41 22.297N 008 45.902W

Sun 26 Jul 2015 13:36

Date:                Sunday 26th July 2015


Position:          Moored in the marina at Povoa de Varzim


I said in my previous to last blog that having crossed the Bay of Biscay I felt that I had at last become a real sailor but this was just an illusion and Sir Smug-a-lot was soon brought down to earth the next time I put to sea.  I intended to leave La Coruna and make for the Ria de Vigo on Wednesday 15th July but a rather basic mistake set me back a day.  I had re-provisioned, topped up the water tank and the diesel I had topped up when I first arrived at La Coruna Marina.  The weather looked good although it would be a little rough with winds predicted at 4 to 6 Beaufort, but from a northerly direction, which was perfect for me as I was heading south.  I left the marina a little later than I had intended and got into the bay and made ready to set the sails.  I had noticed over the last couple of days that the wind seemed to get up in the late afternoon and I had already decided to put a reef in the main.  After all, it would be a lot easier to shake it out if necessary rather than have to put one in especially as the state of the sea on the other side of the breakwater was by now showing consistent “white horses”, white tops to the waves indicating the wind was much stronger on the other side of the breakwater.  I raised the mainsail put the first reef in and slackened off the “topping lift”.  The “topping lift” is a line that goes from the top of the masthead to the end of the boom and holds the boom horizontally in place when the sail is not being used.  If you didn’t have a topping lift the boom would crash down into the cockpit.  However, when you have the sail up, the sail holds the boom in place and the topping lift has to be slackened off so the sail can create the proper shape.  Anyway, I un-cleated the topping lift and made a basic error of letting go the end while I adjusting the reefing line on the other side of the mast.  When I returned to make fast the topping lift I could not find the end of the line anywhere.  Of course I couldn’t because the wind had got hold of the unsecured line and it was now flying all over the place up in the rigging and within moments it was tangled around the wind generator, the VHF aerial and a bunch of other lines.  I had made the decision to leave so I was reluctant to go back to the marina when a brilliant idea hit me, all I had to do was pull the line through the top of the masthead then I could either sort the problem out immediately or at least secure the line so it wouldn’t cause any damage until I could fix it later.  Great, so I got hold of the line and started to pull forgetting that I had put a stopper knot in the end of it so when it hit the block at the top of the mast it got stuck.  Now I couldn’t get the end of the line without going up the mast and I had even more line flying about crashing into everything aloft.  I kept trying to think of ways of resolving the issue at sea because I really wanted to be on my way, but all the time I knew there was only one sensible solution.  Eventually I gave in and returned to the marina.  It was late so I decided to stay one more night and leave the next day.  It was a good decision to return to the marina because in the end what seemed a simple job to took two hours to complete.  First I had to get all the equipment needed for the job, which as I have said before meant pulling the lockers to pieces to find everything.  Then I had to climb up the mizzen mast to untangle the line at that end and then climb up the main mast to untangle the line at that end and finally pull it back through the block.  When I say climb up the mast it sounds so simple.  Usual, when you have crew on board it is quite simple you use a bosuns chair to sit in while one of the crew members winches you up on a halyard.  I mostly sail solo but even if Ann where with me she could hardly winch a lump like me up to the top of the mast.  So knowing that there would be times when I had to go up the mast I brought a system that you can use independently.  Pre planning is so important!  You still use a bosuns chair but there is a block mechanism attached to it with a spring loaded leaver that clamps the halyard in place if any load is put on it.  There is also a strap for your feet with a similar device attached.  You feed the halyard through the gap between the block and lever on both parts and the principle is that as you put a load on one part it releases the load on the other part so that now you can push the lever forward and move the block up or down the halyard. So basically you sit in the bosuns chair pull your legs up as high as you can while moving the block attached to the leg straps up the halyard then stand up on the leg straps to pull yourself up.  The load is released from the bosuns chair which can now be moved up the halyard before sitting down and moving the leg straps again.  You continue this process until you reach whichever part of the mast you need to reach and then do it in reverse to come down again.  It is not easy and takes some getting used to but it is very effective, albeit slow, and the bosuns chair is quite comfortable if you are up the mast for any length of time.  Being the fat old lump I am I have to have a rest halfway up the main mast so having a comfortable seat is a bonus.


