Spain to Portugal and an extended stay in Leixoes

The final ria in Spain before our journey took us into Portugal is a very small one, kind of linked to Ria de Vigo and is called the the Ria de Baiona. Baiona was the first place in Europe to hear of the discovery of the New World because it was the landing place of Columbus in 1493 – and it was our landing place on 29th July 2011. It was a good place for our final taste of Spain and we found safe anchorage in the wide bay, having taken just over two hours motoring from Cangas. Once again we probably took a longer route than necessary to avoid a cluster or two of rocks – which everyone else [or so it seemed as we later watched] just motored past via the Canal de la Porta.
As well as the usual castle protecting its harbour, Baiona also has the Statue of the Virgen de la Roca which stands on top of a small rocky outcrop overlooking the bay. As with many statues and churches in these parts she is linked to the sea and to mariners and supports a small boat in her right hand.
Whilst in Baiona we also walked to the small village of Ramallosa passing several beaches around the bay. In addition, we spent more hours than we had bargained for in the Internet café posting the previous entry – with Mike nearly knocking himself out on a wooden beam above the seats we had taken for the purpose because they had access to a power point – maybe this will encourage him to buy a new laptop with a working battery!
On our first evening there the entertainment was by way of a Tango demonstration and songs from Argentina. Whilst I found the dancing really interesting, the total lack of understanding of the singer – who seemed to be a bit of a comedian as well, judging by the audience reaction, meant that we didn’t watch it all – deciding instead to promenade through the narrow back streets soaking up the atmosphere, mixing with the locals and watching the younger revellers just beginning their night out as we were returning to the boat at around midnight. Wow – what do I sound like? We haven’t hit golden oldie status yet – honest.
We realised on Sunday night that we hadn’t actually been to see the replica of “Pint0” – Columbus’s ship – which sits on a pontoon near the marina. Unfortunately even though we then tried to visit it on Monday morning before leaving it didn’t open in time, so it remains a reason for returning.
We have really enjoyed our time in Spain as you will know from reading our blog so far. As well as the coastline and ports/harbours visited there is also the interior which would be another reason for coming back. We were given a taster of it when on our train trip to Santiago – small villages and scattered houses/farms amid crops of corn, grapes and cabbages. There seem to be a lot of cabbages.
And so, to Portugal. As I noted in the log on 1st August, “What is the betting the wind changes tomorrow” – signalling another motoring day for our journey from one country to the next. It was lovely weather, seas a bit rolling at times but not sufficient to bother us and all together pleasant and uneventful. Well in sailing terms that is. We did have a bit of an event on our journey which was of our making – and very enjoyable. On approaching the estuary of the River Mino, which marks the boundary between Spain and Portugal I suggested that we should have a little ceremony of exchanging the Spanish courtesy flag for the Portuguese one – a ceremony which should be accompanied by a small glass of Sherry whilst lowering the Spanish flag, and a small glass of port whilst hoisting the Portuguese one. Quite a good idea don’t you think?
Our first port of call in Portugal was Viana do Castelo which lies approximately 13 miles south of the border and is the first available stopping point. It is actually on the Rio Lima which is a fairly narrow river, dredged to 8 metres up to the marina from the main commercial/fishing port at the mouth of the river. A small swing bridge operates to allow entry to the marina and we had to contact the marinera to let us in because there were already two yachts tied to the waiting pontoon outside – at either end of it – making berthing there rather tricky for us. It is only a small marina with little turning space and limited visitor berthing [bows or stern to a small pontoon with lazy lines]. We were therefore lucky that their fuel pump was broken meaning that the fuel berth was free offering us easy access to a large, safe berth alongside.
Although the journey took five and a half hours, the difference between Spanish and Portuguese time means that we gained an hour so had plenty of time for a look around Viana that day. The town is quite a significant one, it being the first port from which Port Wine was shipped to England during the 18th century and, later, the departure point for large fishing fleets to the Newfoundland Banks. It is also the home of this little gem of a fire engine.
On a hillside overlooking the port is the the Santa Luzia basilica, which is reputedly fashioned following a visit by its designer to Sacre Coeur [?? My French has suddenly become as bad as my Spanish and Portuguese!], with its 663 steps leading up to it – we counted. Now, before you get to thinking that we climbed these I have to confess that on our short journey up the river I had seen what looked like a funicular railway going up the hillside – and so it turned out – so the counting was done on the way down! But you have to forgive us – most people who were up there were also using the funicular down as well – or had driven via the winding road. That evening we really noticed how the hour change affected the evenings – certainly northern spain really gains by its mediterranean south resulting in the additional summertime hour.
We needed a laundry day and Mike took this opportunity to fix our push bikes. Before leaving England we had considered buying foldaway bikes, but not being sure how much we
will use them decided to take the bikes already in our possession. Unfortunately they hadn’t been used in Rossendale for some time [not since a certain BBQ, which some friends will recall, after which Mike decided that he could cycle full speed ahead – until he fell off] and the journey thus far in a salty atmosphere hadn’t added to their immediate usability. Anyway, they are now operational again and were used in Viana to cycle to the small castle/fort at the river mouth and the following day to collect camping gaz before our departure. I guess our preference for anchoring might mean less use of the bikes – as you have heard we have enough fun with “the pig” as it is without trying to transport full size bikes in it! We will see.
At this point in our journey I have to report a breakdown – not mine or Mike’s – though at times in the past 10 days my exasperation has been verging on one……
We left Viana on an extremely calm day. The sea was practically still and we could actually see shoals of fish. All was going well until a screeching sound emanated from the engine compartment. It only lasted a couple of seconds and then stopped. Unfortunately it repeated itself and Mike quickly went to investigate as I turned the engine off and, even though there was next to no wind, unfurled the genoa – to at least aid stability and reduce any roll.
He returned waving what I now know is something called a “V belt”, which had broken. We weren’t sure whether the screeching was because the belt had snapped or the belt had snapped because of whatever actually caused the noise and so further investigation was necessary. Mike determined that it was the fresh water pump which had stuck but which he seemed to have freed. So we fitted a new V belt and, with me poised to turn the engine off immediately should there be any further screeching, we tried to start it…. and immediately stopped it. The pump had stuck again straight away.
So there we were having made quite good headway under motor, in the calmest weather we had seen, going practically nowhere. The Portuguese Atlantic coast has a reputation for becoming windy in the afternoons so we were hopeful things might liven up – and they did – to around 8 knots! Siga Siga really likes a 12 knot wind to move her effectively so it was a slow process in the given 8 and it took us the next 4 hours to go 7 miles. With the main out we made slightly more progress but faced a harbour entrance which we know nothing about and commercial traffic with no engine.
Chris will probably remember a certain entry into Mykonos harbour under sail several years ago [in fact she is unlikely ever to forget it!] and will understand my trepidation approaching this one. However, a combination of a wider entrance and perhaps my greater experience now meant that I was

