Note: This is an imminently “skimmable” post. We stopped in a lot of different harbors, some only for a night, but I kept those in here because it’s our record of who–what-where-when-and, sometimes-why.
Wednesday-Wednesday, August 14-22, 2019
Since we had sailed out of A Coruña with Robbie in late July, we had covered a lot of Galicia’s 1,650 km coasline, cruising in the Rías Atlas or Upper Rías* (Ferrolterra and A Corunña As Mariñas), along the Costa da Morte (Coast of the Dead), and rounded Cabo Finisterre, the divider of Upper and Lower Rías.
*Ría, by the way, is Galician for estuary or ‘long narrow inlet formed by a partial submergence of a river bed’ (www.lexico.com).What’s confusing in identifying places here comes from each one having Spanish and Galician (the local language) names. For instance, ‘playa’ is beach in Spanish but ‘praia’ in Galician. In my posts I try to be consistent with using the local terms but am not always successful.
By mid-August we found ourselves at the Real Club Náutico de Portisin in Ría de Muros e Noia. And, after our marina staff safari via automobile we chose this marina as JUANONA’s winter berth.
That settled, we continued our summer cruising, exploring more rías down the coast. Having been in marinas or on mooring buoys earlier this summer, we yearned for the simplicity of being ‘on anchor’ as we perused the southern rías (13 A, B, C, D below).
So, our summer’s end began with two glorious weeks anchored out before enjoying a lovely marina at the most southern stop of our Galician cruise…
It wasn’t until we visited one of the major cities that we received some excellent information about this area from a Tourist Office. After asking about vineyards and miscellaneous activities, our conversation led to the waters we were cruising.
The staffer told us the fresh river water flowing under the salt of the ocean gives Galicia excellent conditions for raising shellfish. Which explains all the bateas (mussel rafts) we sailed through and around during our summer here.
Other cruisers told us of the delectable seafood here, and we happily partook of fresh fish (mainly Max) and shellfish (only moi). And, I will be trying pulpa or octopus but am waiting for a dish where the eight tentacled legs aren’t so anatomically identifiable…
There is quite a difference between the Upper and Lower Rías. The more northernly ones appeared wilder, with steep cliffs and less development, while the southern ones bustle with more human activity and habitation.
Yet, each ría provides beautiful, white sand beaches and plenty of opportunities to explore ashore, be it on trails or town roads.
NW Spain’s coastline primarily hosts Spanish sailors and power boaters, many of them just out for a day cruise. Often, what begins as a full anchorage during daylight hours becomes quite sparse by the time the sun sets. We’ve seen sailboats hailing from other European countries, but what we haven’t noticed are any American boats.
Because of the numerous protected harbors located inside these rías we rarely have trouble finding room to anchor. Even the few marinas we visit always have a berth. Matter-of-fact, only two places appeared too crowded for our comfort, both due to being small coves.
It’s fairly simple to navigate in these waters as long as youremember the tidal range (generally about 5 to 10 feet), skirt around the few patches of rocks, and avoid any fishing buoys (the latter are generally brightly colored and a lot less prevalent than the lobster pots in Maine).
For six nights we anchoreded off town beaches, dingying into shore for walks and errands. With so many safe harbors, we traveled short distances with some days only going five miles. Unlike other areas we cruised this summer, the Galician rías offered the luxury of stress-free anchoring. Only once did we have to re-anchor: we hit a bunch of weed causing us to drag when we first dropped the hook.
RÍA DE AROUSA
Leaving Portosin we sailed out of the Ría de Muros e Noia and into Ría de Arousa to Ribeira, right around the corner. We motored to the beach watching for the rocks noted on our chart and anchored with just a few other sailboats around.
By late afternoon the tide had come up covering the exposed rocks, enough so that one of the boats heading out of the anchorage ran aground. By the time we saw him not moving through the water but instead sitting a bit off kilter, several boats were buzzing towards him.
Watching the action it appeared the boat was starting to float free only to have one of the helpers inadvertently pull it back onto the rocks. Eventually the sailboat managed to get away.
When you see that all you can think is ‘man, I hope he’s okay’ followed by ‘I’m glad it’s not me’.
A lot happening in this harbor for later an ominous looking customs boat motored by just to check.
They didn’t stop (always a good sign) just waved and threw a huge wake causing JUANONA to rock like crazy. But, we’ll take that over a boarding any day.
The next morning we watched some fishermen haul in their nets
then went ashore where we saw a parking lot full of larger nets being untangled and repaired. Quite a job, all by hand.
