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A straightforward, day to day account of what we have done during the current year's cruise. What we found may help others. I hope that anyone interested in the area will cherry pick rather tha trying to read from start to finish.
Our boat is a Hallberg Rassy 34, Anhinga. It is crewed by Frank Singleton, Jennifer Singleton, Margaret Roberts-Homeyer,
Plans for 2010
The grand plan was to start from Lagos and go eastwards to Chipiona and up to Seville for a few days. Hopefully, our grand-daughter will be able to join us from her language degree year at Malaga University. Previously it has been too hot when in the area to contemplate Seville.
Then we aim to get back westwards and round Cape St Vincent by the end of May, get up the Portuguese coast as and when the wind will allow. After some time in the Spanish Rias we plan to winter at Sada, near la Coruna.
However, as a well known Scots post once famously said, "The plans of mice and men gang oft aglae."
The Icelandic volcano
We had planned to leave the UK on April 15 but the early morning news was as bad as could be; all flights cancelled. We tried to book on a later flight but that, too, was cancelled. As there was considerable uncertainty and as travel chaos was likely whenever the ban was lifted, we decided to bite the bullet and booked ferry Portsmouth to Santander, train to Madrid (with one change), sleeper to Lisbon, train (one more change) to Lagos.
All worked well. Biscay was almost a yachtsman's dream, not quite enough of an easterly. Spanish and Portuguese trains were excellent with a tilting train from Lisbon to Tunes. The breakfast on the train to Lisbon was very good, rather better than on the ferry.
Furuno - Portugal
We had an unhappy experience with Furuno - Portugal.
Areas and places Visited
Lagos and the Algarve
Spain - Andalucia
Lagos to Bayona
Spain – The Rias
Portugal - S coast and Andalucia
Lagos, April 23 to May 4
This came fully up to expectations as being a good place to leave a boat and have work done on it. The two owners Hugo and cousin Pedro have excellent English as do several of their staff. The chandlery is well stocked and everyone sets out to help. When we got back to the boat it was the cleanest that we have ever returned to. If they know when you are due back, they wash the boat down in anticipation. We know of no other yard that does this.
Planned work on the boat had gone well. We had the decks re-caulked and lightly sanded; the fridge cooler unit replaced by a keel cooled one. However, sailing life is never straightforward and we had a number of setbacks involving varying degrees of cost.
First setback was that the outboard engine had seized up completely despite me having poured oil into the cylinder as recommended. A new small Yamaha 4- stroke cost us €1000 and we had to get the sailmaker to make a sling for it as it is too heavy for us to lift in and out safely. Then we had to have a seacock replaced.
Next setback was a new Genoa sent out from the UK. Although we had supplied the dimensions of the previous sail, it came a little too long up the luff and would not furl without bending and straining the foil. A job for the local sailmaker to rectify, which he did very neatly.
The only minus is that equipment costs in Portugal are significantly higher than in the UK. As an example, Hugo showed us Raymarine prices in the UK against those that he has to charge over here. Embarrassing for him and costly or us.
After launching there was no problem in getting a berth in the marina for the rest of the fitting out. As on previous occasions the reception was friendly. For one week they charged $115; not bad with free showers and WiFi - albeit with variable bandwidth. Food and other shopping are at hand and there are many restaurants.
We met up with Wendy and Richard, HROA members on Myrica who are on their way to the Med. Fellow HROA members, Clive and Jane Williams were visiting for a week or two.
Lagos to Culatra Island, May 4, 41 miles
This was intended to be the first leg on our way to Chipiona to meet grand-daughter Sophie and then visit Seville. The mainsail decided otherwise. We had planned to have a new main next season. The current one has had eight Mediterranean Summers with five month sailing each year. It was showing signs of wear with small slits appearing but might have made another year.. However on this passage it would not set properly and made a vibrating noise. We dropped it and sailed under Genoa as it was quite windy.
On inspection we found two breaks in the bolt rope. Seville was clearly not possible. Lagos was the best option while we decided what next.
Culatra to Albufeira, May 5, 34 miles
With no mainsail usable, a near headwind increasing to F 5 was not welcome. The HR 34 does not have a very powerful engine and is light enough to lose way all too easily in a choppy sea. It is a sailing boat and not a motor yacht. Albufeira made a convenient stopover. Still rather a strange place but clearly developing; it was a very economic one night stop.
Albufeira to Lagos, May 6, 24 miles
With much lighter winds, although still on the nose, this was a comfortable motoring job. Lagos gave us the same berth as previously.
Hugo at Sopramar had a few quiet words with the sailmaker who should have picked up the problem in his check. He came round very apologetic and next day returned with a new bolt rope inserted.
Thinking of the west coast of Portugal yet to come, we bit another bullet and ordered a new mainsail from Elvstrom to be sent out. The old main might well have coped but we are not in the business of unnecessary risks. We will have more time in the Algarve, still visit Seville; we may or may not try the west coast of Iberia later in the year.
Lagos to Culatra Island - 2nd attempt - May 10, 41 miles
This was another good sail arriving at half tide against the ebb but not difficult to enter the anchorage for a nice quiet night. Wendy and Richard were already there and motored over to join us for after dinner coffees and a good chat.