able to cope far better with the 6 tacks needed to see us safely beyond the narrowest part of the harbour at its entrance and into the anchorage. Mike timed our furling of sails and dropping of anchor perfectly, though at the time we first experienced continuing forward motion towards [and rather close to] the old yacht club quay even though we were facing into wind. Thus we entered  Leixoes – the harbour and marina now best used when visiting Porto.

That was 10 days ago and we are still here – hence my earlier reference to my exasperation. It is probably something I will have to get used to – things breaking that is, as well as any exasperation on my part – but what has made this more of a concern is that Chris and John are flying to Faro on Tuesday [and it is now Friday and we are approx 300 – 350 miles away]. We have actually now made alternative arrangements and they are going to meet us in Lisbon – which John sees as adding to the adventure – I think Chris briefly saw it as an opportunity for a couple of nights in a hotel.

I say they are going to meet us in Lisbon but that is still a 36 hour journey which ideally we need to start making tomorrow and we are not actually fixed yet!

Now its not that we exactly sat around just thinking that the pump would fix itself. On the morning immediately following our arrival we asked the marina staff where we could get spare parts and, as Mike noted, we are lucky to be in the industrial north of Portugal where most of the manufacturers are. The Volvo dealer was just a metro ride away and he was able to order the pump with delivery the next day from Belgium. Carlos [our new found friend] expressed surprise that it was our intention to try to fit this ourselves, which probably meant that when later that day we looked at taking the old pump off we chickened out. We were concerned that we may do more damage – resulting in additional time and expense to get more things fixed.

As it turns out we don’t actually know whether we made the right decision or not. First of all, having been given [on that Friday] the contact details of a mechanic who would come to see us on Saturday lunchtime he arrived at about 4pm – then called for his friend because he didn’t have the right tools and between them they banged around for an hour and then announced that the only way to do the job was to move the engine backwards [i.e. practically take it out] and that the whole job would take three days. To do the work they also said the boat needed to be in the marina for better access to tools. I guess that them having to be ferried by tender too and from the anchorage could have become a bit tedious for all concerned – especially if they didn’t have or bring all the required tools with them – and, which from our initial experience, seemed likely!

Obviously no one works on Sunday so it was going to be Monday before we could be towed in and we were then told it would probably need to be at lunchtime when the Port Authorities go to lunch because if a boat with engine trouble is seen being towed in the authorities insist on an inspection before and after the work is done – and more time lost and, again, at more expense.