In the other direction we walked to Palmeira, a town some cruisers liked, only to find it quite dead (we had come during lunch time when most shops take siestas for several hours, anytime between 2p-5p). We walked to the old church,
also closed, which didn’t stop Max from peeking through the window.
But, it had a nice view looking out to the bateas.
We manage to catch a bus back once we figured out the schedule, which, trust me, has been one of the most difficult parts of traveling around here: it’s difficult finding a schedule either online or posted (if you manage to locate an actual bus stop). Not only are timetables elusive, the actual pick-up and drop-off points are even more so for they rarely have any signage. Which means, just ask a local if you’re lucky enough to do so. Or, better yet, the TI.
Time to move on. So, we pulled up the anchor the next morning after watching a pack of swimmers racing around a buoy close to our stern.
PUNTA DE PEDARRUBIA OU de MIXELUÍDA and PLAYA DE PIÑEIRO
Again, we only went a short distance to a beach next to Piñera. Not as pretty as others we’d been to; but, still worth a dip.
And, yes, that’s my pink doughnut tube. A surprise from Max, one that enabled me to brave the chilly water without much touching. :)
And, just so you know, Max got his own pink doughnut, too :)
Our next destination in this Ría was Vilagarcia, one of the larger municipalities in the area. We anchored off a beach and braved the waves to dinghy into the marina. Once there we found a public place to dock, then hopped off to explore and pick up some provisions.
Some friends had noted they liked the feel of this city. Us, not so much. To be fair our quick opinion of the place came from trying to avoid a lot of drunken partyers armed with water pistols (it was their Water Festival) and sites smelling like urinals.
We discovered not only did the fiesta create a crowd of water-squirting youths but also most stores were closed. We did manage to find a market the next morning in a much quieter and more genteel neighborhood off the beach. With a stormy day forecasted, we ended up staying one night longer than we would have if the weather had cooperated.
RÍA DE PONTEVEDRA
Up and out the next morning we left for the next ría further south, Ría Pontevedra. We stopped for one night in Praia do Laño. Pulling up anchor the next morning we headed to Combarro, what could have been JUANONA’s winter port if we hadn’t decided on Portosin.
Knowing the winds would be high, we decided to anchor on the lee side of a town’s breakwater versus staying in the marina or out in a more open bay. The latter, we discovered, was a hive of activity for locals digging for cockles. A spectacular sight, one that disappeared when the tide rushed back in.
Combarro is known for its hórreros (stone granaries seen throughout NW Spain) with their mushroom bases for deterring rodent theft.
and its stone houses. We joined the tourists funneling through the ‘main street’, actually a narrow passageway,
ducking into other alleys to escape the crowds.
Vendors tried to entice customers into their shops while cafes offered the promise of seafood, some, no doubt, from that morning’s harvesting.
After running the gauntlet we decided to walk up the hillside to see some old water mills. The structures had fallen into disrepair but sightings of grinding stones and diverted streams provided proof of these hydropowered-mills. And, the fact the trail is called The Route of the Mills…
Being a hot day away from the water, Max took advantage of yet another head dunking to cool down.
Just across the bay you could see Galicia’s capital, Pontevedra, which translates to Ancient Bridge. One of the largest cities in the region (pop.80,000+) it also featured an old quarter, one we easily accessed by a 30-minute bus ride (and, yes, we got the logistical info at the TI).
As soon as we hopped off the bus the city enveloped us in its charm. Refreshing and airy parks just outside the historic center offered a ‘reset button’ for anyone feeling harried
and the openess of the plazas
spread into stone lanes filled with cafes.
Everything built of stone… lanes, plazas, and buildings grace Pontevedra’s old quarter. Surprisingly, the city didn’t feel harsh or cold, but warm and welcoming with many former homes displaying an impressive coat-of-arms.
For four hours we toured this city, beginning with an important landmark–the Plaza de Peregrina (Pilgrim Plaza), with its 18th-century Shrine of the Virgen Peregrina (to the right), patron saint of the province.
Inside we watched modern-day pilrims decked out in techo-clothing and equipment recieve a stamp for reaching this stage of their camino.
Eintering another church, San Bartolomé, we noticed a statue of the virgin, which seemed a bit odd to me,
and when I walked closer and peered from the side I understoode why: she was pregnant!
Sitting atop a hill the Real Basílica de Santa María la Mayor boasts of the town’s seafarers’ guild. Built in the 16th-century, the main facade features work by Cornielis the Dutch and the Portuguese Joā Nobre (not that I know them but having a Dutch guy working on them way back when I found interesting)
while outside the ever-present cruceira stood guard.