Culatra Island to Chipiona, May 11, 67 miles.
Left at first light and had four hours under engine. Then enough wind to give four hours under spinnaker. This was followed by four hours under main and Genoa, mostly with one reef. A good and satisfactory passage.
The Pilot said that the marina office closed at 1730 and we saw no signs of life. However, we learned later that they were open until 2000 hours. We were mildly reproved for using a large yacht pontoon as a waiting pontoon but the very pleasant receptionist agreed that it had been windy. We were excused!
At Chipiona, May 12, 13
Waiting for granddaughter, Sophie to come from Malaga to join us on the trip to Seville. The engine had not been starting too well and we asked the local engineer to take a look. The owner speaks fluent English having spent time in the USA. Can see no fault with engine. Battery given load test but holding charge well.
Met Chris and Nina, CA members on Christina of Hamble.
This is one of a chain of Andalusian Province run marinas all of which are moderately priced and offer a good standard of facilities. The marina reception staff here are all extremely helpful with good English spoken; they gave us details on the passage up river and telephoned the Seville Yacht Club for us. There are good showers, a DIY washing machine and a multitude of small food shops all nearby. There is only one Camping Gaz outlet at Ferreteria Piano, a good 20 minutes walk away. It is very much a lived in town.
Sophie arrived safely , Went for long walk round the town and lighthouse. Some very pleasant parts but also many holiday blocks largely empty and rather forlorn.
To Seville, May 14, 55 miles.
We probably left a little earlier than optimum but we had three conflicting sets of advice. As a result we were entering the river against the flood with a strong NW wind. Somewhat rolly. However, we soon got into smooth river water. There is no problem in eyeballing up the river but it is not the most interesting of trips.
We saw three ships and few yachts on the way up. Apart from some colonies of storks, little wild life was to be seen and little human habitation.
Having made an early start we were able to pass the lock just before Seville at 1900 giving us time to moor up for a meal. This was on a disused ferry quay just below the lifting bridge to the Club Nautico de Sevilla. At the lock there were no "official" signals just a man waving us through. At the bridge we think that we saw a green light.
At Seville, May 15 to 19?
Checking was made easy with Sophie’s excellent Spanish. The club is more social hen sailing with some 8000 members few of whom ever go near a boat. There are food shops nearby and an excellent bread and patisserie shop.
Saturday was the Alcazar and Cathedral day. The former is delightful and fascinating. Despite many visitors it was still remarkably quiet. The cathedral was mostly remarkable for the mass of gold. One had to wonder how many Aztecs had died in its acquisition. The layout was unusual and, by many standards quite a pleasant and not at all oppressive atmosphere. WE would willingly visit the Alcazar again.
Sunday saw us at the Plaza d'Espana, the seat of government id days long on. Another fascinating set of buildings. After lunch we tried to see the bull ring but only guided tours are allowed and those had finished for the day.
Monday was a 2-hour bus ride to Cordoba to see the mosque that became a church. Another absolutely fascinating building quite unlike any other mosque that we have seen. We estimated 700 pillars supporting a highly decorative ceiling.
Tuesday, Sophie returned to University at Malaga and we had a quiet domestic day. On Wednesday we had a last morning of sightseeing in Seville. The Golden Tower is a maritime museum with models of the Santa Maria and other well known vessels. The Bull ring tour was interesting especially when the guide talked about injuries to the matadors. We began to wonder which was the greater attraction; a matador with a punctured femoral artery or a bull with a spear between its fourth and fifth vertebrae. A kind lady off a Canadian boat took Jennifer to Carrefours and Lidl supermarkets.
Back to Chipiona, 19 and 20 May.
Paid in the morning - €140 for 5 nights – they charge by the day, so this was 6 days. The bridge duly opened at 2200 and the lock at 2300. Together with HROA friends Wendy and Richard on Myrica (another HR34) we anchored in soft, glutinous mud just below the lock. The game plan being to start at about 1000, buck the tide, not very strong for about two to three hours and then have the ebb right down to Chipiona.
It worked well. We were abeam Bonanza at 1640 and alongside Chipiona by 1730. That made it 7 ½ hours, arriving at Chipiona just as the tide was beginning to turn. Chipiona, helpful as ever, found us a berth.
The wind had increased quite markedly from the south on the way down due to a low south of Cape St Vincent and stayed strong for the next few days. No hardship as Chipiona is reasonably priced out of season and shopping is reasonable – not marvellous. Colin Wilkinson came in on his Silent Wings, a Malo 38, a CA and OCC member. His description of Ria Guardian has strengthened our resolve to go upriver from San Antonio in a few days time.
I was able to use our time at Chipiona profitably as Richard gave me a copy of OpenCPN, a freeware chart program. He also showed me his AIS display – a NASA piece of kit linked to a laptop. This had some Waypoints up the Rio Guardalquivir. He said that he could see ships navigating upriver using these waypoints and had done so himself. Fascinating.
We had a very good Sunday lunch at the smaller of the two restaurants at the marina. Excellent and good value.