You will remember how we had no wind on the day of our arrival. Well, on Monday we had Mondays wind and that which had deserted us 5 days before – registering at one point 27 knots – and this made our being towed into the marina impossible and so another day passed us by. Tuesday morning finally saw us safely in the marina but without a mechanic. The first guy who had come on Saturday was apparently more of an outboard engine expert than an inboard one so he had been in touch with another guy – who is actually based at the marina and handed the work over to him – but he wasn’t available on Tuesday [you can perhaps begin to understand my growing exasperation]. To be fair he did arrive briefly on Tuesday to look at what needed to be done, confirmed that the engine would need to be moved and also pointed out that one of the pulley wheels had been damaged – by the first mechanics. We would need a new one and he would come back on Wednesday afternoon to start the job.

We decided that Mike should go to see Carlos rather than phone him to make sure he was getting the part he needed and he returned with a face, not quite like thunder – but close. Although we wouldn’t ever be able to charge the initial mechanic, his handy work has cost us nearly €600 for, as Mike put it, a small cast iron wheel [this is on top of the pump, a spare v-belt and the cost of the mechanic of course – plus 4 nights in the marina and the €40 to be towed in].

Yesterday work progressed as far as it could and today, after an initial set back when the new pulley hadn’t arrived first thing Mike and Alexander, the marina mechanic, are putting what I hope are the finishing touches to the job. However, one of the reasons we decided not to do the work is that the pistons need locking in place [according to those instructions we do have]. Alexander didn’t do this though he did mark their positions apparently – so I am hoping that before I finish writing this I can report that marking them rather than locking them is actually OK and the engine works properly once all back together.

The reason the engine needed to be moved back was to allow access, as the front of the engine – where the fresh water pump is – is almost lodged against the compartment wall and also pulley drawers need to be used to remove the pulley requiring even greater access. This was the second reason why Mike had decided not to do the job ourselves because he was concerned that his experience of being able to remove a pulley using screws [either inserted as levers, or unscrewing ones attached] might not be correct with this engine. He reported last night that when the pulley drawers didn’t work he could only laugh when unscrewing the four screws he had initially contemplated caused the wheel to just drop neatly out. So, it seems likely that the engine didn’t have to be moved after all!

It wouldn’t be right to be here and not visit or mention Porto. We have visited before some years ago [not on a yacht] but, on our enforced “day off” on Sunday we decided to spend the day there. It is about 40 minutes away by metro and we really enjoyed seeing it in the summer as our previous visit was early March. It certainly feels like a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with visitors from far and wide as well as Portuguese locals and holiday makers all enjoying the hot, sunny day and making best use of the café culture and visiting the old town.

Portugal is, of course, also famous for its “Azulejos”, this one at the Cathedral in Porto being only one of many we have already seen.

I also went into Porto twice more during our 10 days here – it being the nearest place for money exchange – and the events above have meant the second trip was necessary!

Hooray – the engine has just been turned on and no screeching and an apparently smooth running sound so it looks good to go tomorrow and we are going out for a celebratory meal tonight in a local restaurant. The port of Leixoes is in the Matoshinos suberb of Porto and is quite a big place in itself with a good market, quite a lot of restaurants, a few beach bars and a long promenade. The only eating out we have done so far, whilst here, was on our first lunchtime after returning from the Volvo dealer when we took advantage of one of two small establishments close to the port seemingly there mainly for dockers [as they were closed on Saturday and Sunday]. We were therefore able to work our way through a “sardine platter” which meant six sardines, potatoes and salad each with bread and washed down with a litre of local wine for €15. For that price we could have also had “Green soup” to start – which seems to be cabbage and chorizo but we opted out, not because we didn’t fancy it but we had already seen the size of the sardine platters!

The plus points of all of this are that during our enforced stay I have mended a frayed part of the genoa and sewn new webbing onto the man overboard line  outer cover to enable it to be fixed to the pushpit rather than it being in the back locker – not much use there is it! Mike has learned how to use the generator, worked out why our wind generator makes noises when switched off and to stop it doing so and mended a couple of patches of decking. Being Alexander’s right hand man he has learned that he can also speak fluent Portuguese by charades as well as Spanish and an awful lot about the engine and how to take it apart. He has also learned that what he already knows about engines and machinery is likely to stand him in good stead in the future. In addition, I have learned that having stopped work 3 months ago has improved my patience – my exasperation over the past few days is nothing to what I would have felt and how it is likely I would have behaved back then!

We also realise that this could have been worse – it could have happened in the next two weeks during the forthcoming visit of Chris and John or last month during the Dave and Mag’s holiday. So, unless anything else untoward happens we are setting off for Cascais tomorrow [best marina for Lisboa] and are really looking forward to our two weeks sharing the delights of Lisbon, Cascais, Sines and the Algarve with Chris and John.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2011/08/17/spain-to-portugal-and-an-extended-stay-in-leixoes/

Three rias, two oars and a fish called Willy.

