Combarro 42:25.5N 8:42.1W
Conor & Marion Wall
Thu 5 Aug 2010 08:55
Well, that was Spain, Portugal coming up.
I won't bother you with all the detail, just what I can remember of it. I believe my last posting was from Ribadeo where we landed after our pasting in Biscay, well the good news is that since our arrival in Spain the weather has been absolutely amazing. There has been hardly a cloud in the sky since our arrival and with fabulous sailing winds mostly from the north or north east with wind speeds anywhere between 0 and 25 knots, what more could we ask for.
From Ribadeo we set off with our new crew (Jacky & Veronique) and first stop was the Ria de Vivero. We arrived at Vivero at 1400 local time in baking heat and anchored just off the beach in a bit of a hurry as the marina was a little way up the river that runs into the Ria. Because of the heat I decided to take a short siesta as did Jacky and Veronique. That left Marion on her own in the cockpit. About an hour later it was panic stations and all hands on deck as Toucan was dragging her anchor and we were now half way across the bay heading towards the river wall. Luckily no harm came to anyone or Toucan but it was a lesson learnt. Muggins here (that's me) didn't let enough anchor chain out when we anchored and as the tide rose the anchor broke free and we slowly drifted off. We now set an anchor alarm whenever we are on anchor. This simply works with the GPS and should we move position more that a safe distance the alarm sounds and hopefully would alert us to take action in time.
From Vivero the following day we carried along the north coast of Spain to Ria de Cedeira again spending the night on anchor. Visits to the towns of Vivero and Cedeira were brief as we just wanted to get a feel for the places we visited but also because we were hoping to make some distance to get closer to where our friends had left their car. But 'Pulpo' seemed to be the order of the day for the boys with the girls getting fed up with it after the first visit. Pulpo for those of you who don't know is Octopus, usually fried in oil with seasoning, it has a unique taste and texture and is delicious. Every restaurant and cafe in this part of Spain has it on the menu.
We got side tracked somewhat at our next port of call 'La Coruna'. I'm not really sure exactly what happened but I think our friends got a little worried about where they might get a bus back to their car should we set off from this large town. West of La Coruna would take us to some very small and remote places and information on busses was very difficult to obtain. There appears to be several bus companies operating services in and around the region (all in competition with each other) and there appears to be no one source for information so with this in mind we decided to spend four nights in La Coruna until our friends left us. This worked out well for our friends and was fine for us also as La Coruna really is a beautiful city with much happening by day and by night. A place with too many shops, there are musicians and artists on every street corner and streets bustling with people. The oldest working light house in the world is just a mile or so away from the marina, called the Thor de Hercules, it is 2000 years old and was built by the Romans. Might go and take a photo of it tomorrow if it is not too hot.
On Tuesday Marion and I caught a bus to visit the pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela with it's amazing old cathedral. Here you can witness pilgrims arriving in the town by foot some of whom will have walked hundreds of miles on the pilgrim trail that starts somewhere in France I think, although there is a trail that goes all the way to Jerusalem. Not sure how many have walked that far. It is quite emotional to see these people closing their journey after such an achievement and certainly emotional for them. The town was buzzing with life, restaurants, gift shops, street vendors and entertainers and lots of street music, mostly very professional and beautiful. We were lucky enough to arrive on a day when Mass was being held for certain pilgrims and was being said by the Bishop. In this cathedral there is an incense burner that hangs from the highest point of the Cathedral and swings the whole length of the Cathedral. It takes five or six men to operate the mechanism that works this and the incense holder is massive hanging on a very strong rope. It would take your head off if it hit you so we stood well back.
It came time to leave La Coruna but when I went to the marina office to pay the harbour master told me that as I had been there for five days that I was now entitled to two free days. He also produced a box of three bottles of the local wine, white, rose and red so you can see now how we were side tracked in La Coruna.
On Saturday 24 July we finally left La Coruna having 'towned ourselves out' and headed once again for yet another Ria, Ria de Camarinas. The last time we were here was 16 years ago with Jacky, in his 44' Endurance ketch and then little old ladies sat in their houses making lace all day and possibly all night. What a change this time, all the little ol' ladies houses are now probably second homes to rich city folk, however the town still has a lot of charme. From Camerinas we sailed past Finisterre, the most westerly point of Spain and past the Finisterre Ria and carried on to our most favourite town in this part of Spain. Muros is a charming old town with narrow streets and quaint old houses and shops. There are very modern shops and very old all mixed up, Most of the centre of the town being original old buildings that seem to blend into each other up the winding narrow alleys. Every now and then you come across a statue or cross or market hall. We came across one little house in the middle of this and I sweat to God it could have been Kerry a 100 years ago. A little old lady sitting just inside the doorway in the shadows, the house looked like there was no electricity with a few meager pieces of furniture. I tried to take a photo but felt that I was invading her privacy so declined.
The harbour unfortunately is for fishing boats only and the anchorage beside the town was not very tenable due to the direction and strength of the wind (lee shore and all that), but we found a nice sheltered anchorage on the other side of the bay with reasonably easy access to the shore and a very pleasant walk around the bay to the town of Muros. We had a real surprise in the morning when we noticed scores of people up to their waist in the sea and all along the bay. We discovered that they were collecting clams, cockles and even razor fish. Everywhere we go people are fishing and the fish markets are teaming with many varities of fish that we just don't see at home. Every port has a sizable fishing fleet.
From Muros it was on to Ria de Arousa but firstly we needed to call to a tiny fishing village tucked in behind Cabo Corrubedo where we spent a pleasant night on a buoy at the entrance to the tiny harbour wall, with an English couple, Niel and Jo, We had met them in Muros and they were renting an apartment for a couple of weeks in the village. Very little English is spoken in this part of Spain, not even by the youngsters and so it is not surprising when you meet someone who speaks the same language that the natural thing to do is talk.
