Ria De Pontevedra
23 – 26 April 2007: Ria De Pontevedra
We sailed from the Isla Toxa anchorage early in the morning, with not a breath of wind in sight. We could only just see the hills on either side of the Ria through the mist, which made navigating out past the vaguely charted rocks an interesting challenge for me.
Isla Toxa on a misty morning
We motored out of the harbour with the wind slowly building until eventually we could sail again. Visibility was still not great, and once we were out of the shelter of the harbour the visibility reduced to about 200 yards. We put the boat’s radar on for the first time in ages so that we could “see” any boats coming towards us. It was very eerie listening to fog signals and the sound of engines nearby without actually seeing anything through the fog. We established a system where James peered at the radar spotting moving objects while I stood on deck and listened out for boats. One fishing boat headed right for us, but we didn’t see it until it was 100 yards away!
Luckily I had put in a GPS waypoint for the route through the rocks before we left the Ria de Arosa, and soon we could see the buoys marking either side of the channel on the radar. We aimed for the gap in between, and hoped that our chart was up to date. Then as suddenly as it came the wind went and the fog lifted, and we could see the buoy we were aiming for straight ahead, about 100 yards away! I was very pleased with our teamwork and blind navigation accuracy, but James was blasé as it is all in a day’s work for him.
The fog and wind came and went throughout the day, making navigating into the Ria de Pontevedra interesting. We finally made it to our destination in Porto Novo that afternoon, pleased to be safely tucked up in a marina.
Porto Novo is a large new town, whose main industry is tourism. It is an annex of the larger resort next door, Sanxenxo, which looked like any British sea side town full of ice cream parlours and games arcades. There was a marina in Sanxenxo too, but we decided the smaller one in Porto Novo was more suited to our tastes and budget – the Sanxenxo marina was full of multi-million pound luxury yachts, and had a Prada shop next to the chandlers!
The marina in Porto Novo also had a good wifi connection, so we could test our new Skype account and publish blogs. It was a marvel of modern communication to be sat on a boat in a marina chatting to family and friends over the Internet. It appears that there is no escape from the modern world, even when cruising! To all of you who are on Skype, look us up – we’ll be happy to chat when we have wifi onboard!
Porto Novo also had good transport connections to Pontevedra, the capital of this region, and a city we were quite keen to visit. Pontevedra is a traditional Galician town, full of flag stoned narrow streets and interesting architecture. We wandered around the old part of the city and took in the sights, including a Baroque church built in the shape of a scallop shell (the symbol of Santiago de Compostella) and the museum. The museum had an interesting display of local historical artefacts from the Bronze Age, through Roman times to the 20th century. It had a section devoted to the creation of the Spanish Navy, including a complete replica of the wardroom in the first Spanish battle ship (complete with a British map of the world on the wall!). It also had a room devoted to the artist Alfonso Castelao, and his caricatures and drawings of Spain in the early 20th century were fascinating and evocative (it is well worth looking him up if you are interested in Spanish Civil war art).
Pilgrim’s Chapel, Pontevedra Spanish Wardroom replica
Then for a bit of a 21st century culture shock we went to the local market, and saw raw, unadulterated, not pre-packed food. The noise and the smell of the market was quite overpowering, with the fish sellers shouting in staccato Galician with hands deftly and unthinkingly gutting their produce, and the aroma of nearly fresh fish contrasting with the almost sickly-sweet smell of an enormous fresh flower stall in the middle. Upstairs contained the more meaty side of the market with a whole array of flesh hanging up in the market kiosks, from pigs trotters, Serrano ham and chorizo sausage to fresh and bloody fillets of beef, the noise and pace more sedate than that of the fish area below, although the rising smell of the fish along with the bloody smell of these kiosks still made for a rather heady atmosphere!
Pontevedra Octopus (pulpo) and Fish at the market – yes, we ate this stuff!
Pontevedra Meat Market
After our day in Pontevedra, we split up so that James could go back to the previous Ria by train (why can’t UK trains be as comfortable, reliable, numerous, cheap and fast as the Spanish equivalent?) to pick up some mail that hadn’t quite reached us on time (foreign mail systems just aren’t quite as reliable as good old Royal Mail) (including the latest Navigation News – phwooooar…J).
We felt that our sojourn into the ria over the land was sufficient, as there weren’t many places to go to by boat in the ria. The south side of the harbour was very industrial and there were no other towns worth visiting. So the following day we waved goodbye to Ria de Pontevedra and Porto Novo and made our way south to the next (and penultimate) Ria we intended to visit; Ria de Vigo.