42:36.04N 08:46.20W Villagarcia de Arousa

Sat 18 Jul 2015 12:36
13th July. As soon as the efficient young marina lad guided us to a sheltered berth near the wall we found ourselves among numerous Irish and English cruising families all keen for a chat. An Irishmen referred to Oysters as “Built like brick s..t h.....s”, he is right and its one of the things that gives us confidence in Zoonie. Another Oyster, a 37 foot version of the same age as us, was a tri part ownership and we got know Nick just before he and his two other crew flew back to Gatwick while Tagine awaited her next crew. Nick had sailed her from Kinsale in Ireland, and the final set of owners would set her on course for home.
This marina was cheap (£70 for 4 nights) very friendly and well used. Many brits lay up their boats here for the winter with confidence they will be safe and ready for their return next season.
While there was still some shade along the promenade we walked the mile or so to the charming little fishing village of Carril passing more wading fisherfolk, sorting their generous catches on tables alongside the prom, clam shells clattering from baskets into nets ready for distribution. (There were different types of clams and one type we recognised as what we would call cockles, berberechos to a spaniard!)
On wandering back along the prom past the marina and scanning the sea of metal masts, we spied a wooden one. Now in the heart of a traditionalist that always causes a minor stir and investigation was needed. Larry was designed by grandfather Nicholson (later Camper and Nicholson in Portsmouth) and built in Poole in 1908. Her sails were of gaff rig design with an eight foot bowsprit securing three foresails. I would not be able to close the fingers of my two hands around her rudder stock and her fairleads the stoutest I have seen on a thirty eight footer. She is a labour of love, her wooden decks having to be kept wet to prevent leaks and lift outs were few and far between for her for the same reason, to avoid her wooden hull from drying and shrinking. For twenty years she has taken Sue and Chris all over the North Atlantic and strangely our paths nearly crossed when we were at Limehouse Basin earlier this year.
In the year of the 40th anniversary of the OSTAR Race (Observer Single-handed Trans Atlantic Race) Sue and Chris raced another yacht across the Atlantic from the mouth of the Beaulieu River to New York. So? You might ask. Well the catch is they turned their engine off at the Beaulieu fairway buoy and did not restart it until the Statue of Liberty beckoned them in! It took them 53 days against wind and current but what an immense achievement.
While anchored across the Ria last year Larry, with Sue, Chris, children and grandchildren on board had two of her inflatable dinghies stolen during the night. The police later informed them that they were most likely taken by south American drug-smugglers as this was the Ria most used for such illegal activities. Hence our visit a few nights before by the Aduanas Officers while we were in Riveira.
Larry had developed a suspicious leak which Chris had located to the stern gland where the propellor shaft passes out of the hull. Unfortunately a large generator had been installed on top and access to this crucial spot was now difficult so they had taken Larry around to another marina where she could be lifted out. Sus had left a note to this effect in our cockpit. However when we returned to Zoonie they were already back on the outer pontoon, or hammerhead. So we offered to take their lines should they want to bring Larry further in.
Well of course marinas were not invented in 1908 and since the bowsprit meant she had to be moored stern first and with her full length keel this was not going to be easy. The engine controls were near the floor of the cockpit, so Chris could not see ahead while changing gear. It was essential for Sue to tell him when to reverse. With the tiller hard over Larry slowly made her way backwards into the space with Rob and I ready to take her lines, showing not only Chris’s skill but also the excellent communication between them both.
16th July. While happily secured in this marina we decided to visit the Illa Arousa by bus to see a little of the countryside and view the water from on land, another dimension you might say. We sped at what seemed like great speed across the long modern bridge that traverses shallows to the (almost) island. In the heat of the day an English speaking Tourism Guide said we could walk around the island in an hour or so but we chose to climb to the mirador and enjoy the view through Jesus’ eyes on top of his granite rock before exploring the fish quay and settling in one of the bars for a fish lunch. English was not spoken by the waiters but I found common ground with one of them in French and thought I was doing so well until, after we were full up with pureed muscle and potato croquettes, a plate of octopus (pulpo)on boiled potatoes was produced. Not knowing how to confess my language shortfall we tucked in.
That evening, after drinks and nibbles on Larry, we all decided to go for a meal at the marina along with the three crew, two Cambridge students and their skipper, Richard from another yacht. Seven of us sat around a round table and chatted together over calamari, salad and roasted green peppers washed down with Galician wine. A memorable happy evening.
17th July. Time to move on. We motored in a flat, windless calm down the Ria towards the sea past bunches of flowers left over from the fiesta of the Virgen del Carmen the day before and made our way to San Vicente, just outside the Ria. Larry had been there, but as the guide book said there is not much more than a walk to a headland we thought we’d take a look anyway. What a strange place. Luxury holiday apartments gave an air of exclusivity to the harbour where yachts were left and rotting at their moorings. Lines almost chafed through and a furled headsail in tatters, ribbons of sail material blowing in the wind. The place seemed deserted when we arrived, like a ghost town of lost inhabitants. Would we be sucked into obscurity too? Not at their prices. We decided to stay only one night and pack the walk and a swim into what was left of the day.