We travelled across Biscay from Belle-Île on June 28th 2012 and it was a long but fairly uneventful two days. The first day we had great winds and were able to have the Hydrovane on as well as the towing blade on the Duogen. On the second day, the winds died and we ended up motoring for the next 24 hours. When the wind did pick up, it was bang on the nose if we wanted to go towards Gijon. We could have made towards Bilbao but then we would have had to complete two sides of a triangle so we kept on towards Gijon.
We finally arrived in the early evening at 7pm after 55 hours, shattered but very pleased with our first Biscay crossing. We had been visited by dolphins every morning, which made the crossing even more special. The swell was fairly big at 2-3m waves,, which made sleeping difficult even with the sea berths we had erected in the saloon. Sleeping three hours and three hours off takes it toll after a while over such a long distance (313nm).
When we arrived in Gijon (pronounced Heehon) we chose Marina Yates as it was supposed to be much cheaper than the one in the centre of town. Whilst they were very helpful there and lent us bikes to cycle into town, it would have been much easier and more fun to spend a few days based in the town centre rather than on the outskirts. As you can see from the photo opposite, the other marina was really at the heart of the town and it turns out not much more expensive. We were treated to blue skies and were able to be in shorts and t-shirts for the first time in a month. We really felt we had achieved a major milestone by getting to northern Spain.
We treated ourselves that evening (June 30th 2012) to a meal in the marina after a very welcome shower! The next two days were spent sightseeing in Gijon and recuperating from the journey. We enjoyed the town with its old quarter and had a beer in one of the many squares with the locals. All felt very civilised.
Feeling invigorated we made our way along the coast towards the Galician Rias. These are the Spanish equivalent to Norwegian fjords, warmer but not quite as spectacular. We had heard a lot about them and their beauty so were keen to see for ourselves. Our first stop was the Ria de Ribadeo. We had no choice but go into the marina as anchoring here has been severely restricted since a marine conservation area has been established. The night’s berth cost us €46 with very few facilities and a non descript town. The entrance to the marina had a vicious cross tide that made getting into the berth they had allocated us interesting. As you can see from the photo opposite, it was overcast albeit warmish at 24 degrees centigrade when we arrived at 8pm.
Our next stop was Viveiro 25 miles away, which was a delightful marina and town with many foreign boats waiting for the right window to continue their journey south. The sailing was mixed as there was very little wind until around 1800 hours and then ended up with two reefs in the main and surfing down the waves. This was to become a regular event with downwind sailing down the Atlantic coast – very little wind in the morning and the swell building during the day as the afternoon breeze builds. As there were strong winds forecast, we decided to stay here for a few days as it was easy to re-provision the boat as well as check for repairs. There was no wifi in the marina so we went to the local cafe and caught up with various admin duties. We also helped our neighbours who were having problems with their gas regulator. Whilst we were there, there was a march through town on the Friday evening about the loss of jobs in the marine industry. All the town turned out to watch or take part so shops were closed whilst the march passed by. It was here that we first tried Albariño wine with Pimientos de Padron – delicious!
It was also the first time we really noticed the colourful house fronts that are prevalent in Galicia.
We then made our way (46nm) to the Ria de Cedeiro, which would have been very pretty if it wasn’t for the fact that we arrived in the rain, cold and dark! We had over 30 knots of wind by mid afternoon so we were well reefed but still had the gunwales in the water. It was the first time we had used the anchor on this trip, having been in marinas or on mooring buoys since May 1st, so we shared anchor watch by making a waypoint on the handheld GPS when the anchor was dropped. This meant that we would know quickly and easily how far we were away from it and in what direction. It worked well and the anchor held fast – always a relief! We were joined in the bay by two other boats that had been in Viveiro with us. The next morning it was still and overcast but at least not raining so we motored the 30nm to La Coruña.
After a few days in La Coruña, we sailed south some 52nm to the Ria de Camarinas. We managed to sail for the first few hours but the wind died and was astern so the motor went back on. We didn’t deploy the cruising chute as it was dead astern and we were worried about broaching as we surfed the Atlantic swell. We arrived around 1800 hours and anchored near the beach close to the town just outside the harbour. It was not as picturesque as we had anticipated so we didn’t venture ashore but had a lovely evening aboard eating home made calamari. The anchor windlass decided to break down so until we could get a new motor, we would be pulling the chain up by hand.
The next day we continued to Ria de Muros (44nm) where we anchored outside the marina near the beach near to another British boat. It was an idyllic evening which we spent relaxing on the boat and playing cards. Very peaceful. The next morning we went into Muros itself and found it small but quaint with old squares and al fresco restaurants. We were able to land the dinghy by the old harbour wall and buy some food as well as an oil filter wrench for the next time it gets stuck! We duly lifted the anchor by hand and started motoring towards the mouth of the ria when Liz smelt smoke coming from where the split diode (that charging the different batteries on board from the engine) was located. It seems that it was no longer able to cope with the power being generated by the alternator on our new engine. We hadn’t smelt it before but we presume it was a problem from the time we had the new engine installed back in June. Having realised what the problem was, we left again but kept the revs down initially and that seemed to do the trick.
We made our way to our next port of call, Ria de Arosa, and the harbour at Vilagarcia as we were stopping there for a couple of days so that we could visit Santiago de Compostela. This ria was much more how we had expected them to be with very wide channels and lots of interesting islands either side as you made your way to its western most point.
The final stop in our exploration of the Galician Rias was the Ria de Vigo, arguably one of the most famous ones as it has turquoise waters, golden beaches and natural harbours. It was 32nm from Vilagarcia to the Ensanada de Barra and we motored all the way as there was no wind but it was warm and sunny. It was a beautiful anchorage and the best so far with a lovely combination of rocky headland, turquoise waters and beautiful beaches. It turns out that the beach is frequented by nudists and even some of the boats anchored joined in! We had a marvellous evening just watching the world go by and finally soaking up the warmth of the sun as it was now in the high 20’s. The next day we sailed the short trip to Baiona (11nm) and caught a glimpse of the Lord Nelson Tall Ship that was making its way to Cadiz.