Ria de Vigo - Isla Cies

Sun 12 Aug 2012 16:28
42:13.4N 08:53.4W

We had a lovely sail around to the next Ria - or rather, the last Ria as this is the last of the flooded river valleys along this beautiful coast. After this comes a bay, a river, then Portugal, we're about 30km from it now. Unusually, the wind was in the South West, typically we get Northerlies here, so we had to beat our way into it, tacking round the headland. However, the wind shifted towards the west as we came round so we were able to make the traffic separation zone that flows around the headland. Traffic separation zones are rather like roads in the sea, they put them were ever there's likely to be a lot of traffic, and especially where there's fast ships mixed in with small ships. Basically, you have to keep to the starboard channel and if you need to cross them, cross as close to right angles as you can, like when you cross a road, to have as little time as possible in the channels.

The reason there is one here is because of the ferries continually taking the holiday makers around the Ria and to the islands, and indeed it was to the islands that we were heading. The mouth of the Ria is blocked by three islands, which keep the Ria sheltered and free from swell. I have scanned this picture from a local brochure as it's impossible to give you an idea of how they lie using photos from the boat:

The first two islands have a curve of sandy beach between them, then behind that is a lagoon, which is a nature reserve filled with fish and bird life, then a little bridge over a rocky part, then the atlantic. We anchored in the curve of that bay, between the two islands. The only people on the islands are campers and day visitors from the ferries. There's a campsite and a little bar and camping shop where you see the buildings, and the pier on the closer arm of the bay is where the ferries come in to pick people up. It's absolutely lovely.

As we approached we could see the fog coming in, just like the last time we'd come into a Ria, you could see it pouring around the ends of the two islands, and tumbling through the gap between them. We had a bit of trouble getting the anchor to hold, it's sand but funny stuff... it seemed to be packed really hard out in 7m depth, the anchor tended to drag over it instead of digging in, but when we took the dinghy to the beach it was really soft stuff, that you sank deeply into when you tried to walk on it. I jumped from the dinghy when I saw it was about the right depth and sank right down, getting soaked to my waist (no hardship actually!).

In this picture above you can see the fog bank that came around the South of the island behind us (we're the hazy one in the middle of the pic), there's no sign of the headland at the entrance to the Ria. We were sitting in bright sunlight on the beach, but if you looked to the North this is what you saw:

The string of yellow buoys mark the channel that dinghies can use to come through the swimming area to the beach, those boats are really close yet you could hardly see them because the fog tumbled over the gap where the lagoon is between the Islands. It stayed away from our spot though, so we had a lovely lazy time on the beach, reading and taking dips in the (relatively) cold sea to cool down, as well as going for a walk along the shore, through the woods along the edge of the lagoon, across the lagoon on the bridge then back through the campsite to the beach via a boardwalk. I went bare foot, first sinking into the sand, then sticky pine needles attaching themselves to me, then finding smooth bits on the stone bridge across the lagoon, braving the gravel paths through the campsite, then next the smooth grey boards of the boardwalk, stretching out in front of me, warm in the bright sunlight and rising in black shadowed steps over the sand dunes before I was sinking back in that deep sand and feeling my thighs having to work to get me back to our 'spot'.

They are amazing islands, no wonder the day trippers come out in droves. I took this fog free shot of where we were anchored next morning as we left after spending a peaceful, though mosquito visited, night.