To Mazagon, May 24, 28 NM
The wind was dying down to give us a pleasant sail across the bay. As last year, Mazagon was, for us very much a port of transit. Food shopping is a longish uphill walk and was not necessary. The pluses are good toilets and showers, which we used, and washing machines which we did not need. Slightly cheaper than Chipiona at €11 a night.
Algarve to Lagos
To Villa Réal - San Antonio, May 25, 29 NM
Unusually, the wind stayed in a good direction rather than the sea breeze take over to give a beat going westwards. That let us time arrival to perfection – HW over the bar and slack water entering the marina..
The innovation here is a fingerprint system for pontoon and toilet access. It can be very critical just how you put your finger on the pad. It works, with a little patience. Jennifer tried to claim that she had worked so hard that her fingers were so worn that her prints were not recognised.
San Antonio must be one of our favourite towns. Largely pedestrianised, good food shopping. Inexpensive at about €13 a night.
Up river to Alcoutim, May 30, 18 NM charted – 15 logged.
People and the pilots say what a pleasant trip it is, and they are right. Undulating rural scenery all the way. Anchorages on the way up and Alcoutim with a few visitors berths at €7.5 a night for under 11 metres. Water, electricity, showers and toilets included. Can’t be bad. If you stay longer than a week, the price doubles and you have to move off for a day to give others the opportunity for a berth.
Alcoutim is a small village which seems to have at least three banks, one general shop, a castle and several restaurants/bars.
Met Richard Tunningley and Frances Hinton, CA members on Ceriotsam, a Van der Stadt. Also three other British boats and a French-Italian couple plus very young children on Brancaleone, from l’Orient but registered in St Malo. There is room for 8 to 10 visitors on the pontoons but plenty of secure anchoring. There are a fair number of boats on their own mooring buoys. All interesting.
It was very hot with the sea breeze just getting in occasionally, but mainly very light winds. We should have done more but heat defeated us. In the early morning pumped up the dinghy – due for an engine run – and explored the Spanish town opposite, San Lucar. Several boats on the pontoon, most unoccupied and one virtually derelict.
Shopping on both sides is very limited but Alcoutim does have a library with s free Wifi connection. The mystery is – where do locals shop for food?
Back to Santo Antoni, June 2, 18 NM charted, 13 logged
Another few lazy days in this most pleasant of towns. An amateur artists' day was a highlight. One of the best pizzas ever was another and a walk along the river. Such are the simple pleasures of cruising. We met the Italian French family again.
In the street parallel to the main shopping street there is a fairly small but very adequate supermarket where the fruit and vegetables were as good as, and cheaper than the produce market. Strawberries were in season and were being shovelled into bags in kilos.
To Culatra anchorage, June 7, 25 NM charted, 45 logged.
As we found last year, this can be a most difficult beat into a strong sea breeze. Go too far out, especially approaching Culatra and the swell increases the agony. Short tacking along the coast seems to be the best but we have not discovered the optimum. The wind was quite strong – one reef for about half the time.
We left a little too late because of the times of HW at Santo Antonio and arrived at Culatra about an hour before it was dark. The anchorage was quiet.
Moved up to Ponte Cais
Isla Culatra has a population of some 3000 and, looking at the harbour at Ponte Cais, most of them have small fishing boats. There are two small but remarkably well stocked supermarkets and a multibank cash point.
Fascinating is the small lagoon tucked behind Ponte Cais where there are a number of shallow draught boats that have some to rest there. Some, reportedly, for several year; their appearance supports that.
To Albufeira, June 8, 29 NM
We had intended staying anchored for another day but the forecast changed that. We left for Albufeira, with a short hitch up to wind followed by a long teach that nearly made it. The wind was a good WSW 4 or 5, enough for one reef. Albufeira gave us their most awkward berth, downwind with the longest boat in the alley right opposite where we were going. We had just about one boat length between the finger ends and the stern of the opposite yacht.
The next day started windy with cloud and rain – in the Algarve? The wind dropped but the day stayed dull and cloudy. Stayed 3 days - €90, we were now in mid season. Albufeira is an odd place and we cannot imagine any reason to winter there. The chandlers were poorly stocked and not helpful. Food shopping would need a bike, if not a car. Compared to Lagos, say, it looked as though it would be dead in the winter. Those were our impressions, quite possibly ill founded. Little attracted us apart from the pleasant and helpful staff in the marina office.
To Lagos, June 11, 21 NM
Sopramar yard had a small job to do on a fuel leak from around the fuel gauge. Then we felt a need for some extensive washing and general cleaning while waiting for the new mainsail to come from Elvstrom. We booked in at the marina for a week. Five days were still at low season rates. With our RYA 5% discount on the mid season rates, it came to €20 a night.
The weather was still cold and cloudy when we arrived and on the Saturday. Hoping for better.
At Lagos, June 12 to 21.
Met HROA friends Tony and Roz Haeri on their HR46, Rosy June II. Makes us feel a real tiddler with their armchairs. Robin and Carole Clarke also came for an all too brief visit to Rosy June. The weather stayed unusually cool, cold at nights with some very strong night time winds.