Unfortunately for Dave and Mag, the weather I described at the end of my last entry persisted for the Saturday evening of their arrival and on into the Tuesday of the next week. Well, that isn’t strictly true as Sunday and Tuesday were actually a bit sunny with cloud but Monday was absolutely awful. Nevertheless we got down to the serious business of having fun.
You will recall that they arrived for the Fiesta de Virgin de Carmen and on the Saturday night, after introducing them to the excellent Tapas, there was a slight break in the rain which allowed us to enjoy that evenings band. We did this partly in the company of three guys from Belize who we think were there on holiday but we weren’t sure. All we know is that everyone enjoyed the music and dancing to the Latin American sounds.
With the cloud break on Sunday 17th July we were able to go for a walk and returned to the boat in time for the boat race. These were gigs very like those I described on the Isles of Scilly except the rowing action was more normal. The races didn’t turn out to be as exciting as we had hoped so it allowed time for a siesta before sampling the town, the fair, the music [not my taste on this evening as it was rather amateur punk] and then the spectacular fireworks – and I mean spectacular. It was fantastic sitting on the boat with a glass of wine for a birds eye view of the best firework display I have seen. It felt as though we were right in the middle of them.
And so, onto the first of the three Rias shared with our guests – Ria de Arousa. Our first sight of Ria de Arousa was more of a peering through the awful mist and rain – though Dave and Mag were peering from their cabin having retired there even more under the weather than the weather! The journey of nearly six hours had been a bit of a bad one with rolling seas and a chilly wind [on our nose of course]. However, Ribeira – our first port of call in the ria – did provide us, at last, with a shop that sold oars – hurrah, and with a fish market and an empanada [pie] shop for the purchase of lunch and evening meal on the Tuesday following a fairly short but pleasant sail to Cambados.
In Cambados we were able to anchor in the working harbour – the pilot had said to use only the outer side of the pontoon for going alongside or to consider mooring stern to with the bow pointing at the harbour entrance. What the pilot failed to mention was that the stanchions which the floating pontoon are attached to were on the outside of the pontoon and didn’t allow space to park – unless the boat is under about 20ft – and there were no cleats anyway to which to attach warps either alongside or stern to. So we anchored. There was some concern expressed [by me] that swinging in wind and/or tide change might find us lying across part of the fairway used by the large fishing fleet but I was “advised” I was being over cautious and as the anchor was in we were staying put! Another yacht did come and anchor further out towards the fairway later that day and there were no shouts at all from the fishing vessels or the tripper boats which sped in and out so I guess Mike was right.
Cambados has several sights worth seeing. First we went to the old fishing village and ruined fort where we watched lots of local people fishing for clams. What a backbreaking task that seems to be and fairly thankless if the fruits of these extensive labours were anything to go by. Most people were just walking about knee high through the water digging with their hands but one enterprising guy had a kind of scissor action shovel which seemed to be working rather better – around two clams with each scoop rather than the single hand picked one.
From there we walked up to the mirador and ruined church and also found a small vineyard producing the Albarino wines which we felt we had to sample. Cambados is the centre of Albarino wine production in Gallicia and most of the producers are just small holders like this one.
On the other side of town is another old part and it was there that we ate on our second evening stay after having another frustrating afternoon in the internet café. Our waiter was friendly and persuasive – so much so that after our choice of mussels was poo pood by him we ended up going with his suggestion of the scallop option instead – of course at double the price
We then moved on to the Illa de Arousa. There are three options for anchoring, two outside small harbours with lots of moorings and the third off a beach. We had already decided that because the weather had improved considerably a BBQ was in order so the beach option was perfect. We did learn that one end of the beach was over rock [either that or our very trusty anchor which had stuck first time every time previously didn’t hold] and therefore after two failed attempts we moved off to find mud/sand. We also found an excellent spot for the BBQ and even for a swim – well all of us that is except Mike who says he is waiting for warmer waters. I don’t blame him as I would describe the swim I had as bracing. In fact bracing became an oft used word as Dave and Mag continued to brave the waters throughout their holiday.
Sangria got us into the mood for a prawn, chicken and salad feast before a very wet trip back to the boat as the waves had got up some what. It felt as though I was wetter after that return journey than following the swim – probably because of the soppy, drippy clothes.
