West Coast Cruise (Galicia)

Wed 20th

Woke up in Spain, where it is not cold, and loafed about the boat all morning. We were anchored in a pretty bay with wide beaches interspersed with rocky promontories. After lunch, we rigged the dinghy and sailed up to the town (Ares) where we found a supermercado and staggered back with bags of local goodies. After a dinner of local mejillones (mussels), we had another dinghy sail to the beach for a walk on the soft sand. Next morning the dinghy was hoisted back on deck, and we set off west along the rugged coast as far as Cap de Vilano, aiming to round Finisterre before the weekend (when weather was expected to deteriorate). Visibility was still not good, but a light northerly breeze sprang up in the afternoon to help us along. We anchored in Ria de Camariñas for the night – a very sheltered spot near the harbour.

This area of Spain is known as the Costa de Morte, due to the number of granite headlands interspersed with submerged rocks. Behind these lie the rias, protected bays and estuaries which make such an attractive cruising ground. The scenery is majestic, with the jagged ridges and peaks and the red coloured rocks. In bad weather though, it must be a terrifying coast to sail.

We had an easy sail with good visibility next day, to round Cap Finisterre. The cape forms a south-pointing isthmus, a high headland with a low saddle behind. The NW wind  forms a cloud as it funnels over the top, then comes gusting down over the water beyond. Even the relatively light wind laid us over a bit as we turned around the cape, and sailed into the bay behind to anchor off the beach.


In the evening we took the dinghy ashore and walked along the beach into the little town of Finisterre. It was just the time of evening when sand-hoppers emerge from their burrows along the tide-line, by the million, to forage on the inter-tidal strand. It’s an amazing sight to see them boiling up out of the ground and hopping frenetically in every direction!

We had heard that midsummer’s day is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks in this region. It seems most of the festivities were postponed until the weekend. It being Friday night, bonfires were being prepared around the town, and at one place a band was playing with bagpipes and drums, very reminiscent of Breton and other Celtic music. We walked back along the beach in the fading light as smoke rose from the fires, rowing back out to the boat to see fireworks on the opposite shore, enhanced by a W cardinal.


Wonderful colours in the rocks looking East from Finisterre

Sat 24th

After another walk ashore, we sailed on to the Ria de Muros in a strengthening northerly, where Ambition II anchored near the town. We were pleased to find shops open on a Saturday evening, and found bread, meat and fish, as well as a small supermarket. After a home-made paella aboard, we visited a nearby yacht, Lady in Red from Poole, for a drink and exchange of experiences.

This anchorage is quite steep-to, and while the wind blew us into the deeper water, we drifted into the shallows when it calmed down in the evening, so that we touched at low water. This necessitated an early start next morning, to avoid getting stuck, but we just motored round to the bay of San Francisco, anchored on the beach, and walked over the hill to view the tidal lagoon, then out towards the point and back along the beach. An easterly was getting up, and we had a rocky time getting the dinghy back aboard in the waves. Then we had a slow sail round to Ria de Arousa (as the wind faded and went round to the west). This ria is particularly sheltered by a maze of rocks, so careful navigation is required. We threaded our way into a tidal lagoon near the town of Cambados, which reputedly forms the world’s largest mussel farm. Hundreds of rafts are moored here for this purpose, each one supporting hundreds of ropes dangling in the water, on which the mussels grow. We found a quiet anchorage at the north end, where we were entertained by firework displays all around the ria. As the tide went down, our own private rock emerged from the lagoon.


Typical mussel raft

Threading our way SW out of the Ria de Arousa, our course then passed between the mainland and Isla Ons. This is one of the Islas Atlantico, which are a national park and one is required to get special permission to anchor off or visit the islands. Unfortunately, this is a deeply bureaucratic process taking some days, so we missed the opportunity for a visit. Instead we continued to the Ria de Aldan, a small narrow ria open only to the north, which would be protected in the current SW wind. Smoke from a small forest fire was visible as we approached and a helicopter was deployed, managing to control the fire.  Anchored off an attractive, steep – to beach on the west side, inside the array of mussel rafts, we rowed ashore and had an evening walk to the port at the head of the ria, and in the morning another scramble along the shore.


At the head of Ria de Aldan

Tue 27th

Several days of strong north-westerly winds were forecast, so we took the opportunity to cross the Ria de Vigo, passing inside the Islas Ciel, and on to Bayona where we anchored off the beach near the harbour. This anchorage in a huge bay encircled on all sides except a small gap to the NE, with the city close at hand, was to be our home for the next few days. It was a longish row into the harbour (where we tied up next to a replica of the Pinta), or to some fisherman’s steps on the sea wall (where we anchored the dinghy on a long line to keep her off the wall). We had several good walks: along the beach to a tidal lagoon; up a lovely scenic walkway by a stream to an old church on the hills, surrounded by pine and eucalyptus forest; westward round to the next bay, another scenic stream with old mills, and back over the hill. On each return to the boat, we filled a rucksack at one of the local supermarkets, stocking up on tins of local shellfish, olives and fresh produce. We were tempted by the whole hams hung on the bone (maybe later), and ate well on the local fresh meat, fish, fruit and and vegetables. Retrieving the dinghy each time at the steps, and getting aboard with our supplies, attracted a small crowd of onlookers every time!  Maybe it was the wellies-and-shorts outfit and funny hats.

On the last day of June we went in to the yacht club (Monte Real Club de Yates), in its prestigious location below the old fortifications, to fill up our diesel (€1.13/litre)  and water tanks. Back at the anchorage we made a final forage ashore to stock up on Spanish wine, ready for our next leg down the coast of Portugal.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s