To Portimão anchorage, June 21, 7 miles.
Not knowing when the sail will arrive at Lagos (it has arrived at Transworld back in the UK); we did not want to go too far but wished to save some money. The anchorage in the outer harbour at Portimão is quite pleasant, the only problem being the night long to and fro movement of the fishing fleet. The Pilot says that it starts around an hour before daybreak! Wrong, again! After the first night the noise and general disturbance seems rather less.
The evening of arrival, we saw Blue Mistress II, HR42, another HROA and CA member but we never got round to making contact (or vice-versa). Also a HR 46, Sabre Three. Both left early the following day so could not say hello to either.
Had three nights at anchor, went ashore for a walk along the beach. Too cold at 17 or 18 deg C to swim. Needing provisions and washing decided to return to Lagos. With the RYA discount it is no more expensive than Portimão and the shopping id far more convenient. We also hope to pick up our NAVTEX set, a long and sorry story; see below.
Returned to Lagos, June 24, 6 miles.
We will just have one night here and return next Monday – Transworld say that the sail is due Tuesday.
In late April/early May we suspected a fault with our Furuno NAVTEX 300D and tool it to the Lagos chandlers, Sopramar. Not having the appropriate plugs, they sent it to Furuno Portugal in Lisbon, for checking and repair if necessary.
On June 11 we returned to Lagos to find that Furuno Portugal had, apparently, done nothing. The following day they said the set was OK. Could we please send the aerial. We said no, being unsure of our movements. We asked them to return the set with a new aerial. After waiting for a few days, we enquired again only to be told that Furuno Portugal did not have an aerial but were still in possession of the set. We were promised its return by Monday 21st June.
Today, June 24, the set still has not been returned to Sopramar. We have been assured that it will be here tomorrow, Friday 25th. We wait with interest. On the basis of this experience, Furuno Portugal are best avoided.
Back to Portimão, June 25, 6 miles
The NAVTEX did NOT arrive. They now say next Monday. For an anchorage rather than marina fees, we returned to Portimão.
The anchorage is very pleasant with one exception. There seems to be a sewage outfall near the beach restaurants and the fine beach. They seem to discharge it during the morning. The mess is horrendous and when it gets blown onto the beach one can only guess at the possible consequences. The mullet do their best to recycle the output and we saw them in formation going to and fro across the swathe; but, even the mullet could not cope. They must have been gorged and we now know why we had seen so many fat fish.
On the beach itself, we had a very good lunch at Club Nao. Pleasant environment. Good food. Good service.
We met Dutch Canadian friends. Willelm and Elsbeth off Spirit of Aeolians. We had met them at Seville where they had overwintered. Then at Villa Réal; we had met Willelm in Lagos chandlery. They are having their rod rigging serviced and the rigger at Portimão had .been recommended. They came on board for a pleasant evening.
After an early a morning sitting in the material from the sewage outfall we moved a short distance and were joined by a CA boat, Razzmatazz, a Dazcat. Tony and Anne came over for a chat and we agreed to meet that evening. It will be interesting to visit a catamaran.
Took the dingy up to Ferragudo, a pleasant small village opposite Portimão. There seem to be some good looking fish restaurants. Certainly an excellent fruit and vegetable shop and a French standard bread shop cum patisserie.
The sail is due to arrive Tuesday and the NAVTEX has re-surfaced Wonder of wonders!
To Lagos again, June 29, 6 miles
First setback, the NAVTEX still does not function although passed as OK by Furuno. Must be the aerial. Got the old sail off the boat and collected the new. Next set back; there has been a small redesign of the intermediate Frederiksen cars. Elvstrom should have known but either did not or had not realised that the new fittings were different from our 2001 mainsail. Waiting for advice.
There is a plastic "thimble" on the sail for each intermediate car. A 10 mm diameter plastic pin is the connection between the car and the sail. The new thimbles are about 1 mm less than the old. I think there are three options.
1.) Have new pins sent out. The play in the fitting might be too much and the very small lip that stops it falling right through might not be large enough.
2.) Have a local sailmaker use our old thimbles to replace the new. That assumes that there are no more problems. Safe enough option otherwise.
3.) Have five new intermediate cars sent out. The safest option but also, no doubt the costliest.
In the event, we chose option 2 and the local sailmaker charged us €60 to remove the offending thimbles and replace with our old ones.
Next apparent disaster was the absence of a bolt rope along the foot of the sail - until we realised that we now had a loose footed main sail. This is a recent departure for Hallberg Rassy and it would have been nice to know what we were getting. We had to rethink our lazy jacks but a test hoist and reefing looked good. Three reefs went and came out well.
We now await a slot to get northwards, at least, to Sines.
July 3, Lagos
For two days now we have been watching a possible window on Monday, July 5. This morning's GRIB is looking particularly good, at least as far as Sines and maybe further. Big shop because Sines shops are not close.
Lagos to Bayona
To Cape St Vincent, July 4, 15 miles
Leaving during the morning gave us a pleasant sail before the south coast westerly sea breeze set in. The anchorage just under Cape St Vincent is a little deep for us, so we chose Ensenada de Sagres three miles to the east. Unfortunately this had a SE swell coming in and which we vainly hoped would die away.