We managed to enter another church–the ‘lessor’ Santa María: Real Basílica Menor de Santa María, right before it closed thanks to the kind keeper of the site. Climbing the tower,
gave us another vantage point over the city and reinforced the sensation of openess.
We walked past a building with a placard noting this is where Sister Lucia, one of the children who witnessed the apparitions in Fátima, lived. Unfortunately, her room, now a chapel, was closed.
Pontevedra is associated with several famous Galicians, such as Isabel Barreto de Castro (1567-1612), the first known female admiral in European history. She got her start by accompanying her spouse (the first European landing on the Solomon and Marquesas Islands).
We didn’t see her home but did see another of the most notable amidst these stone buildings: the 15th-century Casa das Campás (Bell House). According to legend Pontevedra’s cruel and blood-thirsty pirate, Benito Soto, used to hide here when in town supposedly leaving some of his treasure buried on the premises (yet to be found…).
Eventually his time ran out at age 25, and Soto was hanged in Gibraltar. Hmmm… sounds like an MDT.
We took a lunch break from touring, sharing a plate of pimientos de Padrón (from the Galician municipality of Padrón) and salads.
Then continued our walk, which included posing with the famous Galician satirist and author, the one-arm (lost due to an infection from a fight) Ramón María del Valle-Inclán (1865-1936).
and a woman taking her chickens to the market.
One last site to see involved the hedonistic experience of sipping a libation in the peaceful garden of the Parador Casa del Barón.
Repurposed from a former pazo (an aristocrat’s Galician mansion) built on theremnants of a Roman town, this state-owned hotel is part of a large parador network found throughout Spain.
The history behind these paradors (don’t worry, only a few sentences on this) began in 1910 with the Spanish goverment’s desire to capture the interest (and wallets) of international tourists. To accomplish this goal they focused on increasing the visibility of Spain’s natural beauty and historical sites. And, what better way to do so than offer notable accommodations?
Eighteen years later the first hotel, Parador de Gredos in Ávila NW of Madrid, opened. Since then almost 100 of these government-owned and -operated establishments entice visitors to spend time (and money) exploring locations where the hotels, themselves, are showcases. If you are coming to Spain and you do want to see the Alhambra in Granada, splurge on that parador. I wasn’t able to stay there but Max did, on our first anniversary no less!
Wednesday-Monday, August 21-26
More beaches beckoned us, with the first being Aldán, at the mouth of Ría de Pontevedra. We had heard from another cruiser (whose posts and notes are excellent resources) you could find the warmest water around here, which is saying a lot as the temps mimic Maine’s.
And, she was right! For two days we enjoyed the beach, along with many others, and small resort town lining its shore. As well as a walk up to a famous cruciero in Hio carved in the late 1800s. It’s certainly the most elaborate stone cross we’ve seen here but, to me, it seemed like the fame came from a lot of smart marketing by this tiny town…
We continued from there to Cangas. Located on the other side of the point in the next ría south. Once there, we checked for engine oil (didn’t find the kind we wanted) then caught a bus back.
RÍA DE VIGO
Praia de Barra
Around the corner was Praia de Barra sitting at the mouth of the next ría south of us, Ría de Vigo.
This beach was the loveliest we’ve explored – with the extra bonus of being a clothing-optional one.
We dinghied in with our bathing attire intact, adding our bodies into the holiday mix of primarily nudey beach-goers.
I opted to maintain suited up while Max decided to de-suit. With that he stripped off top and bottom then grabbed our inflated float. He bravely strolled to the water’s edge and flopped himself onto our doughnut tube. In full disclosure he did manage to position that float just so on the way down while being a bit looser with the placement on the way back to our towel.
I would have considered doing the same except I get tired of layering on sunscreen with what I typically expose. There’re enough bits and bobs to cover without adding more to the task. But, after a few days of seeing all sorts of physiques and attitudes, from young children to seniors, parading up and down the beach (and, parade they did; as Max noted he’s never seen so many people getting their exercise walking back and forth on a beach), you get use to seeing private parts floundering around in public.
Besides walks on the beach the area provided some interesting sites, one located on a hilltop above the town of Donón. There we saw ruins of a castro (a celtic settlement from 1st century B.C.E.).
Heading back into town we continued our trek along the coast heading back to the beach and JUANONA.
Wanting to explore a bit more the next day we walked to a smaller beach, Praia de Melide, just around the point from us.
Monday-Tuesday, August 26-September 3, 2019
After almost two weeks on anchor the need for fresh water and clean laundry meant a marina visit would feel great. Just opposite us across the mouth of the Ría de Vigo another historic city offered a marina with a great reputation among cruisers, Monte Real Club de Yates.
