bliss
I am writing this on a perfect Sunday evening: glass of chilled Albarino white wine to hand, clear blue skies, calm sea, 26oC at half past eight. During the day we have had a lovely spinnaker run down from Sanxenxo, outside the Cies Islands and into the Ria de Bayona where we are anchored for the night off a perfect little beach overlooked by an interesting collection of quite upmarket holiday homes. We got here in time for lunch at 4pm and the dozen Spanish boats that were anchored here have now all gone home. This is the view from my perch.
Since I last wrote, we spent a day at the Cies Islands exploring the northernmost island and its lighthouse which marks the deep water channel between the islands and the Aldan peninsula, north of the Ria de Vigo.
On Tuesday we returned to the marina in central Vigo and took our fire extinguishers to a service agent recommended by our Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer, Alberto Lagos. There are rumours that the Portuguese authorities fine yachtsmen up to €250 per ‘out of date’ extinguisher regardless of how many you have onboard (Escapade has six, five of which have no markings at all). The chap serviced them all in a day, gave us a suitably impressive certificate and a pile of stickers and I now feel ready to face the toughest Inspector anywhere. We returned to My Favourite Launderette with the weekly dhoby bag and reprovisioned, ready for a week with my good friend Richard Maltby, who flew out in the afternoon. His journey was not without incident: a young man of Arab origin got over-excited on the aeroplane as it waited to depart from Gatwick and was escorted off in a straight-jacket by some awfully nice uniformed and armed policemen… so he needed a cuppa on arrival onboard!
Departing Vigo before the rush…
We returned to the Cies Islands with Richard on Wednesday and Thursday and enjoyed revisiting some of the sites. On Thursday morning, we climbed up to the lighthouse that looks out into the Atlantic, only to find the summit shrouded in fog. We hung around for twenty minutes and the visibility cleared enough to see most of the spectacular views, but it was essentially a cloudy day.
Olly, the resident octopus in the lagoon at Islas Cies
So rather than sunbathe, we went sailing and set out for the Ria de Aldan, where we had a table booked at the Menduina restaurant we had visited on Sunday. The wind soon died and before we had gone a mile, we were in very thick fog. Fortunately, we had mended the electric foghorn the previous day (Malters is a Reading Marine) and the combination of sound signals, radar and our new AIS system made the passage safe, interesting, reasonably challenging and quite enjoyable. As we turned into the Ria de Aldan, the fog lifted and we returned to glorious sunshine. Enough for a swim and some snorkelling before rowing ashore for dinner.
Avoiding ships in the fog
On Friday, we moved further into the Ria so that we could get ashore to the bread shop more easily. In the afternoon, we decided to step ashore for a walk. Julie had identified a trail that included one of the original eucalyptus trees imported from Australia in the nineteenth century (see my blog dated 23 June). It’s widely grown in Galicia for use in the paper industry, but here it was mostly growing wild. The specimen was massive – and I’ve seen a few eucalyptus in my time, Cobber.
Fazza and Malters contemplate their youthful tree-climbing exploits
Perhaps more interesting though, was the Roman aqueduct. There were no signs, no attempts to protect this fascinating piece of history (what have the Europeans ever done for us, after all? Romans, Danes, Normans, Dutch, Germans have all left their marks on our culture…). So, as we walked through the woodland, we suddenly came across this impressive wall with a fine arch – obviously Roman – spanning a small stream and heading off at right angles. We scrambled to the top and found the aqueduct: big enough to provide some running water, but where to and why? We followed it for quite a way in one direction before it headed off into some thick undergrowth. We turned to loop around in the other direction and came across it again. We followed it to the main road, where it had surrendered to Progress and although we found it again on the other side, it stretched away across private land and the trail looked weak. Our theory is that whilst the stream runs down to the beach at the head of the Ria, the aqueduct supplied fresh water to what is now the main fishing harbour and which would have been an obvious place to build a settlement. It must have required a huge effort to construct and it’s fascinating to think that it has survived so well for a couple of thousand years…
The Roman aqueduct from below…
Saturday brought wind. Quite early, in fact. It swung through 180o during the night and when Julie awoke at seven, there was another yacht about ten feet astern of us with his anchor cable within inches of our rudder. They had anchored after us and too close – but I said nothing at the time as the wind was keeping us apart and was not due to swing until later. There wasn’t much choice: he could not pay out more cable without hitting a boat behind him and if he tried to weigh anchor, he would end up underneath us. So we recovered the dinghy, made ready for sea, weighed anchor and moved a couple of hundred yards upwind. We dropped anchor again and went back to bed.
By lunchtime it was blowing twenty knots, so we decided to go sailing. We thought we would end up in Combarro in the Ria de Pontevedra, but go via the Isla de Ons for a look. There was a possible anchorage in a small bay at the southern end. We had a cracking sail over there in glorious sunshine, did a quick survey of the eastern side of the island which reminded me of Colonsay, before poking into what appeared to be a rather unpromising inlet.
It was almost perfect. It was out of the swell, out of the wind, in the sun, steep cliffs on three sides, a small sandy beach at the head and not another person in sight. We decided to drop anchor for lunch and ended up staying quite late. Swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing and fishing. Didn’t catch a thing, although Malters reported plenty of marine life closer to the rocks. I blame that cushion…
Colonel Maltby claims the island of Ons for her Majesty
Eventually we decided it was time to sail for Combarro. Enroute, Julie rang to book a berth, only to find that they were full. So we decided to divert to Sanxenxo, also on the northern shore of the Ria de Pontevedra and a well-known upmarket tourist resort. It was busy, but we got a berth. The most expensive berth of the trip so far. It turns out that Sanxenxo is the St Tropez of Atlantic Spain. The marina was surrounded by designer shops (most of them turned out to be Outlets) and a throng of Beautiful People all watching each other. The chandlery stocks designer foul weather gear for five year olds and soft furnishings for exotic powerboats. But the Sikaflex isle was almost empty and the only stuff they had was past its sell-by date. No doubt the permanent crew have a direct satellite link to the agent…
We went ashore after dinner and threaded our way through the crowds to the adjacent fishing village of Porto Novo, where we found one of those bars that you only find in genuine fishing villages: every spare piece of wall of ceiling was bedecked with photos of customers and owners, recording their lives and aspirations over the last fifty years and more. Heavy wooden beams, low ceilings, sawdust on the floor, not a Beautiful Person in sight. Three beers for €5.
Today, we left Sanxenxo with no intention of returning. We hoisted the spinnaker and headed out to sea, leaving the Cies Islands to port before turning south towards the Portuguese coast. Then we gybed in towards the Ria de Baiona and this fabulous anchorage. We even had a dolphin escort on the way in.
Does it get any better than that?