The wind also became very strong northerly over the land due to the to the west Portuguese coast, northerly sea breeze. This is the Nortada that takes people coming south by surprise after or while rounding Cape St Vincent.
To Sines, July 5, 65 miles
The swell did persist and sleep was not easy. Good point was that at 0230 we were all awake and ready to go. It was still a little windy around Cape St Vincent but the wind died and we had to motor sail all the way. The swell was long enough not to stop the boat even though it reached 2 metres at times. Boring, but it got us there and, thanks to our Brunton Autoprop, without too much glazing of the engine.
Sines has changed a little over the past ten years and there are now some very loos showers and toilets with pint sized loos and hand basins for children. The Guardia Fiscal still man the office. We had a good meal at le Castello (by the castle) recommended by Celtic Breeze.
To Sesimbra, July 6, 32 miles
Much of the passage was another boring motor sailing job but we did have about one hour plus good reaching for the last few miles. Still, we are getting up the coast despite the Portuguese Trade winds.
We came here largely for curiosity. The Pilot says that they were not taking visitors. Celtic Breeze said that there was a lot of room. In fact it is a club marina and they are only too happy to find a space if one is available and they know that the club berth holder will be away. There is free WiFi although band width is a little variable. Not available outside office hours.
Sesimbra lived up to its reputation for strong late afternoon and evening winds. They were fearsome but died away late evening only to return for about 10 minutes around 0100. Very strange.
To Cascais, July 7, 25 miles
Yet another day of largely under motor but with an hour or so sailing. Cascais had us on their database following our visit in 2000. Not bad! It is an efficient, friendly marina. A curious lack for such a large marina is the absence of any WiFi - at least where we were berthed.
When we said that we would have to leave at about 0430, they said that a marinero would come to our berth with the deposit for the key card. He did, precisely at the time promised. We need not have bothered with an alarm clock! Perhaps we should have asked for a morning cup of coffee as well.
To Nazaré, July 8, 65 miles
We would have liked to stay at Cascais for a few nights but there was a window for the next leg which had to be to Nazaré as Peniche is still closed for dredging. We had heard fog horns overnight but at 0430 it seemed clear enough – until we were a few miles on our way when it closed in. Thanks be to radar that we had a worry free sail as far as the Peniche peninsula. It then lifted and the wind became sailable but only briefly. This was our first fog since Gibraltar last year.
At Nazaré, Mike was still very much in charge - like us all, ten years older than when we last saw him but as helpful as ever. With Sally, he makes this the friendliest of marinas. On their advice and helped by their information on buses we visited Batalha, the Abbey where Henry the Navigator is buried. The Abbey is a splendid building, ornate externally by quite refreshingly simple inside.
Being in the groove on the same day we also visited the monastery At Alcobaca. This Cistercian monastery is, again, quite simple inside as ordained by the prier.
We met Alan and Jane Hopwood, CA members going south, on the OVNI. Also a charming Irish group on their HR48. Massive compared to us.
To Figueira da Foz, July 13, 39 miles
After a foggy start, we had to motor with little wind but had a pleasant two hour reach approaching Figueira da Doz. The waiting quay takes one boat only but it pays to wait to check in before going to a berth. Otherwise you have a long walk.
Little seems to have changed here except that the northern breakwater is being extended out to sea. Anyone approaching from the north in fog would be well advised to keep a good offing until on the leading line.
The market right by the marina is still good. This time we found a Pingo Doce supermarket a reasonable walking distance away. Highlight was an excursion to Coimbra, the old university town some 40 km away. Return fare on the train was €2.20! The library associated Chapel, Examination rooms, other rooms for special occasions and the “academic prison”. This kept student miscreants away from the normal run of the mill ruffians.
Here we met a small French flagged Beneteau First with a BA registration - Bayonne; we never saw the boat name nor knew their names. We discussed weather and I told them about GRIbs and ZyGrib in particular. The mystery was that when I spoke French I was met with complete incomprehension. Was my French really that bad? I was mortified. However, it turned out that they were Spanish Basque but lived in Hendaye. Their first language was Basque, second was Spanish. French they had none.
To Leixoes, July 16, 70 miles
This was a total motoring job; light winds for the most part then wind right on the nose. This is one of the penalties in coming northwards up the Portuguese coast.
Leixoes seems much cleaner than back in 2000, maybe as a result of the clean-up after the oil spill some years ago. Inevitably, there is still a pervading odour from the refinery but this really only evident when the winds fall light, mainly overnight.
There is free WiFi. There is a supermarket about 3/4 mile along the sea front. The fuel berth in the marina as only accessible at high tide. Staff are very helpful.
To Povoa de Varzim, July 18, 14 miles
We had heard good reports about Povoa and these were realised after another no wind motor sail. A quick answer on Ch 9; being helped to a berth; friendly reception; excellent showers; new washing machines; free WiFi; a friendly club all combined to give a good impression.