22nd July and Dave’s birthday – so Mike and I got up a bit earlier to sail us down to the next Ria – Ria de Pontevendra – as we didn’t want Dave’s day to be spoilt by another negative sailing experience. However, it was so opposite to our journey to Ria de Arousa. The sun was shining and we had perfect winds for a lovely 3 hour sail. We sailed on genoa alone and, having rounded the ria headland we managed a good 8 knots for the run up to Sanxenxo. The harbours/marinas of Sanxenxo and Portonovo are separated by a small headland and beach and we anchored off the beach but just outside of Sanxenxo harbour.
During the obligatory time post anchoring to ensure it is held fast Mike decided to drill holes into the oars we had bought at Ribeira so that they could be secured into the rowlocks. However, having done this he then decided that we didn’t need to take them as there was only a very short journey to the harbour wall and back and the sea was calm. Wrong decision!!!!! What he failed to remember was that the outboard runs on fuel and that there is always a chance of the fuel running out which is exactly what happened on our return journey. We had had a great four/five hours walking to Portonovo and around Sanxenxo and sussing out the restaurants for Dave’s birthday meal when we decided a short siesta was in order before sprucing ourselves up for the evening out. Dave, Mag and I boarded the tender and set off – for around 5 yards and then stopped. Now, whilst Dave has more of an affinity with the pig than Steve, he still doesn’t feel he and it are entirely compatible and thought that the engine had just stalled. But at the fifth stall we realised that the only option was to hand paddle back to Mike on the harbour wall. When I say wall – what I really mean are the rocks which create the breakwater under the wall and which are a bit jagged and slippery. We had to land here because of the beach being out of bounds to all but swimmers except through the fairway which was right at the other end of the beach. The three of us managed to get out of the pig as Mike had decided to do a lie down and paddle trip. But this was not to be as the wind was too strong and would have carried him out to sea…..
…. and so, Dave to the rescue. Much against Mag’s wishes he stripped and jumped into the water to swim to the boat. He then found plastic bags to wrap the oars in, a bungee cord to tie them together and took a rope from a spare fender to tie the whole lot to him. Then, now wearing his trusty goggles, he made the return swim to shore. Needless to say there was celebrating that night.
On the day following their arrival we had eaten Seafood paella which Dave enjoyed very much and he decided he would like this again for his birthday so we made our way to the fish restaurants along the harbour. There were one or two which had taken our fancy but we were surprised to find that not only these, but all of the restaurants along the harbour, were full – and there must have been at least a dozen with tables inside and out – and sometimes on an upper floor as well. We had realised that Sanxenxo was a holiday town and had seen lots of people on the beach earlier but I don’t think I have ever seen as many people all clamouring for restaurant tables as there were that night. The Boxing Day sales have nothing on this – not that I have even been to a Boxing Day sale. We finally managed to find an outside table, possibly by just sitting at a free one when there were some people waiting inside. We told ourselves they were waiting for an inside one as it had gone a bit chilly. So, back to the paella. I had wondered whether we would have any luck in this department because paella is more often eaten at lunch time by Spanish families and also, with such busy restaurants I guessed they wouldn’t have the time to make one from scratch. And so it proved. Our waitress was trying to wait patiently for Dave and Mag to rethink their choice and was offering alternatives – in Spanish and at a rapid rate. She mentioned a seafood platter and as this was only marginally more expensive than the paella Dave agreed – after all we didn’t want a repeat of the mussels to scallops alternative with the resultant bill. I am not sure what Dave thought he was getting but what came was perhaps more than bargained for. There was lots of digging around and cracking of claws and Mag declared that she would never again have a meal with so much food that needing peeling – but we had a great laugh and all in all it’s a birthday that Dave is unlikely to forget especially as he also had a birthday cake which Mag had been given by an apartment salesman – and therein lies a tale which is hers to tell!
A short trip up the ria the next day brought us to Combarro where we stayed for two nights. Before setting out though, we motored into Portonova marina for water. On our walk the day before Mike had gone into that Marina and asked a helpful man if it would be ok for us to take water if we weren’t staying. They had the usual charades conversation with Mike interspersing those words he knows and learning a new one – “barco” – for boat and getting permission. So, the following day we berthed alongside the first hammerhead, the chap came down and recognised Mike and again gave us the go-ahead. However, our departure from the hammerhead was somewhat hampered by a fairly stiff breeze across the beam and a catamaran berthed in front but Mike developed what he terms a “ferry glide” out.

