The control tour of La Corunna – just like in the nautical guides, but for real!
It always feels different to reach another country by sea. It feels more welcoming, more exotic… details of the landscape, of the streets, of the people are easier to perceive to a sailor’s eyes, they appear brighter and clearer, where a landman would see nothing. Coming from the high sea, a new country is just a dot low on the horizon, some piece of the planet Earth with rough outlines at first. Gradually more details start showing, hills, trees, rocks, buildings. People are visible only later, appearing only one by one. There you slowly reaccostum yourself again to humanity. Not like in big airports or busy train stations where crowds are everywhere, overwhelming. Maybe time has a role to play. Sailing at 10km/h, you get a good perception of distances which otherwise are flattened out at flying speed. Maybe also empty horizons of the high sea act as some kind of brain-cleansing agent, operating a “reset memory” on your visual capacity, preparing the eyes to see novel things again? ...anyways, it’s always a great feeling to land to a new country!
The Corunna marine is a good transit area for a smooth landing, equipped with all the standard stuff and mainly occupied by foreign boats. Just the time to moor the boat and get a quick lunch (there’s some tuna left to eat!) and a shower; here we are ready to explore the unknown. Some first impressions here:
- Looking at the houses you know that you’re in the South! Bright, high, painted with vivid colours, their highest floor proudly showing nicely decorated glazed balconies
- The shipshandler is closed at 5pm. Maybe he will come back later for the afternoon, or maybe not, maybe “mañana” (tomorrow).
- Water is cold! We are looking forward to delicious baths in this bright water – well, we’ll have to wait some more! Further down South, far from the cold streams flowing along Iberia coasts.
- Galicia is not Spain! On the street, on the billboards, on the radio we hear and read a weird kind of Spanish, hushing and smooth, closer to Portuguese sometimes… that’s Galician! And they really speak their local language. We can read most of it thanks to our rusty school time Spanish – but when spoken, well, that’s even more exotic.
Acting like locals : lesson 1 – la siesta
Lesson 2 – 15.30, it’s lunch time
Acting like locals : lesson 1 – la siesta
A few words to fellow yachtsmen: the Marina Coruña, first marina after the entrance jetty, is a rather good port of call. Though a little bit further than the city center (maybe ten minutes walk) it is located just downhill from the historical old town. The shipshandler has the regular on offer (we even found a spare cam for the main sail spinlock that broke during our crossing). One less-good thing yet: wifi is free (like everywhere else in Spain) but very very slow!
25th July : La Corunna - Corme (38 miles)
Good that we took pictures of la Corunna on the way in, because on the way out we have to rely entirely on our GPS. The fog is thick as a peasouper, we can’t see further than half a mile, and it doesn’t get any better further offshore. We have a to anxiously watch out for other ships. There is no wind too, not a single breeze to blow the clouds away - nor to fill the sails for that matter. Nestor works restless for ten hours. Yet we receive a visit that saves our stressful day: our friends the dolphins come to play around us, a big and joyful team jumping and whistling!
Lesson 3 – in July never without a hat
The « viveros », 20m away...
We enter the Corme ria totally blind. We must admit cheating again and resorting to the GPS tracing the route on the computer again. Without GPS we would not have seen the jetty in Corme before breaking our nose on it. We drop the anchor between the jetty and some dark ghost-like shadows – which we will identify as fish-tanks on the next morning.
Without any wind this anchorage is extremely calm and we sleep the all night through, not even disturbed by big boats loading and discharging at the pontoon.
26th July : Corme – Camariñas (21 miles)
With the morning we happily recover our sight. Yes, right, it’s a high coast here! 150 to 300m high hills have their heads in the clouds still. On the summits and along the ridges flocks of windmills. The fog is slowly clearing up, letting us see through the entrance of Camariñas ria – here we shall seek shelter from an increasing northeasterly gale.
Aaaah, so there is land behind the fog !
27th -29th July : Camariñas (on shore)
Small tenders to fishing boats are also taking a nap at the « hot » hours.