A local sailor told us that it was the only marina in northern Portugal with hard standing that was safe from the weather. The only drawbacks are the paucity of power points and non-availability of water when ashore. It is not recommended to leave the boat in the water over the winter because of the SW swell,
We met, briefly, CA members Derrick and Alison Thorrington on Green Flash, a Freedom 40, going southwards. We saw again, and waved to, the French Basque Beneteau.
To Viana do Castello, July 20, 25 miles
The US GRIB forecasts are doing really well for us. We saw a window for this leg about 4 days ago. It worked well: one short tack out to sea then tacked back on a lifting wind. For once up this coast we sailed all the way.
Since we were last here, they have installed finger pontoons which is fine, but that leaves less space for visitors. To compensate, there is a pontoon just outside the (new” swinging bridge that can take 4 or 5 boats depending on size. Rafting up is possible while the wind is in the north and that the tidal flow is not too strong. Charges are as for in the marina; there is a security gate, water and electricity. We were lucky to get inside.
Viana is an old favourite of ours. We rate it as pleasant as Lagos and Villa Réal but of more interest. The marineros are as helpful as anywhere we know and the claim never to turn a boat away.
Being the first and last port of call for many, it tends not to be explored as much as it deserves. Going south, the pressures are probably to get a move on; going north you go as soon as a window appears. Yet, the town has many surprises; there is always something new to find. There is good food shopping, good general shopping, washing machines at the marina, an excellent and cheap lunch restaurant at the Yacht Club, a well stocked chandlers (near the old harbour); easy access by train to Porto. A week would not be too long to stay here.
The Basque boat was also waiting here and we discussed the best day to leave. Monday was the original choice but Saturday looked just as good for wind, if not necessarily for swell.
Back to the Rias
To Bayona, 24 July, 47 miles
Once again the GFS GRIB forecasts came up trumps. We had been watching for a window and had seen this one opening up. In the event, we left at 0600 and had a F4 touching 5 initially with a touch of east. That gave us a long tack lifting up the coast although in a difficult sea. Around noon, the wind backed a little and decreased letting us take a port tack to lay the entrance to the Bayona Ria. All pretty well according to plan. Docked at about 1500.
The new Porto Deportivo has large pontoons and fingers. A marinero waved us to a slot and two more helped us in. Toilets are still portacabin type. After a long day, we were not best pleased when a loutish charter boat suddenly switched on very loud music at about 0230. Back to reality after the serious cruising sailors going up and down the Portuguese coast.
The Basque boat had left Viana two hours earlier but we had not seen her at all en route. Nor was she in the Marina Deportivo. Had she gone on further north? Gone into Rio Minho to shelter? Anchored nearby? Gone back to Viana because the sea was just too much for such a light boat with a small engine?
Two days later, the Basque boat arrived. They had taken a beating probably going so early that it took a considerable while for the winds to ease. Sensibly they went back to Viana, waited until the Monday. In the event, they had a good passage; a far smoother sea and less wind.
To San Adrián, San Simon, July 27, 19 miles
Our Basque friends left before we had breakfast. They wanted to get back to Hendaye before having to start work again. We wish them all good luck; it has been a pleasure meeting them.
We had never been up the Ria Vigo and liked the sound of San Simon as a quiet club run marina. We sailed about 2/3rds of the way before the wind died away. The marina and bay are certainly quiet. Coming into the bay we went right around a number of floating mussel beds as advised in the Pilot. Local boats take a large and fairly obvious gap as a short cut.
San Adrián is a small club marina, laid back in the extreme. Deposit for a key card? Oh, no! Just put it through the letter box. It is quiet here with a nice bar cum lunch time room. We found no shops nearby.
To Cangas, July 29, 7 miles
wanting to visit Islas de Cies, we needed food. Vigo looked hot and built up. The small club run marina at Cangas seemed a sensible option. Shopping was close; there is that necessity of the cruising yacht, a washing machine. It is very friendly, although they put us right at the shore end of a narrow slot. Getting out will be interesting.
Good provisioning with two supermarkets, a good produced market and fish market.
To Islas Cies, 31 July, 8 miles
With little wind getting out of our berth was no problem but the marinero appeared just in case. Most helpful. Islas Cies is part of the Spanish Atlantic Island group for which you are advised to get a pass. Very pleasant and unspoilt despite many day trippers; remarkably quiet. We did wonder how important it was to have a pass. However, a National Park RIB appeared in the early evening and was clearly checking boat names against a list.
To Ensenada de Barra, same day
The morning Spanish forecast for AGUAS COSTERAS DE PONTEVEDRA: was for winds to increase to force 5 or even 6 later. The US GRIB disagreed and we backed the wrong horse. During the evening the wind was increasing and I had two mutinous ladies on board. I was beaten by superior numbers, so we moved all of 3.5 miles to Ensenada de Barra on the mainland. This is a popular large and quite unspoilt bay. It was windy all night here but with no swell – the factor that really drove us here from Islas Cies.
Went ashore at Ensenada de Barra, August 1
This is a fine beach with many shells. It is also a nudist beach which probably explains why it seemed so popular. All shapes, sizes and ages were on display, some were more attractive than others. Jennifer said that we should have known that it was a nudist beach because so many people were walking up and down the whole length. Some were jogging. I am not sure about her reasoning and the rationale. Suggestions on a post card or brief email.