Whatever it was it worked a treat and shows that watching what other boats do – including ferries – can come in very handy.
Combarro is a gem of a town with the largest selection of stone granaries in Gallicia lined up along its waterfront. It has interesting twisty narrow streets and small squares and a whole range of bars which were variously sampled during our two night stay – the most memorable of which had a mermaid on the wall and some red wine which will forever remain in Dave’s nightmares.

Combarro is also placed very nicely for a trip to Pontevedra. We were trying to make up our minds about walking or catching the bus when we realised that the sunday service didn’t start until after 11.00 so, having got up early for a full day trip, we opted to walk. We were really pleased when about a quarter of a mile out of Combarro we came upon a walking route which took us off the main road and through small pretty villages running along the edge of the ria. We were doubly pleased when we came across “Casa Laura” for coffee. Mike went in to order and in due course out came the waitress with four coffees. This was followed by a freshly baked, sliced baguette and some jam. “Did you order breakfast” we asked but Mike said he hadn’t. However, the bread and jam was then followed by four slices of cake and four glasses of peach juice. We really did wonder whether the young woman had mistaken what Mike had asked for but he insisted that she had repeated his coffee order and when we got the bill for €4 we realised that we had found the best coffees ever and, what is more, it was excellent coffee.
Pontevedra itself lies at the end of the Ria de Pontevedra and used to be a prosperous, medieval fishing village. It has now lost most of its walls but the old city has retained its flag-stoned walkways, stone houses, balconies and squares. The modern city on its outskirts was not so attractive but well worth the twenty minutes it took to walk through [once we had found our bearings]. We followed the Rough Guide recommendations and had a drink at “Os Mantas” which was to be found in one of the squares. There was a flea market taking place which put to shame an English car boot sale by the sheer audacity of the things people were prepared to bring for sale but it was fabulous for people watching. The second find of the day was our tapas lunch at “O Cortello”. Apart from us, the only customers were two friends of the proprietor with whom he shared lunch and they then paid for it all? Having said that the prices were so reasonable that they probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared. We had two types of fish, padron peppers, a huge salad which included stuffed mushrooms and four glasses of wine for €20.
On our return from Pontevedra Dave decided to do some fishing. He had already tried this a couple of times from the boat when we had been sailing – but had now seen all the fish which swim around the harbours. We have seen fish in all the harbours so far and, seemingly, hardly anyone interested in catching them – and those who were not succeeding, so we didn’t hold out much hope. Initially Dave was as unsuccessful as the others until he discovered the secret bait of mussels which he prised from the pontoon. We were suddenly assailed by the shout of “I had one but it got away”… hmm – a likely fisherman’s tail. But, shortly after this another bite was taken and this time the fish was landed – or rather it was dropped into a plastic bag. I don’t think the full details of how it got from sea to plate are necessary – but mention must be made of the knife lost overboard, the plaster on the finger and the very nice marina guy who, when seeing Dave holding his prize fish joyfully told him he wasn’t meant to be fishing in the marina really and not to do it again – but he didn’t mind him keeping that one. And how does it come about that the fish is called Willy? Well … that links into another tale of “How big was it Dave?”
From Combarro we half sailed and half motored across the ria to Bueu/Beluso. The wind was playing up and the sails were exchanged for motor about three times. We had failed to remember that 25 July is Gallicia Day and so everything was shut. Well, there were a few cafes open but the restaurants didn’t seem to be doing much food so fortunately we were able to dine on ships stores [Dolmades and Gigantes for starters and then Spaghetti with artichokes, olives, capers and anchovies]!
The final sail with Dave and Mag started early on 26th, Mike and I weighing anchor at 07.45 – again to try to make the journey from ria to ria as comfortable as possible for our still sleeping friends. Although it was pleasant and sunny we were in slightly rolling seas but by unfurling the genoa we were able to keep this to a minimum and, on rounding the headland, with the motor now off, the genoa was sufficient to give us a sprightly approach and entry to Cangas.
We had planned to berth in the Marina there because we wanted a safe place to leave the boat for our overnight trip the following day to Santiago. Unfortunately the small marina was full and we were advised to wait until after 12.00 when a space might be available. So, we anchored off the beach, Dave and Mag went shopping and for a look round and Mike and I waited…. and waited. 12.00 became 2.00pm and we were then told 5.00pm. Whilst ashore, Dave and Mag had gone to the Marina twice to plead our case and we think it was this persistence which paid off because, despite no yacht coming out of the marina, we were finally designated a place on a locals berth just after 5.00.
Cangas is another great town and we found a backstreet café for part of our tapas crawl. We ordered “Chiperones” not knowing what they were and willing to try anything once – and they turned out to be stuffed squid baked with onions. I couldn’t eat more than the two I managed – and Dave and Mag fared similarly, but Mike made up for us all by eating the extra couple. We ended the evening in one of the beachfront bars “A Habana” where we ordered two beers and two Mohitos. Ready to retire for the night Mike asked for “La Cuenta” and made a kind of motion which usually translates as “Can we pay” which resulted in the waitress bringing another round of drinks! We all sat there a bit open mouthed and didn’t actually say anything. Whether Mike had been misunderstood or it was a very generous bar we may never know but when Mike went to pay he was told “Rotunda en la Hacienda”.
And so, to Santiago. This involved a short ferry trip from Cangas to Vigo, a swift walk up through the town to the station and a 90 minute train journey. We arrived in Santiago at lunch time and spent the whole day just wandering the old town, looking at the many sights, visiting the cathedral and watching the hundreds of Pilgrims ending their walk. There are about 100,000 pilgrims each year and as the few summer months are the favourite walking times then there must be about 1,000 people entering the city each day all making their way up to the cathedral square. This said, the city did not have a crowded feel and, although tourist shops selling scallop shells, walking stick and other mementoes abound, there are clearly local people who live there and who come to visit the fabulous market and the prices are not particularly exaggerated. Lunch found us making our only real food mistake so far. In the tradition mentioned before we are not averse to ordering things we don’t know and so “Orella” was one of our chosen dishes. Never again. Mike was the first to try it and said “I think I will be eating most of this”. He was right but even so only managed about five pieces himself. Dave managed two, Mag one and I am afraid my effort ended up back on my plate [very delicately and discretely – but definitely back on my plate]. When it arrived Mag thought it looked like undercooked pork belly – but Mike thought it might be pig cheek. We refined this again to pig snout as Mike and I had seen these for sale and wondered what on earth for. Maybe we have now found out – though the pig ears which Mike and I also saw in Santiago Market the following day could also be the source of Orella. Whilst I applaud the eating of most of an animal if killed for food this was a step – or even several steps – too far.
So, let me ask you a question. What is this?
We were happily sitting at some outside tables when a group of five young students came up to us, explained they were making a “plastico” film for a festival in the autumn and asked if we minded being filmed answering a couple of questions. Mike agreed and, having spoken into it, the young woman held the object in the photo to his face and asked him what it was. “Aubergine” said Mike, who was then asked what more are called and, having eventually worked out she was asking for the plural, said “Aubergines”. There was then a re-film of the whole thing because Mike now knew what he was supposed to say….or did he? Should he have said “Microphone”? We will never know and we will also never know whether Mike has a three second moment of fame. Anyway, the students went away happily to look for some other unsuspecting people and, as a present for joining in, gave us an aubergine which Mike and I kept, brought back to the boat the next day and turned it into a very nice ratatouille with a courgette which Mag had bought earlier in the week mistaking it for a cucumber! [Yes, another story there]
Tiring of the city we took a short stroll outside to a park before setting out again for our last evening with Dave and Mag. Again, there are far too many bars to visit and stories could be told of each one we did visit but we finished the night in a Celtic Bar which we had gone to because there was a suggestion that that was where celtic music might be found. On this particular night it wasn’t but Mag did find some Guiness and even Dave decided that Guiness was better than the “Estrella” and “1906” options he had so far been subjected to during the holiday. I am sure one of the first things he did on landing back in Manchester was to buy a pint of Landlord.
We said a sad farewll to Dave and Mag at around 1.30am, only to have them return to the bar at 2.00 to tell us to go and listen to the band playing in the square. This we did and it was well worth it. Such a great atmosphere and, as the celts would say, a great craic – a fabulous way to end this part of our trip with Dave and Mag.
So, now its just the two of us again until we are joined by Chris and John in August. Until then we have just over two weeks to make our way from the Ria de Vigo to Faro. Mike is planning our journey as I write this and I will report in due course.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2011/07/31/three-rias-two-oars-and-a-fish-called-willy/