This little fishing harbour seduces us immedialely, it’s by far our best stop at a pontoons far! 10 euros/night, all inclusive, with the wifi inside the boat! The town center just nearby offers a couple of small supermarkets, a nice and well-supplied fish market, old typical houses – and small places with groups of grey-dressed elderlies sitting on a bank in the shade. There are not too many tourists (and only Spanish) but the small tourist information center right on the harbour has some good leaflets and documentation.
There we find a map with walking routes along the coast. On the second day we step in our walking shoes and leave for a good 25km stroll on the “Costa da Morte”, along the coast till the Cape Vilan lighthouse then down to white sand beaches, then back through the hills and valleys of the inner land. Just superb all along, some pictures here...
White sand beaches...
...pink granite rocks...
We take the opportunity of this walk to document some naturalistic oriented observations about this coast of Galicia.
Firstly, the trees: mainly pines (reminding Laure of her childhood in the Landes) and huge eucalyptus (there she can smell San Francisco and the Bay Area!). Last but not least, bright bougainvillea’s thrive is almost every garden. (Interesting detail: the eucalyptus are all but endemic. They come from Australia, from where they were imported from the 18th century. The least we can say is that it has been a success!). There are also a lot of small cultivated plots of land, mainly for corn or cabbage. Among them, funny little stone huts stand on mushroom-capped pillars. They are storehouses. The coast itself is rather rocky, covered only with low heather and gorse bushes. On the sand beaches grow the symbolic “camariña” bush with sweet white berries, which gave the city its name.
Except seagulls (for which blessed land is free of them?), at sea we can spot some bigger birds looking like gannets but with grey feathers and clumsy. And of course: dolphins!
Mushroom-huts are everywhere in this part of Galicia
Laure standing under a windmill
Countless windmills are making of the Cape Vilan the biggest windmill farm of Galicia. Actually all along the Galician coasts, from La Corunna to the Portuguese frontier, only the very South is not (yet) covered with fields of giant white wind flowers. With about 20GW of capacity installed at the end 2010, Spain ranks 4th to the US, China and Germany. The province of Galicia alone has a fourth of the windmills, with a greater density than any other province. Uhmm, a windy coast, really.. ;-) You may admire the performance or regret the esthetical consequences, yet there are results: in March 2011 wind has been the biggest source of electricity production (20% of the demand) before any fossil source. And it’s not over: Spain promised 30% of renewable energy by 2020, half from which has been assigned to windmills. Galicia alone wants to double its capacity, up to 6.5GW by 2015 (or 40% of the electricity production). Tenders have been awarded in November 2010, and on the docks of La Corunna we have seen piles of windmills parts waiting to embark very soon...
In Camariñas on the harbour jetty stands the invisible pole of a bus stop. From there a few buses bring you to the neighboring cities, after many stops and changes. On this Friday morning we step over twice to find ourselves… at the end of the world! This is the end of the world known since Roman times, the Cape Finisterre. This is the end of the road for pilgrims following first the Milky Way, then milestones stamped with a shell. Something you have to know: the end of the world is very popular! Buses full of tourists are running around, taking pictures from the dedicated view points and marveling at the gift shops. We turn around while making the vow to go see what’s beyond this horizon line one day.
Gusts of wind are blowing a bit less strong on the harbour this morning. Time to leave, an air of restlessness is floating on the pontoons where boats stuck for the last couple of days are pulling on their ropes… Our new friend Shadok II (Aquila 8,30m from Sables d’Olonne and bound for Porto) shows the way and sets sails first. We follow suit with a prudent two-reef in the main sail. Then one, then none, then one again… Sailing along this coast is full of surprises to us. The wind changes constantly, disturbed by the high cliffs and points, with an unsettling tendency to become stronger in the rias themselves, at the closest of the shore and in creeks which in theory are the best protected!! All sails on and at 5b we finally double the Cape Finisterre, we are back at the end of the world!
Then we enter the Muros ria and look for an anchorage for the night. We had seen on the map a nice little beach in the North of the Muros harbour. Getting closer it looks like the camping site for the club “French aluminium 40 footers”. Saltimbanque - small but adventurous - invites himself amongst his big brothers.
