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So this is the Cruising Life…

Miles so far: 858.4

Miles since last blog: (Biscay) 221.9

spain chart
Overview of our route down the coast of Spain

This blog is a bit of a mammoth, it turns out that finding free wi-fi that is capable of uploading photos at more than 1 per day is a bit tricky, we wrote this as we went along but until now have been unable to post it so it has just got longer and longer. If you don’t fancy reading all that there is a video summary at the end.

Now that we have crossed the Bay of Biscay, the fact that we have actually set off on the adventure of a lifetime is sinking in. It feels bewildering to be sat here on board in Spain. Everything that we had been focusing on had been getting the boat ready, and getting across Biscay before the middle of August, when the weather tends to turn unfavourable and stormy there. Now that we have done it and have passed the first major hurdle in our adventure, you’ll have to forgive us for occasionally grinning and giggling for no apparent reason.

We spent the first couple of nights in Spain anchored just off a beach opposite the city of La Coruna. Our arrival in La Coruna coincided with their summer fiesta which included a visit from the tall ships race. We were able to go on-board and have a look around a vessel that was slightly bigger than what we are used to! After a couple of nights we went into the marina to fill up the water tanks and get a new gas bottle. As the notorious fog which affects this part of the coast started to settle in over the sea, we spent some time exploring the city sites by bike and foot, including the Tower of Hercules which is the oldest Roman light house still in use today. Still fog bound the next day, we retreated back to our quiet anchorage across the bay, where we collected some mussels from the rocks for dinner and enjoyed the relatively clear air to walk on the shore and sail the dinghy.

From La Coruna we started our exploration of the Spanish Atlantic coast, including the many rias, which provide easy day sailing and sheltered anchorages.

The stretch of coast from La Coruna to Cape Finnisterre is named Costa de Morte (Coast of Death) due to the number of ship wrecks along its rocky shores which are exposed to the Atlantic swell and storms. Thankfully for us we have had beauifully calm weather along with the advantage of GPS and a chart plotter which made dodging the rocks somewhat easier. The calm weather has allowed us more spare time whilst sailing which Amy used to make bread and try some more creative recipes whilst underway. Whilst being well fed, Matt could be found contstantly trimming the sails in the light and shifty breeze with the hope of gaining on any other yacht in sight (even if they were ‘cheating’ by using their engines).

Beyond the rocky stretches of coast, this part of Spain has many rias (esturaries), full of great anchorages, green forests and white sand beaches. We have been exploring as many of these areas as we can, and using the dinghy to sail/row to the places we cannot reach with Florence. The dinghy engine has not moved from its storage spot since leaving the UK and we hope to keep it there as long as we can. Our favourite ria so far has been Ria de Camarinas where we had a dinghy expedition up Rio del Puente, sailing 2 miles up the winding river, past beaches and through the trees, exploring the village whilst waiting for the tide to turn for the return trip back to Florence.

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Further down the coast we sailed past Finisterre. We could not pass by a landmark like this without stopping for a closer look, so we picked a quiet anchorage away from the town and took a cycle up to the light house. Cape Finisterre was thought to be the end of the earth by the Romans, hence the name is literally fin (end) terre (earth).

We had a slight heart in mouth moment when we were approached by a huge dark blue power boat, this turned out to be Spanish Customs officers wanting to come on board and have a chat! This was severely limited by our rubbish Spanish and their complete and utter lack of English. We managed to show them all the documentation they required. Thankfully they then repeated the process with the rest of the boats in the anchorage, so it wasn’t just us that looked potentially dodgy.

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At the top of Ria de Pontevedra lies the town of Combarro which is a restored old fishing village. We rowed ashore to take a look around and found a stunning town with all the houses made from granite. It is a very touristy place though, and the narrow streets were filled with ‘tat’ shops, all selling exactly the same things, along with bars and restarunts tastefully squeezed into the old buildings.

Unfortunately in Combarro we also had a real low point of our trip so far. As cruisers we have to use our dinghy to get ashore pretty much wherever we go, once ashore we have to leave it somewhere, normally a beach or slipway. We always lock our dinghy to a nearby railing or tree but that doesn’t stop vandals. We had left the dinghy pulled up onto a public dinghy dock in the harbour (locked to a mooring cleat). As we were returning from the old town we saw a group of kids yanking the dinghy around and sliding it across the dock. By running round the harbour we managed to stop any further damage and catch the kids. They didn’t understand English but they understood polizia, helpfully 3 Spanish policemen walked past at this point. On closer inspection we realised that the nuts that hold the dinghy together had been removed and thrown in the harbour. This gave us a problem in getting back to Florence, thankfully we were able to communicate the problem to the police (this happened on Sunday evening so no hardware shops were open) they were really helpful and managed to find some nuts and a spanner. The dinghy is one of our prized possessions not least because it was made for us by Amy’s Dad. Because of this, the damage was even more upsetting that it would otherwise have been. This incident will make us even more worried now whenever we have to be out of sight of our dinghy when ashore. Thankfully the damage to the dinghy is cosmetic and as we write this section of the blog, the paint is drying and the scars that we have filled will be hidden. We don’t like to think what would have happened if we had not returned at that time.

Our visit to this area of Spain would not have been complete without a visit to the Galcia National Park, a group of islands kept as nature reserves just off of the coast. Our pilot book stated that we needed a permit to go there so we spent a day or so working out how to get this and doing some Spanish translation. The permit was granted and we were very disappointed that no-body asked to see it when we were in the park. The views from the peaks of Islas Cies were stunning and walking through the wooded island paths to get to them was very pleasant, we think the pictures speak for themselves.

Along the way we continually bump into the same yachts (not literally). There are a large number of yachts of all nationalities sailing down the coast and its a bit like a game of leap-frog between the various anchorages. We have been able to meet and chat with a fair few of them, both inviting them on board Florence and being invited to their yachts. What has struck us most is the range of yachts, experience, budgets and stages of life with which people are embarking on this adventure. Some have a funded plan for many years and some have funds only for a few months and then plan to stop to find work. It seems the most important thing is the desire and determination to make it happen, with this anyone can do it.

After just over two weeks exploring the rias our thoughts were turning to the onward passage so we headed to Baonia which is at the southern end of the rias and ideally suited to stock up for the next stage of our voyage. Our plan from here is to continue south to Portugal before our next ocean passage out to Madeira. We will be making longer hops down the coast of Portugal, simply because there are only a few suitable anchorages.

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