Muros

Having said at the end of my last post that we were about to leave Fisterra we ended up staying another night because we had so much fun [I jest] with trying to access the internet that it was 7.30pm by the time we got back to the boat by which stage we decided to stay put! So, it was Friday 8th July when we moved – a very misty, rather “Lancashire” day with wind against us again so it was motor on for just over 3 hours until we reached our new destination of Muros – and what a place this is – fabulous.

But first, just to backtrack a little – I forgot in my last blog to report that when we berthed at Muxia it was me driving! Now, to most people reading this it is probably not a particularly significant piece of news but there may be some out there who are hopefully pleased that I have taken the plunge. Clearly, I have steered the boat before, and anchored etc – but never parked her on a pontoon. What’s more I was sufficiently good at it that Mike was able to step off onto the pontoon with ease. I have to confess it was a hammerhead and not a finger pontoon, and there wasn’t exactly a raging gale – but there was an angle to the approach and everyone has to start somewhere. For those who may be thinking about sailing the rias, Muxia marina is just a set of unused pontoons. Well, not exactly unused as a few locals have boats here, but not commercially used. Its such a shame because they are good berths and have electricity and water supplies set up but, having been built – with European money she notes cynically, they just aren’t used. There appear to be one or two of these dotted about – not just in Muxia. The seagulls clearly like them though as denoted by the residue and pong.

Brass band Anyway – back to Muros. Having anchored mid afternoon we were idling around sorting things out when I heard a brass band. We thought that they were practicing for something as we knew there was a festival 16/17 July. They wandered off and we thought that was that. However, at about 6.30pm, when Mike was doing early preparations for our meal, a maroon went off on the harbour. We thought it must be for the lifeboat and, even when followed by two more, we still thought nothing of it…. until smaller rockets went off and then more maroons and we realised it was the signal for something more, particularly as we could now hear a folk band playing in the town.