Anyway, job done I finally set sail the next day at twelve noon but had missed my window of opportunity weather wise.  For the last two days it had been almost perfect but the wind was now forecast from the south at 4 – 6 Beaufort, which was exactly where I was heading.  So it was motor sailing all the way into between 12 to 18 knots of wind and waves of around 2 – 3 metres, which knocks the boat speed down considerable. At 2000 rpm I can usually cruise at 5.3 knots but in these conditions I was down to 3.5 knots so it was going to be long slog of a passage.   By morning the wind had died down to about 5 knots so the sea became much calmer and the boat speed increased.  I had noticed that around these northern Rias of Spain you tend to get fog early in the morning and quite often in the late afternoon as well.  It was 8 am and the fog had descended so I had the radar on picking up the small fishing boats all around me.  I was not that far from the Ria de Vigo so there where plenty of then to avoid.  As the fog lifted I could see the Islas Cíes, three large islands at the mouth of the Ria de Vigo, which protect the Ria from most of the Atlantic swells.  The Islas Cíes are mountainous, wooded and very attractive.  They are made up of three islands, although two of them are actually connected to each other.  All three islands, Isla del Norte, Isla del Faro and Isla de San Martín are National parks and bird sanctuaries but there are several anchorages there and as I later found out the islands are a very popular destination for day-trippers with regular ferries from Cangas, Vigo and Baiona. Once passed the Islas Cíes I decided that rather than going to Vigo directly, I would go to Congas instead and spend one or two nights at anchor.  I arrived at Congas at 2 pm and put the anchor down.  The passage had taken 26 hours but had the weather been in my favour I reckon I could have done it in 20 hours or less.  Once I had sorted the boat and myself out, I decided to go into town but rather than getting the tender out I used the canoe instead.  I paddled to the beach, getting a little wet in the process and walked into town, which wasn’t far away.  Congas is a small fishing town and holiday destination.  There is a lovely long beach for the tourists, which was crowded most of the day.  The small harbour is divided into three parts, one area for fishing boats, another for the regular ferries to Vigo (every half hour during the week) and the Islas Cíes and finally a small marina which was full, but then I was happy to stay at anchor. 


I spent three days in total anchored at Congas and on the last day, Sunday 19th July, I decided to take a ferry to Vigo to have a look around the city.  I had done my research the day before and found out that on a Sunday the ferries left every hour on the hour for Vigo and returned to Cangas every half hour.  The cost of a return ticket was 16€ or so I thought.  The reason I had this impression was because when I asked the lady behind the ticket desk about the cost she pointed at a sign saying 1600 which I took to mean 16€.  What I didn’t realise was that you couldn’t buy a return ticket you had to buy a ticket from Cangas to Vigo and then buy another ticket at Vigo to return to Cangas.  Also, you could only buy a ticket for a specific time so what she actually pointed at was the time of the next sailing to Vigo and not the cost I which is what I had assumed.  You know what they say, “assumption is the mother of all ****ups” but in this case it turned out to be a bit of a bonus.  I thought that 16€ (£12 approx.) seemed a very reasonable price for a return ticket considering the distance and knowing the cost of a ferries to the Isle of Wight.  So, Sunday morning I turned up for the 11 am crossing and presented 16€ to the lady behind the counter and tried to asked for a return ticket to Vigo.  She looked at me a little strange as she gave back the 10€ note and the 1€ coin I had just given her and only took 5€ note.  I was even more astounded when she gave me a ticket, one way of course, and change from the 5€.  The cost turned out to be 2.20€ which is approximately £1.58 each way.  You try going to Lymington and getting a ferry to the Isle of Wight for £1.58, they would laugh at you all the way to the funny farm.  A day return to the Isle of Wight for a foot passenger is £14.20 for a journey that is not that much further than Congas to Vigo I would say.


I arrived in Vigo at 11.15 am and decide that my decision to anchor at Congas rather than make for Vigo direct had been a good one as Vigo did not exactly blow my socks off.  There was no seafront to speak of, most of it being a fishing and commercial port, but there were a few bars and restaurants along the front.  As the ferry was arriving I did notice that there was a marathon or fun run going on in the city.  I came upon the finishing point for the event quite by chance.  There was loud music playing and loads of people hanging around in party mood, which kind of surprised me a bit because I would have thought you would been quite tired out after a long run.  But all became clear when I looked at the posters for the event, which proudly displayed in large words across the top “Beer Runners”.  I looked around and saw lots of stalls handing out beer and burgers to every one. Not your usual bottle of water and silver blanket you get in the UK!  Now that’s what I call a “Fun Run”! 