The sea bottom is sand and mud, a high forested hill protects us with the Northerly wind: in theory this anchorage is just perfect. In reality though gusts blow down the hill and are much stronger just at its feet! Just where we are, thus. Casting around some startled looks we see that our neighbours show no sign of alarm. Well, mooring by 20-30 knots will soon become our everyday life we heard – we better start getting used to it right now. Our main anchor (14kgs anchor + 20 meters chain) passes this first test brilliantly.
Laure tries out the new snorkeling gears and explores the rocks along the beach (with a wetsuit though, still not so warm those days!) Amongst the small and medium fishes that look like the ones she was used to seeing during her summers on the island of Oléron, there is a big octopus playing :o)
Anchored in Muros
31st July : Muros - Arosa (39 miles)
Leaving the anchorage at dawn – 8 a.m. Days start and end later so far out in the West of the mainland: the sun is shining until 10.30 pm, but it finds it hard to get up in the morning...
« Rocks ! It looks like Brittany !
First sailing day under the sun – only a nice little fog in the distance. The Arosa ria is the first of the “rias bajas”, following the “rias altas” where we have been frolicking this last week. The hills look indeed a bit lower – and there are rocks in the water everywhere! “it’s beautiful – almost looks like Brittany!” Camille’s eyes are glistening.
There are lots of fish-tanks along the shores as well, square wooden platforms. It seems like local customs demand sailing boats to go full speed between them… for the first time in Spain we see a lot of Spanish boats as well in this popular holidays spot.
Finding a suitable anchorage is actually harder than expected. The spots we penciled out on the map are either too windy (gusts blowing downhill remember), or already packed with Spanish boats and their holidays making ladis in bikini napping on the deck.
At the end of the ria near Puebla del Caraminal we have to make a choice. We sound near the beach by the church, then on the other side of the harbour, then come back by the beach… without a precise tide table (ours stops at Camariñas) it is not easy to figure out how much water we will lose between the moment we drop the anchor and the low tide – and how much we shall look for. Half an hour looking at the sounder – it really drops too quickly. We get the anchor back up, then down again a bit further. All good this time, we are free to go about our evening business: Camille the musician gets her flute out for the first time in the trip, it makes nice sounds that resonate in the hull and reach under the water – where Laure the sportive is scrubbing the hull and cleaning the first layer or growing algae.
We anchored here, far enough from the beach while keeping clear the harbour chenal
1st August : Arosa, Puebla del Caraminal to Vilagarcia (9 miles)
In the morning we find ourselves surrounded by small fishing boats where men throw away some kind of metallic cage at the end of a long long stick, then get it back onboard after scrubbing the ground. It must be clams that they’re after... watch here:
The morning is also a good time for dolphins! Just as we exit the anchorage a band of Big Dolphins come to greet us. They are bigger and greyer than the Common Dolphins that we have seen so far.
The vague breeze fades away after the first row of fish-tanks – it’s up to Nestor again to take us to the next harbour, Vilagarcia, just before noon.
In the afternoon we stroll in a city as big as deprived of any kind of touristic interest. Big pedestrian streets deserted at siesta-time then filled again with flocks of the species “touristus vulgaris” – Iberic branch. Shopping, refueling, the usual!
2nd August: Saint-Jack of Compostelle (on shore)
Real handy, this train bringing us to Saint Jack in 30 min. We walk the cobblestone streets of this old city which really deserves her ranking on the Mundial Heritage list of the UNESCO. The historic town center is just splendid, full of surprises catching our eyes at every corner. The cathedral of course cannot be missed (good that we got there before rush hour!). But the walking paths around the gardens on the surrounding hills is also quite nice. Laure grew up in a town proud of its status of pilgrims stop on the way of Saint Jack. The shell is its symbol. Feels a bit like a small pilgrimage to her...
It is also the first day we spend far from the sea in months. Conclusion: when fed with delicious Saint Jack almond tarts, our body can put up pretty well with the lack of iodine!