Folk Band

The something more turned out to be a kind of joint event. The Festival de Virgin de Carmen is, indeed, on 16 and 17 July but there is a “procession” held the week before. A procession is not the kind of parade we know – it actually means a “walkabout” of people. It seems like the whole town comes out and the women, and a few men, are dressed in a traditional costume – the children following suit in very cute fashion.

Bubbles!

Cute fashion

As well as that festival, on the weekend of the 8th, 9th and 10th July the town was also celebrating some kind of sea-faring event and the entire town was decked out with nets and small wooden boats and cut outs of octopus etc. It was therefore a double celebration and everyone was out to have a good time and so, we abandoned the pork and decided to join in…. and join in we certainly did until about 1am… drinking, eating, walking around and dancing.

On Saturday we saw what we think was some type of play about a marriage but the women were wearing black hats and there was a sea princess all in green???? We just made up stories to fit. We also managed a free sardine lunch. Having decided to go to the small fish market on the quay we asked for sardines. At first we seemed to be being told they didn’t have any but then we were given eight and told we didn’t have to pay – we think that what we were told in the first place was that they couldn’t sell them because they were too small. They seemed big enough to me and certainly as big as we get in Bury – so we weren’t complaining and they made for a great lunch with local bread, salad and wine.

Since last Saturday we have walked to Louro and the beaches we saw when motoring from Fisterra, been to Portosin and to Freixo and returned to Muros. The trip to Louro was undertaken on a lovely sunny day and when we saw the passage we had taken on Friday between the rocks we realised that there was more than enough room for about three cruise liners between the two sets of rocks and that the pilot had perhaps slightly exaggerated the need for extreme caution through the passage – though better safe than sorry.

MountainsbeachMore beach

Portosin has a good marina and we were also able to find fuel for the outboard and camping gaz – previous ports of call have not provided such amenities. However, the wi-fi wasn’t working – more Spanish internet fun. Other than that Portosin and Freixo, although the latter being a relatively secure anchorage, aren’t necessarily “must visit” places.

Food

From Portosin we were able to take a bus ride to Noia which had a small but interesting old quarter and the biggest supermarket we have seen so far – about the size of a small Tesco!

So, having spent the week covering the grand total of 13.7 miles we are now back in Muros for the festival de Carmen and to meet up with Dave and Maggie.

Having arrived back early on Thursday, after re calibrating the autopilot in the calm waters en route, we decided to walk the opposite way out of Muros than our previous excursion- this time to Abelleira where we expected to find a beach bar to refresh us. Unfortunately, whilst we found a bar and several beaches they were not together and both were a bit further by road than we had anticipated. Still, it was a good nine or ten mile hike to add to the list and we did find a village full of the grain stores mentioned in an earlier entry.

 

Grain stores

You will recall how I spoke of our disappearing oars. On our first stop in Muros we found a boat shop [rather than an Iron Mongers which every other town has had]. This shop had a sign saying Everything for the Boat [that being our rough translation of the sign in Spanish] and so we went inside. We were delighted that the guy in the shop had limited English but we were having trouble with “paddle” so Mike did a fantastic charade of “Michael row your boat ashore” and with that and a catalogue we managed to order two oars to be picked up on this, our return, visit. Not sure whether he decided we were complete idiots or just forgot – but the oars aren’t at the shop and neither is he. A very nice young woman who was there yesterday morning let us speak on the phone to the manager who said he would meet us later in the evening when the shop was again open after siesta time – but the shop was shut! So, the oar hunt continues….

So, last night [Friday] saw the opening night of the weekend festival with two bands which played from 10.00pm until 05.00am. We watched the stages being erected which is entertainment in itself. Two large articulated lorries turned into two stages with drop down lights, speakers, visual displays etc – all in about 4 hours. We didn’t actually go to watch the bands because there are two more tonight and three tomorrow and we are getting too old for 3 late nights in a row – so decided to give the pre-party party a miss. However, I did see and hear the bands still playing when I got up at 4.00am and looked to see what was happening and was then amazed when I took my first coffee outside at 9.00am to find the stages and articulated lorries gone. And yes, I had been back to bed between 4.00 and 9.00.

This post started with a Lancashire grey day and also ends with one. We have had great weather in between but clearly the Rias are living up to their reputation of one sea mist/foggy/grey day in every five or so. Actually, I think this one has followed Dave and Maggie from England – at least that’s what we will tell them when they arrive later.

We have a flexible plan for their two week stay with us but hopefully a good time will be had by us all and will be duly reported on…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2011/07/20/muros/