To Combarro, August 2, 22 miles
We wanted to meet a friend in San Xenxo but had heard that the marina was noisy with all night discos. Alternatives are Porto Novo and Combarro. The forecast was for an increase in wind but we had a pleasant start with a gentle beat between the two Rias. Near Porto Novo we called the marinero - "Non possibile!” It is a club marina and fairly small. On to Combarro up the Ria, still a nice sail.
Combarro is a new marina, opened two years ago. They are very welcoming. There are good showers and toilets; there is an easy access fuel berth, four boats can lie alongside at a time. Security is good. For our 10, 3 me, €20.85 a night.
The village itself is a heritage site famous for its grain stores - "Hórreos". Since our last visit it seems a little spoilt with the locals (understandably) trying to cash in on the tourist trade - many small shops and restaurants. We still like the place and the marina has tidied up the harbour. Local fishing and other boats have gained. Work has come in, more sailors will come as it gets known and that will benefit the local economy. Win-win.
Our Spanish friends, Luis and Minia took us on a short tout, including Isla Toja, a rich man's resort. They took us back to their delightful holiday villa overlooking the Ria for excellent tapas and some good wine.
Round to Ria Arousa, August 8, 28 miles
Combarro is one of those places where you can all too easily sink to rest. But we do get restless and have to move on. We wanted to see Ria Arousa again and have a night at anchor after several in a marina. As we sailed down Ria Pontevdra, we called our friends on the cell phone and waved goodbye.
The sail round the corner was pleasant with a gentle beat up Ria Arousa to an anchorage near Pta Pineiro. This involved threading our way through countless Bateas, the fish (in this case mussel) farms. One of our Pilots says that this one Ria produces 95% of Spanish mussels and 65% of the world output. Difficult to believe until you go there and see for yourself. The water in the Ria was cloudy everywhere we went.
This pleasant Ria is not the easiest in which to sail There are many small islands and rocks to navigate bu the whole is complicated by the bateas. Spoilt might be too strong a word but is getting close.
To Villagarcia, August 9, 4 miles.
In the morning, the anchor came up with a mass of green fibrous material – evidence of excess nitrogen in the water. One might think that farming mussels would be a fairly “green” operation; I am not a biologist but that must be questionable.
We wanted to visit Combardos and bus from Villagarcia is the easiest option. We had used this marina back in 1998 when it seemed a rather uninteresting commercial town with a workaday marina. Still fairly workaday but well organised and friendly. They answered on Ch 9 promptly and a marinero met us in a boat.
In the morning, the anchor came up with a mass of green fibrous material – evidence of excess nitrogen in the water. One might think that farming mussels would be a fairly “green” operation. I am not a biologist but that must be questionable. ->In the morning, the anchor came up with a mass of green fibrous material – evidence of excess nitrogen in the water. One might think that farming mussels would be a fairly “green” operation. I am not a biologist but that must be questionable.
Shopping is good and close; notably a Mercadonna where they sell barbecued chickens, shrink wrapped giving a slightly longer life on the boat. We had these in the Balearics and were pleased to find them here.
We took the opportunity of taking a bus to Combardos, the home of the famous Alborino wine. The town is a tourist attraction and had some interesting buildings. We far preferred Combarro.
To Caramiñal, August 11, 7 miles
We wanted to see Caramiñal one of the most attractive marina locations. The welcome was friendly enough although it was made clear that we could have two nights only as there was some big event due at the weekend. The town is pleasant and the small yacht club good.
Met Phillip Giles a CA member and his wife on Songbird, a large Hanse that made us seem tiny. They are going south in slow stages.
Back to the anchorage near Pta Pineiro, August 13 (Friday!), 20 miles.
The day began, the night had been, very windy. Having to leave Caramiñal, we telephoned Villa Nova but were told “Completo”. Telephone numbers for Villagarcia were incorrect but it is a fairly large marina and there had been plenty of space a few days ago. We assumed that they would have space. No! Getting there and calling on VHF got the dreaded “Completo.”
We knew that the anchorage near Pta Pineiro had good holding but did not like the weed there. We went round to the anchorage at Escarabote, at the far end of the bay from Caramiñal. We would probably have been OK there but the wind seemed to be funnelling down the hillside in vicious gusts. Back to Caramiñal to look at the anchorage there. Secure enough but open to the gusty NE wind.
So, back to the anchorage near Pta Pineiro. Well sheltered and with no large hills behind. Trees should give some break in the wind. Blow the weed. It is a good anchorage, no doubt and there seemed to be few that did not require a fair amount of local knowledge to avoid rocks and reefs and that were sheltered from the NE.
We have been seeing a number of forest fires since getting to the Rias; on our second evening at anchor there was a massive plume of smoke from over the headland sheltering us from the NE winds. How far away was not at all clear. We just hope it is not too close.
