26 – 30
April 2007: Ria De Vigo & Illas
On leaving Porto Novo we initially headed for the Cies Islands which are
a large nature reserve, but the wind had shifted to the wrong direction (why
does it never follow the forecast around here?!) and there was a large swell
running, making our planned anchorage in the north island uncomfortable and
unsheltered. So we decided to hide
in the Ria de Vigo until the bad weather passed, then nip out to the islands
again later in the week.
Our first stop in the Ria de Vigo was a Cangas, a small town near the
entrance on the north side of the harbour.
As we turned into the harbour the wind built quite considerably, and we
were swamped by the wake of a large fishing boat that passed rather too close
for our likings. Unfortunately the
window in our cabin wasn’t fully shut (as we rarely get water that far up the
hull!), so most of the water found its way in and onto our bed. This meant that our first task in Cangas
was to find a laundrette to get our duvet washed…
We anchored off the beach in Cangas, and went ashore in the dinghy. The edge of town where we landed wasn’t
very nice, but as we approached the city centre the view improved a little. We explored most of what the town had to
offer that afternoon (most of the sites of interest are out of town), and as we
failed to find an open laundrette (it being a Friday afternoon on a holiday
weekend), we decided to move on the following day. The anchorage wasn’t very comfortable
either, with the wash from passing ferries and fishing boats constantly rocking
Rahula at anchor in
James enjoying the peaceful anchorage in Cangas
The following morning we motored the 2 miles across the harbour to
Vigo. Vigo has three marinas, and
we chose to go to the one that was nearest to the centre of town. When we arrived we found the marina was
packed, with barely room to turn the boat around, and no free pontoons. We went alongside the fuel pontoon to
ask for a space and chatted to a very nice security guard who spoke good English
while we waited for the marina staff to appear. Eventually the marina staff turned up,
and despite all the efforts of the staff and the guard (including calling the
club Commodore!) there was no space for us. So on recommendation we headed to Vigo’s
newest marina on the eastern edge of the town.
The contrast was amazing.
The second marina was empty, and had neatly spaced substantial pontoons
with plenty of space to manoeuvre.
We found a nice sheltered berth, and wondered why such a good marina was
so empty when all the others in town were packed. The reasons soon became clear. Though the yacht facilities in the
marina were faultless, the people facilities were terrible. The showers were in tiny porta-cabins
right at the opposite end of the boatyard, and were filthy (the marina managers
obviously assumed people would shower onboard their luxury yachts, so they
didn’t need to look after the facilities).
The nearest main road was a 15 minute walk up a steep hill, and then it
was a 20 minute bus journey into the centre of town (though the staff did offer
to get us a taxi). To top it all,
this was the most expensive marina we had been to so far!
Punta Lagoa Marina,
Vigo. The city is in the background
of the right hand picture.
Vigo is the largest town we have been to since La Coruna, and is Spain’s
chief fishing port. The wharves and
quays stretch along the shore for nearly 5KM and the town has a long maritime
history. So our first intended port
of call was naturally the Sea Museum, which came highly recommended. The Tourist Information office was shut
when we finally made it into town and rather than wait half an hour for it to
open we examined the map in the window and found the Sea Museum. It looked like a nice walk along the
coast to the museum, giving us a chance to take in some other sites along the
way, so off we went (yet again all the warning signs were there but
unheeded……J) . Unfortunately
walking through Vigo without a map turned out not to be as easy as we expected,
as the streets followed no logical pattern or the coast. We zigzagged across the city for 2
hours, walking through some less salubrious areas until eventually we chanced
upon the museum. And you guessed it
– it was shut. It was shut for the
whole year for refurbishment. We
were not happy!
Luckily there was a bus stop opposite the museum, so we got the bus back
into the centre of town. On the way
we passed a bike shop, and James insisted we got off the bus and went to have a
look. Two bike shops later we had
ordered 2 folding bikes for the boat, which will hopefully mark an end to our
long walks searching for tourist attractions. Now we can get lost on long bike rides
looking for elusive tourist sites!
The centre of Vigo is very nice, with interesting large buildings on wide
main roads contrasting with narrow cobbled streets off the beaten track. There are random statues on display
everywhere, and we came across a Cow Parade in one of the municipal parks. We also chanced across a very good (and
free!) Tamara de Lampicka exhibition.
Vigo Architecture Contrasts
Vigo Cow Parade
There was a lot to do and see in Vigo, but we couldn’t
stay in the expensive marina much longer, so we decided to move on and perhaps
come back by bus from another place to explore Vigo. The gap in the weather meant it was time
to go to the Illas Cies.
The sail there was plagued by light fluky winds from
mainly astern and our preferred downwind sail (the ‘Drifter’) was out of action
because it was showing some significant wear and tear which we wanted repaired
before we broke it completely. The
only option if we didn’t want to ‘hoist the aluminium mainsail’ (engine) was to
break out the Spinnaker, which is quite unusual for short-handed cruising as it
has a reputation for being a beast that is difficult to tame with heavy poles,
uphauls and downhauls, hence we have put off using it for a long time. This is one area where we are obviously
still in monohull mode as in reality, with a 20 foot wide boat there is no need
for poles and the bits of string associated with them and rigging the beast took
no longer than ten minutes and it flew beautifully for another ten minutes until
the wind died completely. So the
noise machine was switched on and we made our way towards the anchorage.
Passage under Spinnaker
The islands were once a refuge used by Sir Francis Drake
when conducting pirate raids on Spanish shipping, and are now a nature
reserve. They were our first taste
of things to come when we explore the other Atlantic islands with beautiful
white sandy beaches, glistening turquoise water and a rugged scenic
terrain. We anchored off the beach
and headed ashore to explore some of the many footpaths that crisscross the
northern two islands.
Not the Caribbean but the Illas Cies, with Rahula
in the distance
The weather still wasn’t great, and it looked like there was another
storm coming towards us from the Atlantic.
We only had time to do one of the walks on the islands, so we chose the
longest one, which led to the lighthouse at the highest point on the
islands. It was a pretty walk
through woodland then a winding path led upwards along the cliffs to the
lighthouse. At the top we had great
views out to the ocean to the west and into the Ria de Vigo to the east. It was well worth the long climb, though
the atmosphere was spoilt somewhat by a grungy Galician bagpiper insisting on
making a racket (beard, sandals, look of deep spiritual searching on face, I
think you know the type. But why
must they always assume that their half arse attempts at music add so much to
the ambiance, it was supposed to be a bird sanctuary but all but the hardiest
shite-hawks were scared off because they believed a mass of angry cats were
The long winding path up to the
We would have loved to stay on the islands longer and visit some of the
other anchorages or walk the other paths.
Unfortunately the bad weather and the need for some sail repairs (must
always go faster….J) before we head south into Portugal meant we had to move
on. Though now we had an incentive
to get all our jobs done quickly so that we could return to the islands one last
time before it was definitely time to head south to greet our next visitor, my
sister Eleanor, in Porto.