Snow Leopard
Sat 1 Nov 2008 00:00



We spent a very relaxing week at Soubise which is a delightful, quiet village on the south bank of the river Charente. Wandering up to collect the bread each morning , then a few alterations or repairs with the help of the lads at the yard, especially trying to trace one particularly annoying little leak; lunch in the cockpit, perhaps a short siesta and then a drink with Philippe and dinner either on board or at the little restaurant on the quayside that cook mussels so many different ways. This was the first time we had stopped for more than two days since leaving Southampton and it was a pleasure.


One of the reasons for our protracted stay was a particularly nasty low stomping across the Bay of Biscay. Apart from wind we were given another spectacular lightning storm. The French seem to do them so well.


The Charente is navigable up to the old naval town of Rochefort and it is always surprising how many large ships make their way up this fast-flowing, shallow and none-too-wide river


See what I mean?



Sunset at Soubise




Philippe’s new car, a 1993 Series 4 Corvette Stingray – Eat your heart out Andy Brookes



We left Soubise on the afternoon of Friday 12th September and had a fast, but mixed sail to La Coruna on the north-east corner of Spain. We covered 330 miles in about 40 hours, and that included flat calms, gusts to 30 knots, and some beating towards the end. It was mostly in a NW 4-5, with a big, big swell from the north. Speeds hit 16knots a one stage, just with the jib and 2 reefs. Life gets very noisy down below at these speeds, though the boat is perfectly comfortable.


Both nights at see were with a clear sky and nearly full moon, which does enliven the spirits in the middle of the night. We watched the sun go down, wondering if it is possible to see the ‘green flash’ so fabled in the Caribbean. Just as the last sliver of sun went behind the horizon we were treated not to the usual almost instantaneous flash but a prolonged very green couple of seconds. I certainly had never seen the like. So the green flash does exist and it’s better in Biscay!


We arrived at La Coruna on Sunday morning. We first called at the ‘revamped’ Marina A, but it was barely finished and was overun with gulls and their mess. We then went around into the older but nicer Darsena Deportivo. Even tucked well into the harbour the marina gets a considerable surge from the swell outside. However whilst all the Monohulls were clanking and banging, Snow Leopard was serenely still.


La Coruna is a lovely town and we thoroughly enjoyed our 3 days there. We walked around the town, chatted to fellow yachties, found a very nice internet café and ate a very nice seafood dinner with Bob and Elaine, fellow members of the Royal Southampton who were on their way south to lay-up their boat, ‘Pipistrelle’, in Portugal.


The Torre de Hercules, La Coruna, the oldest working lighthouse in the world, first constructed by the Romans



Ideal boat transport. I want one!



From La Coruna the next short leg was around the infamous Capes Torinana and Finisterre on the aptly named Costa Morte. Not on this occasion though – we motored the whole way without a breath of wind to anchor at Camarinas in the first of the Rias after Finisterre. Rather a disappointing village and a smelly anchorage from the local fish factory.


Cape Finisterre in benign mood


By now the weather was noticeably warmer, but still with an autumnal chill in the evening, so ever southward to Portosin in the Ria de Muros. Whilst the marina at Portosin was pleasant the town was nothing special, but the main reason to stop here was to visit Santiago de Compostela.

First one bus to Noya, then another to Santiago (I love travelling by bus if you have the time). I knew about the cathedral and the pilgrims that still make their way to Santiago in huge numbers, but I did not expect such a beautiful medieval city. Although touristy, Santiago has a wonderful atmosphere, full of excitement and with such fantastic architecture.


We got into the cathedral just before midday mass. It was an extraordinary experience. The church was packed and there was such an atmosphere of expectation and excitement, culminating with the giant incense burner being swung to the ceiling by eight burly priests. Stunning. Go there if ever you get the chance






The huge incense burner in centre is swung right to the ceiling of the cathedral




















The day after our visit to Santiago we had a short sail round to the Ria de Pontevedra. We had been recommended a visit to the restored fishing village of Combarro at the head of the Ria. Both pilot book and charts indicated a small crowded harbour, with room to anchor outside, so we were more than a bit surprised to find a full-blown new marina occupying the whole of the harbour. I think we were their first visitor!


Combarro is really pretty – the Spanish equivalent to Clovelly,-. with tiny narrow windy streets and alleyways down to the waterside. It is a real ‘lived-in’ fishing village and although there are a number of tourist shops they have not taken over. There are also many bars and restaurants serving seafood of all types.











 Views of Combarro






The last sail in Spanish waters was to Bayonna, an old favourite of mine and a required stop at the yacht club there whenever transiting this coastline.


En route we anchored off the island of Cies at the entrance to the Ria de Vigo. The island is a nature reserve, and a walk around was beautifully peaceful. Lucy even went for the first swim of the voyage. It’s still far too cold for me!





First swim at Isla Cais

Anchorage off Playa de Arena, Isla Ceis


Since I was last in Bayonna 20 years ago they have built a big new marina, but the yacht club is still very welcoming and, as Viv remembers, they still serve the best gin and tonic at the splendid bar overlooking the port.


Bumped into the Dutch couple Martin and Jani  (who had been to Santiago with us), on their boat ‘Sem’. They are ambling slowly down to the Algarve for the winter


Had an excellent meal in a small bodega in the old town


Bayonna from the yacht club bar




To Portugal – fist stop overnight at Povoa de Varzim. We were not overly impressed , except with the price of a night at the marina – 8 euros. We hoped this would be a taste of things to come, but unfortunately when we reached Cascais at the mouth of the River Tejo(Tagus) after a very pleasant overnight sail we were back with expensive marina prices.