This club was really a private one yet did offer berths to transiting boats. With a discount from memberships in the CCA and OCC the nightly fee was reasonable, especially considering the location (right in town) and facilities (excellent showers and enticing bar and restaurant overlooking the harbor).
We stayed for five nights, luxuriating in the ease of quick access to provisions, a beautiful walk around another parador, both on the grounds (after paying the one-euro fee)
and its outer circumference, and a chance to see the replica of the PINTA, one of the ships accompanying Christopher Columbus’ voyage to America and back. Since there are no actual plans or discovered wrecks of a caravel, they’ve used historical accounts to recreate this floating copy.
The fact the PINTA, captained by Martin Alonso Pinzón (1441-93)*, arrived here with news of Columbus’ findings appears to serve as the city’s main attraction. Especially since Pinzón’s arrival on March 1, 1493 preceded Columbus’ docking in Lisbon on NIÑA (the SANTA MÁRIA went aground off the coast of Haiti) by two days.
To mark this occasion in 1974 the city established the March 1st ‘La Arriba’ (Arrival) festival.
*Pinzón served as one of Columbus’ financial backers for this voyage, and his younger bro, Vincent Yáñez (mid-1400s-1514) also sailed with Columbus in 1492 as captain of the NIÑA.
In a small museum we learned a bit more about this historical event. Due to a storm separating the two ships, Pinzón decided to land in Baiona, a thriving commerical port (this city had been designated a Royal Village since 1201 by King Alfonso IX, with its residents receiving special privileges such as a monopoly on salted fish).
By landing here, Pinzón became the first to notify (via a letter) King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1461-1516) and Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504), a coup for someone as ambitious as he was. However, Columbus was the one who got an audience with the King to give his first-hand account of the discovery, which is why we know his name more than Pinzón’s’. But, don’t tell Baionians that…
Baiona also sits on the Portuguese Camino, which begins in Lisbon or further north in Porto, and ending in Santiago. So, once again, we were amidst pilgrims making their way towards St. James’ bones.
By the end of our stay in Baiona we ended up meeting others going north, the same direction as us, resulting in exchanging information on forecasts and thoughts of the best time to leave. In speaking with a sailor helping with a boat delivery heading up to England, Max noticed another guy poking his head out of the main cabin. Only to recognize Andy, someone we met in the Kiel Canal a year ago (on the left in the photo)!
Back then Andy was captaining a sparkling new Halberg-Rassey, going to a boat show in Amsterdam.
We had ended up delicately rafting next to her pristine hull, removing shoes before we tiptoed across her deck to reach the pontoon. His current delivery, though, couldn’t have been more different.
It was great seeing him and, again, we wish we had had more time.
RÍA DE MUROS NOIA
Saturday-Tuesday, August 31-September 3
We needed to be back in JUANONA’s winter berth by September 10, which meant we had to pick a day out of the ten-day forecast of 15-25 knot winds with the least amount of northerly wind. Tuesday appeared to be the best with “only” 15-18 knots, so we left along with other boats heading north. For 42-miles we motor-sailed in bucking seas until we reached the Ría de Muros e Noia.
Wanting one more anchorage we dropped the hook in a wonderfully calm harbor just a few miles opposite Portosin.
A pedestrian bridge separates the cove from the river with beaches rimming both shores.
After a few days of sitting on JUANONA with some walks ashore, we headed across to Portosin to ready JUANONA for winter.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Once docked we prepared for continuing windy days and nights with sustained gusts rising to 35 knots. Max purchased some metal springs to absorb shocks and relieve some of the strain on our lines.
The constant winds also generated a fairly common occurrence: forest fires.
We had seen some fire-fighting activity the day before but the next morning we found the unabated wind had caused even more to sprout up.
Along with other cruisers and locals over the next three days we watched the dramatic piloting as planes and helicopters picked up water to smother the fires.
A cruising friend told us the fires come from the dried bark and leaves of the non-indigenous Eucalyptus and Acacia trees carpeting the forests. The trees are a boon for lumber companies but a disaster for the local ecology. As usual, money speaks louder than mother nature; however, Portugal has placed a moratorium on eucalyptus plantations having witnessed Spain’s problems with wildfires.
Adding to the excitement a solo sailor entered the harbor with a broken jib furler, his lines trailing from the bow and just avoiding his prop.
He picked a good spot to land as the marineros at this marina are excellent. With their tender they managed to help him corral his jib and reach a pontoon safely.
Our 2019 summer cruising had ended. But, not before we met more wonderful folk, such as Helga and Frank who shared a pontoon with us before heading off to Portugal.