Back to Caramiñal, August 15, 6 mile
We found over 120 yachts taking part in the racing which explained why there were no berths in any of the nearby marinas. We saw the difference in attitude between some racers and cruisers. Our berth was alongside, being blown off by a strong wind and little room between two piles. OK, we are fairly fit but well into our 70s. Jennifer, especially, is quite athletic and e moored with a little but not too much difficulty. None of the racing crews walking past offered to take a line - a common courtesy among cruisers.
Later we saw a large yacht with about 8 crew leave. It was an obvious case for springing the bow off. No trouble at all. But, no! The crew all pushed the bow off, the skipper put on full power, they all leapt on board narrowly missing a small family motor boat ahead of them on the pontoon. Hardly good or safe seamanship.
Met Ken and Jenny Campling on Happy Hobo, their Sailing School (Hobo Yachting) boat. He was interested to learn about GRIB files and ZyGrib. I hope that his students will benefit!
To Portosin, August 19, 35 miles
We had intended leaving Caramiñal on the 18th but it was a foggy start with no wind. Although forecasts seemed no better we decided to stay another day. A good decision as it was a far better day, although still with little wind. We had to motor all the way.
The yacht club marina at Portosin has a good reputation and we had fond memories. We were not disappointed; one call on Ch 9, no reply, and two marineros were there to help us into a very convenient berth. Here a mystery was solved. We had heard a number of boats on VHF over the previous few days who seemed to be together. Sure enough, there was a rally of some 20 boats organised by the OCC rep at Bayona. This was their last day. Tony Fiske of the RAFYC and Nyord recognised me from a lecture many years ago to his club. A small world.
Some things change; some do not. The club run marina is as efficient and friendly as it ever was. There is an excellent toilet block with DIY good laundry. Club meals were not as good as when last here. There is the same one man butcher in the village selling good meat and the same small alimentation. The village is now more like a small town with much new building and an Eroski supermarket a short walk away if carrying your wares and a little longer if using a trolley.
To Caramiñas, August 22, 41 miles
The forecast was favourable although mist and fog were possible as always with a SW wind in these waters. Certainly, it was murky, only 4 miles off, we never saw Cape Finisterre. The wind was more SE than the forecast SW but it still let us use the spinnaker. We have now flown the kite southwards past Finisterre (1998) and, now, northwards.
No reply on VHF from Caramiñas but a helpful lady marinera met us. There are now finger pontoons here and more berths than when last here – with fingers. Good value at €16 for our 10.3 m.
With the wind either in the wrong direction or a trifle too strong, we stayed for a while. One day was windy, F8s and wet. A good reading day. The town has had a face lift with new or renovated buildings merging well and improving on the old. There is now a walkway round the harbour. Lace making is still an attraction.
To A Coruña, August 27, 46 miles
An awkward sea for the run to Isla Sisargas meant that we motored s the swell would have collapsed the spinnaker and there was not enough wind otherwise. After Sisargas we had a good Spinnaker run almost to the Torre de Hercules. Marina Deportivo is more central than the old marina, confusingly now the new Marina de Coruña. A telephone call followed by a call on Ch (ensured that we were met and shown to a berth. All very efficient – as in the Pilots.
At A Coruña until September 5
A first was to see a Japanese flagged yacht, Drifty, with Hiro and Kako Matsuzaki. They are off to winter the boat up the Vilaine and then head for the UK.
The produce market is as good as ever it was and the fish market did not disappoint. The stroke of genius is to have a Gaddis supermarket in the basement of the "proper" market. Customers get the best of both worlds.
The Réal Club Nautico Coruña runs the marina which is remarkably quiet although near the centre of the city. Marineros are on duty H24 and we saw them help a visitor arrive at 0300. They charged us €141 for 8 days. The Pombo chandlers is good but, like others in Spain, little is on display. You have to know what you want – and be able to ask for it.
To Marina Sada, September 5, 10 miles
This is to be Anhinga’s Winter residence. First impressions were good. An easy access fuelling pontoon with a helpful assistant. We were allocated a berth for the next few days – we always take time laying up and we were expecting some bad weather that would prohibit outside jobs.
Contrary to the pilot, the showers and toilets are in the excellent category, they are still a long walk from the pontoons but, at least, you can combine some healthy exercise with necessity. There is free WiFi with a good enough signal to use from the chart table. The several, somewhat duplicative, chandlers are a little disappointing; one good big one would have been more satisfactory.
We have made contact with a local contractor recommended to us by a CA member. He has quoted a reasonable price for power washing, anti-fouling, polish and waxing. The marina manager is helpful and has good English that helps communication. Compared fo Portugal we, having only a little Spanish, find it difficult to understand and be understood.
After careful scrutiny we realised that a nearby yacht was flying a Royal Dart YC burgee - Margaret's club. Andy Davis on Dawn Drifter, a Moody 346 is also going to winter here.
The above makes no attempt at being a work of literature. It is a purely factual account of what we did and some of the attractions/problems encountered. (An everyday story of sailing folk?) It may be of some interest to others wishing to sail in the area. Of course, what we like and dislike may be different from other people. Situations change and someone else may get different impressions. More detailed comments can be found in notes on ports and anchorages over the whole of the Mediterranean, submitted to the Cruising Association by members.