Ria De Arosa (Part 1)

James & Amelia Gould
Tue 24 Apr 2007 11:39

10 – 19 April 2007:  Ria De Arosa (Part 1)


We left the Ria de Muros bright and early on 10 April for the long sail around to the next harbour, the Ria de Arosa.  This is the largest of the Galician rias, and the one best known for good sailing.  We were looking forward to exploring the many anchorages and towns in the area, though keen to avoid all the unmarked rocks on the chart!


There was hardly any wind when we left Muros, but as we slowly came out of the shelter of the Ria the wind built so that we were sailing quite nicely.  We had to give the coastline a wide berth because of all the shoal patches and rocks, though navigation was made easier by all the fishing boats sat on top of the shoal patches!


After a while I noticed a commotion in the water up ahead, and lots of birds circling above.  Then we saw dolphin fins and realised that it was a bait ball!  The dolphins were circling to herd the fish, and the birds were taking what they could off the top.  It was soon over, and then the dolphins came to say hello to us.  There were loads of them, and they were all around the boat, swimming in and out between the hulls.  At one point we had 6 dolphins lined up under the net up forward between the hulls.  James and I lay down on the deck and reached down to touch them.  I somehow sensed that they knew we were there, and were playing with us.  One even snorted all over James! (dolphin snot smells of fish – J)  The whole thing was brilliant!


Dolphins off the bow


After the dolphin excitement we motored gently the rest of the way into the Ria (the wind had gone), and went alongside in the first harbour in the Ria – Sta Uxia de Riveira.  The town had a marina right on the beach, with pontoon berths that were stern-to Med moorings.  There wasn’t much space to swing a big cat around, but James managed to glide us into position, with someone standing by to give us a line for the bows.  We only just fitted in the space…  In the end, as it was late in the evening and there was plenty of space on the pontoon, the marina attendant decided to let us turn the boat 90 degrees and sit alongside, rather than the awkward Med mooring – it made getting ashore much easier!


Riveira was one of the largest towns we have visited since La Coruna.  After the sleepy little fishing villages we had been staying in, it almost seemed a shock to the system to have so many people and cars around.  There were loads of shops, and a huge supermarket.  I even managed to do some clothes shopping, though I resisted the shoe shops…  My 5 pairs of flip flops still have life in them yet!


We sailed from Riveira the following day, headed for a nice little anchorage in the north end of the ria.  There wasn’t much wind, so we drifted along with our biggest sail set towing a fishing line (still haven’t caught any fish…).  We sailed into the Cabo Cruz anchorage, and contrary to all sailing manuals James executed a perfect anchorage down wind under sail.  (Note for non sailors - it is customary to anchor on a beach where the wind is blowing you offshore so that if the anchor drags, you only drift out to sea as apposed to hitting the rocks on the beach. However, in Rahula everything is possible, and a downwind anchorage it was.)  (Note for sailors- the wind was supposed to shift but it didn’t and began to fill in from the wrong direction, peachy anchorage though…J) We soon decided there wasn’t really enough shelter in this little cove, so we upped anchor and sailed to Pobra do Caraminal, where we anchored again within a stones throw of the marina.


Rahula shunning the expensive comforts of a marina in Pobra for a free overnight anchorage


We had an early start the following morning to sail the short distance to Vilagarcia.  We needed to get there in time for Mark to find out about transport back to La Coruna for his flight home, and I wanted to make the most of the morning breeze.  In the end there was almost too much wind, as the boat was doing 9 knots to windward, and I could only just hold onto the helm!  Unfortunately the wind was coming from exactly where we wanted to go, so we tacked across the harbour, using the mussel farms as indicators when the water got too shallow on either side of the harbour. 


We made it to Vilagarcia by lunchtime, and decided to anchor in the bay off Carril for lunch.  James flashed up the BBQ, while Mark and I enjoyed the sun.  It was a lovely anchorage, very peaceful and picturesque, but it was all too soon time to weigh anchor and head into the marina in Vilagracia.





Vilagarcia is the “capital” of the Ria, and the largest town.  We decided to stop here a while as it had good transport links for Mark to get home, and good yacht facilities.  A month after leaving the UK it was time to give Rahula some TLC, and stop for a bit of maintenance.  We went out for dinner as it was Mark’s last night in Spain, and had a traditional Galician tapas meal of calamari, octopus and chips.  James ordered a dish that translated (by Amelia - J) as “Hot Ham”, and turned out to be roast beef and curry gravy!  We struggled to find somewhere suitable, as there don’t seem to be many restaurants in Galicia, only bars that show the football and do tapas.  At least they are cheap!


After dropping Mark off at the train station, we couldn’t ignore the boat any longer; it was time for some repairs.  We sat down and made a to-do list (always a good way of putting things off a little bit longer), then decided it was far too hot / late in the day, and instead spent the rest of the day swapping our winter and summer clothes and generally pottering, doing nice little jobs.


The main reason for the extended stay in Vilagarcia was to do some repairs on the hull.  We still had a crack in the side from when we pounded into the pontoon in Falmouth during the storm.  There were also various small cracks in the paint which needed attending to before they got any worse.  So we got our overalls out, and started sanding and preparing the hull for some fibreglass repair.