I moved on and decided to look for somewhere to have lunch.  I had already passed through an area, a covered walkway, with about a dozen restaurants in it that looked interesting so I made my way back there.  When I had passed through earlier it was pretty deserted but the place had a bit more of a buzz about it now.  I knew from the start that it was not going to be a cheap meal because it was obviously a tourist attraction, which adds at least 10% to the bill straight away.  But this was only the second time I had eaten out since I left the UK so I wasn’t to concerned about the price.  The place reminded me a bit of Brick Lane on Saturday night with all the waiters outside each restaurant touting for business and it became obvious that fish was the mainstay of all of them.  The second reason I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap!  There where a few stalls opening oysters and you could buy a plate of them and then take a table at any of the restaurants to eat them.  I am not an oyster lover so I took a seat at the nearest table and ordered a beer.  It is the same in any tourist area in any city you go to, eventually the beggars and street venders start to appear.  It started with a chap playing an accordion, which for a little while livened the place up, but you knew what was coming.  Isn’t it strange that no matter how hard you try not to make eye contact with someone who is desperately trying to make eye contact with you, its is just to strong an impulse to resist! I could feel his eye boring into my back and just for a nano second, a gnats breath I turned my head slightly and he was on me like a shot with his hand out.  It reminded me of a sketch Don Joly did on is TV show Trigger Happy TV.  He would walk up to unsuspecting tourist in London, sing in an appalling voice then suddenly stop and put his hand out for some cash.  Similarly, I soon realised the man with the accordion had a very limited repertoire.  After he had relived me of 1€ he moved on to his next victim and stared at them until eventually they also caved in.  Next came the African street traders touting their hats, belts and other such unwanted tat.  I was surprised that none of the staff at the restaurants made any attempt to move them on but I suppose they had a captive audience so they didn’t care.  I ordered some Calamari to start with and then had a plate of mixed grilled shellfish all of I which I enjoyed.  Don’t you find there is something satisfying about eating food with your hands and having to work for it!  I suppose there is something primeval about the experience.  I have had the privilege of seeing and tasting some of the best food you could imagine, pictures on a plate.  But even so, pulling a crab to bits with your hands and taking time to eek out every last bit of meat from it is just fantastic, especially with a nice chilled glass of Vino Blanco.  As I expected to bill came to 60€ but it had been a good meal so I didn’t care.  I paid and I returned to the boat.  


The next day, Monday 20th July, I moved on to Baiona, another holiday resort about 10 miles from Cangas.  There was plenty of room in the bay so I anchored instead of going onto the marina.   There where at least eight other yachts that had had the same idea who where also anchored in the bay.  As I said this was more of a holiday resort than anything else so facilities were limited.  The supermarket was a good twenty minutes walk way but I had most of what I needed on board so only had to visit it once on my last day.  According to the pilot book the marina had a chandlers but his stock was very limited.  I did have to make one running repair while I was laid up there.  Remember I mentioned about Ann nearly loosing her head that time we had an accidental gibe.  Well in addition to smashing the gooseneck the padyeye, a bolt with a “U” shaped end that the bottom of the mainsheet is attached to, had been bent and compressed the GRP at its base.  At the time the damage was not enough to cause a problem but I had noticed on my sail to Baiona that the padyeye had worked looser and was causing more damage to the GRP so it had to be repaired.  I was intending to replace the padyeye with a traveller system which would have been much more expensive but could not decide on which system would be best.  So I called Rob at Kemp Sails in Wareham for some advice and I am glad I did.  Without going into technical detail he explained that because of the type of boat I had and because of the type of sailing I was doing, installing a traveller system would be of limited value but would cost a great deal of money.  He advised me to replace the padyeye with a “U” bolt which should be much stronger.  So I did at a cost of 7€ rather than spending hundreds or even thousands on a traveller system.  Thanks Rob!  I made rather a good job of the repair although I say so myself.  First I removed the padyeye and you can see how bent it was by the photo.  It might have lasted a bit longer but it was bound to go at some stage and probably at the most inopportune moment had I left it.  Next I ground out all the damaged GRP and filled the hole with epoxy filler and finally finished with a coating of white gelcoat filler, good as new.  I can’t really say much more about Baiona as there really was not much more to see.  I did visit the yacht club, which was very posh.  It is in the grounds of a very grand hotel which is surrounded by a historic fort.  The hotel has its own beach and you are supposed to have a pass to gain access but I, along with a few others, just walked in unchallenged.  That was about it for Baiona so I left Thursday 23rd July and made my way to Pavoa de Varzim, my first port of call in Portugal, which is where I am now.  Anyway, I will leave you for now and tell you about Pavoa de Varzim in my next blog.


Bye for now.


Signing off Ted


Beer runners unite                                                                One of the beaches at La Coruna


I guess some people just cannot like without satellite TV   The offending Padyeye


Good job I decided to replace it                                          The finished repair