We can spend hours getting lost in the old narrow streets
3rd August : Vilagarcia ( from inside to outside the dyke)
Today’s mission: laundry! The only launderette in-town (called “la unica”) is a traditional launderette, with ladies dressed in white cleaning and drying and ironing themselves – no self-service machine. We bring the dirty clothes in a backpack in the morning, and get it back at night, all clean (included the backpack) and nicely folded in tidy little piles wrapped with paper.
For the night we go and anchor just outside the Northern dyke in front of the great beach. Easy to find alignments as a reference to check we are not drifting: the crane with the containers on one side, the beach buoy with the fancy fair tent on the other… public wireless reach the inside of the boat… this is an urban anchorage!
4th August: Vilagarcia – Beluso (28 miles)
Leaving with the engine in the fog. Good that we took pictures in the way in… weather forecasts predicted fog / no wind, but in the end the wind picks up a bit, as well as a corner of the fog-curtain. We catch a glimpse of the Ons island before entering the Pontevedra ria.
We had seen on the map the fishing harbour of Bueu on the Southern shore. While approaching we see a forest of masts raising on starboard behing the Trimino Point. Intrigued by what looks like a harbour not mentioned on any guide, we get closer… would this be a pirats’ shelter? There seems to be a visitors’ pontoon, where we moor. A fisherman busy folding his nets on the quay confirms: we can stay of course, and provided we leave before the harbourmaster comes on his round on the following day we have no permission to ask “if we know what he means”.
Behind the Point the small harbour of Beluso is hiding
5th August: Beluso – Vigo, via the Islands Cies (17 miles)
Leaving at dawn and with the engine, it’s the fishermen’s time. In the morning fog we sail quickly the 12 miles to the famous Cies islands – Nestor is really in a good shape these days! We drop the anchor at 10 am in front of the empty beach and jump in the tender: here we go for a day of walking on this reputed natural reserve.
Foggy morning on the Pontevedra ria
Saltimbanque by the Cies islands, bearing high his colours for the occasion !
We have to say that they deserve their reputation! White soft sand beaches, deep blue water, lagoon between the islands, high hills (the lighthouse stands at 175m above the sea – and we climbed up there of course!). It is like a tiny Galicia where you can find the best of the region! The most striking feature is perhaps the smell of these islands covered with pines and eucalyptus forests: you sometimes have the impression that you’re walking in a giant Strepsil drop! Only low light, our camera runs out of battery after 2 hours... how frustrating!
The Southern island seen from the lighthouse on the middle island
Anchored at the Islands Cies
After a good walk under the sun (in the end the weather is always fine in the afternoon in this country – really no point getting up in the morning!) we end with a swim on the beach. The water might be on the cold side (let’s say – Britton) but it’s so beautiful! We leave the anchorage under sail, closely watched by the neighboring boats who are more used to the engine/electric winch combination...
At this point of our story we have to mention one point: this little paradise on earth is no longer freely accessible to sailing boats. The following day in Vigo we will learn that you have to have a permit to sail there, and anchor. You can ask for it on the internet (http://reddeparquesnacionales.mma.es/fr/parques/cies/pdf/form_navegacion.pdf) but it takes a good week and is sent by mail – easy right? Truth is, we didn’t know and enjoyed the islands greatly – nobody asked us anything… at lest, we hope… hey Dad, please do keep any mail in Spanish – in case it would be a fine :o(
So, back to our story. Blown towards Vigo by a nice breeze in a water full of fish: 3 mackerels in 5 minutes, a nice complement to the garfish caught in the morning. Mackerel in white wine is prepared for the next day (in a boiling pan, half water half wine, some shallots, carrots and laurel leafs picked in Camariñas – delicious!)
In Vigo you cannot anchor.there are several marinas. The one in the center has the reputation to be full all the time. We try out the Marina Davila Sport in Bouzas – bad luck, it’s a luxuous new center for shiny motor-boats and definitely not designed for anything smaller than 40 feet! We don’t really fit in, and the tariffs are more like those of Northern Europe (22,50 euros... for 8 meters...)
