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Spain: Surprise! Surprise!

by SV Taipan 17 Aug 2018 12:30 UTC
Gijon strand © SV Taipan

Biscay. Well, that's done, and we won't be doing it again. The passage isn't far, only 250nm from La Rochelle on the French coast to Gijon on the northern Spanish coast.

We chose a window with wind... sailing wind, and that we had, up to 30kn on the nose, also with the horrible messy seas generally associated with Biscay. That the sort of washing machine we expect in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Oz on a crook passage. It took 40 hours to bash our way to the anchorage just inside the harbor of Gijon. A bad pick. But we had been looking at no wind for days. Oh well. Spain. We've arrived. Another new country for us.

Gijon is a quite lovely town. It has a wonderful strand and amazing enclosed balconys. Some really interesting architecture. It's so clean and well maintained. There are bins everywhere in Spain. Great big bins. What a joy for cruisers after the struggles we've had in many countries finding somewhere to deposit rubbish. Marinas supply bins but from anchorages, it's often a real drama. One night in the Gijon marina was enough though at €47 per night.

Red Roo sailed into the marina the following morning and we went off exploring together then left to head along the north coast of Galician Spain. Our first leg was 70 odd miles to Ribadeo where we spent a couple of nights in the pleasant river anchorage and indulged in some local seafood and sightseeing. Octopus is a favorite and can be presented in numerous ways. All of them delicious. Squid in ink and or lightly dusted in flour and served hot and fresh is another popular dish. Yes, Spanish food gets the big tick. Excellent taste and price. Excellent wine and amazingly cheap. Decent wine is only €1.90 + per bottle. Stocking up.

What wonderful anchorages we found. Almost always off some pleasant white beach in clear waters. Mackerel are running but there are only so many mackerel one can eat. The Rias of the north-west corner are a sensational cruising area. Endless pretty anchorages with or without small towns offering a range of little restaurants and supplies and picturesque cobbled streets overlooked by charming stone buildings. Ribadeo to Puerto Alumin. An aluminum port and we were pleasantly surprised what a great spot this was. Perfectly clean and pretty beach. Lots of activity on the beach too.

Next stop, Carino, before Punta dos Aguillas. This is the last northern headland to round before heading south and into Ria de Cedeira. Cedeira is a gorgeous spot and we stayed several days just soaking up the sunshine.

Castelo San Philipe in Ria De Ferrol, just 25nm south, provided a decent place to anchor and an entertaining morning was spent exploring the fort. Construction of this arrowhead fort with double layers of cannon commenced in 1557. A concerted attack by the British in 1800, in an attempt to destroy shipyards, was successfully repelled. Its now owned by the Ferrol city council and it's free to visit.

Just a 7nm sail south into Ria Betanzos the next step was Sada. Here Red Roo, Taipan, and Kim, (Jacob and Aneke from the Netherlands,) caught a bus for a short trip to Betanzos. which has one of the best preserved old quarters in Galicia. St Francis Church, erected in 1387 and St James Church, built in the 15th century. The town is on the pilgrim path of the Camino de Santiago or Saint James Way and has partially intact town walls with three of their original four gates.

If Modernista architecture grabs your attention, one of its stranger creations is on the boardwalk in Sada. This odd Art Deco building resembles a music stand and is covered in musical notes and clefs. Designed by Lopez Hernandez, this curious pavilion of glass and colored ironwork was apparently due to be demolished in Coruna its original location. It was saved and moved to Sada. Thankfully.

Rather than be caught for a few more days we set off south from Sada to round the notorious Cape Finistaire. First we passed the oldest lighthouse in the world. The Tower of Hercules. It sits on a headland just outside La Coruna.

Not a great trip. Bumpy. We stopped for the night in Laxe but didn't go ashore. Corcubion was a welcome anchorage after rounding the cape the following day and we sat out a few days of south-west and south winds and enjoyed more of the local fare ashore each evening.

From Corcubion it was just a short 20nm hop to Muros for a long-awaited reunion with Sentijn. Kara, Dean, and John, who had sailed directly from the western tip of Ireland direct to Spain. Muros is a charming little waterfront town with many second story glassed in Galleria so typical of this area. Galacia is the name of this region of Spain which has roots in Celtic culture with trading links going back centuries. The town is reputedly seeking a UNESCO heritage order to preserve the sunken verandah architecture prominent on the waterfront and a hangover from days when fishermen kept their nets and pots below the house and dragged it out to the boat each day. I guess this was before the walled harbor existed.

Sentijn, Taipan and Red Roo continued to enjoy each others company for the next few weeks. A trip to Santiago de Compostella was organized and entailed a two-hour bus ride each way but enabled us to take a look at the countryside. There's a lot of eucalyptus forestry, corn crops and numerous small villages along the way.

Many homes had hórreo in the garden. Most looked a little ornamental but I'm sure many were still in use. A hórreo is a type of grain store built above the ground on sturdy pillars and with a flat stone on the top of each pillar to prevent access by rats. It has venting in the walls to provide air circulation. Corn, potatoes and sometimes ham and fish was stored in them. The first illustration of them appears in a manuscript from 1280. Similar structures occur in southern England and we have also seen a more elaborate form in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi.

The Way of Saint James can take one of the dozens of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Our route was to sail from Australia and catch a bus for the last bit!!. There were hundreds of "pilgrims" arriving at the church on the day we visited. The church is enormous and has a coffin with the body of Saint James on display in an underground vault. The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased from the time of the discovery of St. James's remains in 812 AD. The earliest records of visits paid to the shrine dedicated to St. James at Santiago de Compostela date from the ninth century. Santiago de Compostela is itself a vast old city and it would take days to fully explore it. We just brushed the edge before heading back to the cooler coast.

The next few anchorages were swimming spots and pretty island beaches. The Ria de Arousa has numerous islands and anchorages with superb little beaches. It was fairly busy at some of these on the weekends but there was always somewhere to go no matter where the wind was blowing from. We didn't have a lot of wind and temperatures soared into the 30s for several days so the beach was a popular diversion.

Vigo was our second marina stop since arriving in Spain. We needed to top up our wine supply while here in Spain. They deliver if you get a big enough order!! Two nights in Vigo marina was enough though and we fuelled up and left for our favorite nudist beach. We had discovered this beach accidentally as we entered the Ria from the north. We spied what looked like a beautiful long white deserted beach in bushland, and so it was until the sun came out and bought with it thousands, if not hundreds of naked people of every age and description. Nevertheless, it was an excellent anchorage and we managed to enjoy the scenery too.

Our time in the beautiful Rias of Galicia is drawing to a close, however. The Schengen Clock is ticking. We are all affected by the inconvenience and intractability of the Schengen visa. Only Phil from Red Roo is immune because he has a British Passport. The rest of us are watching our allotted days tick by. Now, with Red Roo off the meet a deadline, Sentijn and Taipan are sitting in Cangas awaiting nice downwind sailing conditions to make the 75nm leap to Leixoes, near Porto, in Portugal.

Lets hope we get this one right.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of

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