Farewell and Adieu to You Fair Spanish Rias

P1040386When we first planned to cross Biscay and sail to Greece, we had considered arriving in Baiona, as this would cut off the nasty corner with all the traffic and avoid the dreaded Finisterre. Bill, our instructor for the RYA Coastal Skipper theory, spoke fondly of the Spanish Rias and advised us to cruise them. We conceived the plan for a family holiday there, to strike out for La Coruna and a shorter Biscay crossing instead. We are so grateful to Bill for his advice. It seems inconceivable that we should have virtually missed Galicia. The whole place has been a delight and the Rias are a marvellous cruising area. I can understand how our neighbours in Cambarro fell in love with the Rias and never moved on. We did want to move on, though we may also want to come back someday. So on Tuesday at first light we cast off the lines and set sail for Portugal. We hope to see more of Spain next year as we head into the Med.

The weather was thankfully much clearer than of late, but there was still no wind to speak of, so we resigned ourselves to a long days motoring, which proved to be the case and rather tedious most of it was too. When we were about half way the fog returned, so we were both peering through the gloom looking for lobster pots, of which there were lots. We had motored a fair way out to try to avoid them, but this turned out to have been a fruitless exercise, so we headed back in to try to lose the fog. Fortunately there was little activity on either the AIS or the Radar.  I think I have already mentioned AIS, it is a system whereby boats who have signed up emit a signal and appear as a dart on the chart plotter screens of others. It provides a sort of Harry Potter marauders’ map for sailors. Click on the dart and a screen pops up with more data, what the boat is, how big, where it is going, how fast. We have tracked the progress of other yachts attempting the same passages as ourselves, their progress being reassuring. Sadly our friend Mike, with the concrete gaffer is not on the system, so we don’t know how he has managed the long stretches between safe harbours along the Portuguese coast. At least the weather has been good for some time, so there is little swell from the Atlantic to worry about.

Gradually the mist subsided and we looked out on a world painted in shades of grey, the ocean like a smooth, dark silk, rippling silk. As the sun came through the haze, the surface became mottled with texture and markers shimmered, which sounds pretty, but does not help when staring hard looking for the markers of lobster pot. Some pots are marked by tall, noticeable flags, some with a row of tattered wisps, like lances thrown down by natives in old time cowboy movies, harder to spot, others are just small buoys, polystyrene cartons or empty petrol cans, fiendishly difficult to spot, even in the calm sea. To add to the frustration are fat sea birds, which sit about looking like buoys and then flap away after you have altered course for them. By the end of the day I had floaters in my vision and was seeing flags where none existed.

What made the day special were the dolphins, dozens of them, which came surging towards us with great enthusiasm, to surf in the bow wave. They came out of  the mist and in the sunshine. They came with their young. Young dolphins leap into the air for the sheer love of it, like lambs. The parents keep the baby ones close between one another. We saw threesomes surface together, but with the tiny one breaking after the flanking adults, on account of their smaller size. Throughout the day we had some half dozen encounters with large pods, which had clearly sought us out, played a while and then moved on. John swears one leaned over and made eye contact. They lifted our spirits and kept us alert. I clicked away like the paparazzi, achieving a few scoops and a lot of shots of ripples and splashes.

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We were glad to arrive in Leixoes, which is a huge industrial port, with a marina tucked into one corner. Two marineras were waiting to help us tie up and we headed off to the office with our papers. After that we both headed off into town for a beer. The town seemed rather seaside and modest, given the size of the port. It also seemed to be shut. A party from a Dutch boat were following us, obviously on a similar mission. After a while they gave up on us and went their own way. We found the Street of the Two Amigos. We could have done with a third amigo to tell us where the bar was. Eventually we found our way back to the beach and a Heineken sign. We looked in the deserted bar, where the patron was busy at his paperwork, but he came out from behind it and served us bottles of dark beer as the Heineken was off. What we had was most welcome and we sat out in a roofed open area, with a clever hedge to mask the road.

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Refreshed we returned to Lyra to eat on board. Beans on toast, with balsamic vinegar splashed on, very gourmet, but a poor substitute for Hendersons Relish. On the way along the pontoon we were amazed to see pink and yellow starfish bunched in clusters along the harbour wall. Despite the industry the harbour water must be pretty clean.

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