Saltimbanque barely fills half of a space
6th August: Vigo, from one harbour to the other (1 mile)
Getting up under a very very bad weather (rain, cold, mist… doesn’t make us feel like wanting to get up really!), we put our rain jackets on and leave this marina to try the “real club nautico” in the center. No problem to find a space really, and even if the tariffs are not really lower (22 euros for any boat from 8 to 10 m), we feel more at ease. Time to explore the city!
Vigo is a new city (19th century) thriving with the fishing industry. Architecture is mostly heteroclite: old houses from early 20th century standing near high-rise from the 50’s – all in a happy chaos. Our first steps under the rain are not so charming though. Lots of dilapidated buildings, and rats running out of a whole in the wall… But the weather improving the city looks nicer. You come to Vigo for the atmosphere first: music in the parks, nice view points from the top of the hills, sunny (at last) terraces – octopus tapas, y cerveza!
Typical view: high bulding, old and new – and ruins
7th August: Vigo – Baiona (17 miles)
Before leaving we walk in the city again: today they celebrate the “Christ of the Victory”, in memory of the victory on Napoleon’s army in 1809. People walk in procession while chatting away, holding each a candle sometimes 2m tall!
But it’s time to go. Under the sun and with a nice little breeze. We tack against the wind in the bay. One mackerel again after 5 minutes, then another 3 on the same line.
The anchorage is very popular amongst high seas sailing boats. We spot out some known hulls: a 40 feeter aluminum hull from Muros, a nice wooden English boat, “Hasta Luego” our neighbor in Camariñas… the anchorage is also much more confortable than the visitors’ pontoon at the marina! Just a bit difficult to find a place to land with the tender.
Sunset in Baiona Bay
8th -9th August: Baiona : getting ready for the South
Mission « write our name on the tender »
We take one night at the pontoon to get ready before sailing further South to Portugal: last shopping in Spain (ham, rioja wine, octopus tin cans), usual reparations and checks, edition of the website...
The wind is a bit strong today. As soon as it decreases, we set our course to the South...
SHADOK II - 18/08/2011 22:34:33 TOUT SCHUSS, les filles Sylvia - 16/08/2011 21:28:46 Hey girls, leuk om jullie verhalen te lezen. En wat ben ik jaloers op de mooie stranden, de zon, kleine leuke steden... Zou ook graag vakantie willen hebben. De zomer in NL is nog nergens te zien en ik was nog geen enkele keer zwemmen dit jaar... Dank voor jullie postcard! En ik ben benieuwd of jullie inderdaad Remco en Hans gaan zien :-) Groetjes Bernadette et Marie-Josée - 13/08/2011 22:15:02 Ce soir nous sommes avec les parents de Laure pour regarder vos exploits.Marie-Josée se pose des questions sur les recettes de poulpe!!!Françoise aime le bras vanille chocolat de Laure.Bisous de nous quatre pacalou - 13/08/2011 16:39:47 Seu blog é ótimo, você me faz sonhar e viajar.
Boa sorte:) Marie-Christine - 13/08/2011 15:28:30 Je ne rentre à Porto que dimanche 21 mais si vous êtes encore pas loin, on peut se voir lors d'une de vos escales. Kariine - 13/08/2011 09:22:21 Une semaine sans que j'ai accès à internet et vous avez sacrément mis les voiles !! C'est chouette et vos anecdotes me rappellent de bons souvenirs de vacances (y compris les tapas de poulpe)! Nadia - 11/08/2011 10:18:44 message d'une gourmande : toutes les photos sont belles mais les assiettes !!! miaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!et la mamou qui rajoute du vinaigre et du citron en plus .... je salive ....
;-)))))))))))))))) AUMADATROI - 10/08/2011 20:17:56 Curieux, je ne peux pas vous envoyer de mail privés !
Alors je vous dis Olla, quétal et à bientôt pour l'apéro !
Fred - 10/08/2011 17:40:32 Excellent!!
A Massy, le nouveau batiment est un aquarium géant avec de drôle de poissons... la mamou - 09/08/2011 21:28:53 variation autour du "maquereau ravigotte" : remplacer le vin blanc par du vinaigre , rajouter un citron non traité coupé en rondelles , un petit morceau de piment ....