In Muros we also met a Scottish couple, Brian & Dorothy, like us, on a sailing boat. It was all a bit weird because we had met in an internet bar and Brian was showing me some photos, on his lap top computer, of his sailing boat when I notice a fiddle player and a bouran player sitting in his cockpit on one of the photos. Who other than our friends from Christchurch Derrick and Ali. The photo had been taken several weeks earlier in Camaret, Brittany and I remembered reading an email from Ali about a Scottish couple that they had had a music session with. Small world.
Next after Cabo Corrubedo was the largest of the Ria's, Ria de Arousa. This Ria had some very good write up's but we found it to be a bit dissapointing. The whole Ria is littered with mussel farms and on occasions you actually have to weave in and out between the platforms (large wooden floating structures with rope hanging in the water where the mussels grow), hundreds of platforms each approximately 50 meters x 50 meters square. As with the rest of the Rias we sailed in on one side (always the North side) and sailed out on the other side. Poking our bow into any harbour or village that looked interesting and anchoring at will whenever we would find a nice beach or village etc. It would be easy to spend a week sailing and exploring the larger Rias but we managed to see just about everything in two to three days for each of the large Rias and one to two days for the small ones.
With Ria de Arousa finished we sailed a short distance south to the small marina of San Vincent do Mar which is just south of the Ria de Arousa. It is a pretty little marina where we were able to give our boat a well deserved hose down and clean, here we also topped up our diesel tanks. We do not take water from the tap as we had a bad experience in La Coruna where I filled one of our water tanks. There was such a large amount of chlorene in the water that we were unable to drink our tea with it. Since then I just make the water we need with our watermaker which works very well indeed and produces almost 100 litres of drinking water from the sea in about one hour. So now whenever the engine is running I make water to keep the tank full. The water in the other tank has come all the way from Christchurch. San Vincent do Mar is not famous for anything but here there is a very long board walk starting from the harbour extending about 3 kilometers in a westerly direction around the beaches and rocks, up hills round bends and the entire walk is on boards. Here we saw a beautiful sunset as we managed to be at the most westerly end of the walk just as the sun was going down. For those who are interested the largest yacht they will accommodate in this tiny marina is 12 meters LOA but we got in with out 13.5 meters even if we did tell a very small lie. Always worth taking the chance I say. However there is a pretty little bay close by that is safe to anchor in with the northerly winds blowing.
From here we took another chance and headed across to the island Ilas Uno. There are three major (or minor as the case may be) Islands along this stretch of coastline and all three since our last visit in 2001 have been declared national park status. Therefore to land on or sail around or drop anchor within a certain boundary of these islands is not permitted unless a permit has been obtained beforehand. We did not have such permit but went anyway. The one and only beach where it is possible to anchor was untennable in the NE fairly strong winds but we found a buoy close to the Pier and helped ourselves. We discovered later that the buoy belonged to one of the restaurant owners on the Isalnd and was available on request to patrons of the restaurant. We did have a sandwich ashore but I doubt it was the owners restaurant where we bought it.. We had a nice stroll up to the light house at the top of the island and in a circle back to the pier where anything that happened seemed to happen. It was a Sunday and there was a lot of activity with people coming and going. The Island reminded us a bit of Ile Hoedic and Ile Houat pronounced 'What' just outside the Morbihan in South Brittany (although this island is much larger) with a large, for the want of a better word, 'Hippy' type community enjoying a natural lifestyle. We had our walk, ate our sandwich and left for the Ria de Pontevedra just opposite.
We found a nice beach tucked in behind a headland and dropped anchor for the night.The following day we continued our sail up to the end of the Ria to a village called Combarro. Here there is a brand new marina but also there were loads of available and free buoys in the bay right beside the marina, we chose to pick one of these and dingied ashore for a meal in one of the many restaurants. We read on one of the guides that this town was a centre of excellency for gourmet food, not quite sure what that meant, certainly there are lots of restaurants to chose from but then so there were in most of the towns we went to. As regards excellent food, well I spent most of the next day and night recovering from what was either food poisoning or excess of wine. The main attraction here seems to be the very large number of these funny little 'grain store' that we have been seeing since we arrived in Spain. They are all of the same basic shape but of different sizes and architecture, some beautiful some not so beautiful and certainly a very pretty old part to the town. You'll see a photo or two of the 'grain store' which has a Spanish name of course but you can look that name up yourself.
Having arrived in Combarro on Monday the 2nd we visited the Capital of the region by bus on Tuesday 3rd and had planned to leave Combarro Wednesday 4th but as with everything plans change. On Wednesday night we witnessed a massive forest fire only 3 kilometers from our mooring and in the direction of our next intended anchorage. Luckily the fire was down wind of us so it did not affect us but a short time after the fire started we noticed yachts and motorboats arriving at Combarro. Scores of boats arrived before the dark arrived and the fire by this time was raging. Looked a bit like Iceland with white smoke instead of black smoke. At one point there were 6 helecopters dropping water on the hill along with three smallish planes dropping a reddish substance and one very large plane also collecting water from the Ria nd dropping it's load. The following morning the fire was still not under control and there was still a lot of activity with some helecopters and and the large plane.
Stacy, Marion's sister phoned us to let us know that she will join us in Porto on the 17th, so with this in mind and the potential smoke problem in our next anchorages we have decided to take it easy, spend more time in the last of the Ria's and spend some more time on the islands just outside the Ria.
Conor & Marion