Fibreglass repair is an art form that only a few people I know have mastered.  It involves mixing all sorts of chemicals into a glup which you paste onto the repair.  You have to get the quantities right, so that the glup stays fluid while you are using it, and doesn’t harden too soon.  Once the glup hardens, you sand it down so that it blends seamlessly into the hull.  This assumes that you have managed to match the colour correctly, as I have learnt that a white boat is never truly white.  And that you have filled all the little nooks, and that when you are sanding you don’t come across a big gaping void, which means that you have to do the whole thing again.


Back in the UK, when we were working, and had lots of money and no time, we paid a very nice man called Mike to do most of the repairs (number available to employed boat-owners on request – J).  He was brilliant, and did a job in a third of the time it would have taken us, using half the materials, and with a seamless finish.  Unfortunately, unemployment means that we just couldn’t afford to fly him out, and we had to do things ourselves.


The reason why I am going into so much detail is because the “small” repair job which was going to take us a couple of days, leaving the rest of the time free to explore the area, actually took 3 attempts to get right.  First time I mixed all the ingredients carefully, and spent ages pasting it all in place.  I figured it would take an hour or two to harden.  By the following morning it was still pasty, and performed a really good role as a fly trap overnight.  We tested the catalyst that I used, and found that it was a dud batch (bought at a boat jumble, no wonder it was cheap!).  So we spent all morning scraping the old stuff off, cleaning the repairs, and mixing another batch of paint.  This time I decided to put in a little less catalyst as it was so hot, and I didn’t want the paint to harden while I was using it.  We went for a long walk (more below) as a distraction from watching the paint dry.  On our return we found that the second batch hadn’t hardened either!


There was nothing to it, we had to get the book out and read the instructions.  This is where I discovered that I had mixed far too little catalyst.  I was measuring it in drops (as I was used to doing small batches), whereas for the quantities we were mixing we needed squirts!


So the second batch got scraped off, cleaned, and a new batch of paint applied.  This time with the correct amount of catalyst; and it hardened in about an hour…  I am pleased to say that after this saga the boat is now repaired.  I got very good at colour matching after 3 attempts, and now you can barely see where we repaired the cracks!


During one of these sessions James suggested that we went for a short walk while the paint was hardening.  We were both a little hung-over from celebrating our wedding anniversary (too much champagne…) the night before, so we didn’t want to do anything strenuous.  There is a promenade along the harbour front which leads to the next village, and it seemed like the perfect way to while away the afternoon.  On the beach we found a little local museum that was also a tourist information office.  There a nice lady gave us a map and leaflet about the area (reader, can you sense the impending doom? I, unfortunately didn’t…J).  However, the tourist map was like no other I had seen before.  It was a street map with all the important municipal buildings clearly marked, and it had a handy side section all about the interesting things to see in the area, but none of the tourist sites where marked on the map!


The nice lady then spent 10 minutes going through the map with me in broken English, marking all the location of the important sights with crosses.  Unfortunately she didn’t label any of the crosses, so now we had a tourist map with lots of random squiggles.  We found out that there were some rock carvings from 2000BC just beyond the village we were headed for, so we decided to extend our walk and visit them (here we go….J).


The lady said it was a 3KM walk, which we figured would take 30-45 minutes.   The directions she gave us obviously assumed we had a car, as we spent most of the time walking on the edge of a very main road with cars thundering past.  After an hour we figured we must have passed the turnoff, and decided to head for a little beach we could see nearby for a rest. 


Beach rest stop


At the beach the coastline back towards Vilagarcia looked quite passable, with nice big boulders lining the way.  This seemed a better prospect than walking along the main road again, so we followed the water for a while.  Unfortunately, after about 1 KM the rocks became impassable, but there did seem to be a path leading up the bank towards the main road above.  We took the path, which was narrow and surrounded by prickly brambles and thorns.  The path soon stopped, and we were stuck, half way up a bank, with the choice of finding a route through the bushes or walking back on ourselves for 30 minutes.  We could hear the road, and it seemed tantalisingly near, so we decided to head on.  James trampled a path through the thorns, while I picked prickles out of my flip flops at every step.  The climb took us 30 minutes…  Then we emerged onto a railway line, with no clear route to the road above.  We had just seen a train, and we knew that the trains to Vilagarcia didn’t run very often, so we followed the railway tracks until we found a level crossing and emerged back onto the main road.


The bush walk – can you see a path through it?


Once back on the main road we saw a sign to the rock carvings!  So we followed a side road up a steep hill, but there was no sign of any rocks, or carvings.  We asked some locals, who told us to carry on.  After a while, we asked some more people, who said the carvings were back the way we came…  We wondered through a pine forest for an hour, examining every large rock for some cave drawings.  All we found was 20th century graffiti.  By 5pm we’d both had enough, and it was time to give up.  By the time we got back to the boat our “short walk” had taken 5 hours!


Fortunately our other explorations of the local tourist attractions were rather more successful.  Vilagarcia was a major trading town for a while, and so has lots of old manor houses built by rich merchants.  Most of these are closed to the public, but you can still see them from the outside.  This time it was a nice, short, relaxed walk!



Galician Manor House


After a week in Vilagarcia we were itching to sail again, so it was nice to leave the confines of the marina and get back out into the harbour.  More on the rest of our exploits in this ria and the next in the next blog!