Heading South down the Spanish coast – Galician Rias

Heading back to the boat for two weeks in August gave us the opportunity to head south. We hadn’t initially planned on leaving the boat further south after the holiday, but having thought about it briefly and researched the options, Lesley’s comment of ‘why are we heading back to La Coruna at the end of the holiday? made sense. It gave us much more time to explore the Rias and meant we wouldn’t have to hack back against the Portugese trades.

When heading south from La Coruna we knew that the first sail was going to be one of the longer ones between the Rias. We left early morning and followed the coast for several hours towards the Illas Sisargas. Reading the guide books, most suggest passing to seaward but also show an anchorage between the islands which looked pretty perfect for a lunch stop. A quick look on the chart plotter showed nothing scary if we went to the South of them and the AIS tracks showed a few other yachts heading inside. I guess the guide books were written before chart plotters were widely used and the swell was minimal and the wind light.

We dropped anchor in the small sheltered bay for a delightful lunch and an hour or so of peace and quiet in lovely remote surroundings. After lunch we up anchored and headed off south west. Not many people have too much good to say about the first realistic overnight stopping place – Corme, and since we didn’t want to spend every day at sea, we bypassed that and headed straight for Camarinas. Arriving late afternoon, we had a peaceful evening anchored off the beach.

The next morning out came the kneeboard and we enjoyed a few hours kneeboarding in the flat sheltered waters of this delightful Ria. We took the dinghy ashore in the afternoon and took a walk into the pretty town where we enjoyed a little local hospitality in the form of a drink an ice cream in the sun.

We left Camarinas the next day to head south and round the notorious Cape Finistere. With a fearsome reputation we were glad that the forecast was for benign conditions and thats what we got. Virtually flat calm, little wind and sunshine. Rounding the Cape we had the option of heading North into the Ria tucked up inside the Cape, or keeping going a little further to Muros. We opted for the latter and by lunchtime we were at anchor sunbathing in the warm sheltered Ria trying to figure out what the row of men were doing up to their shoulders in the water off the beach with big sticks.

By mid afternoon Charlotte and Derek were itching to get the kneeboard out again so went off to explore the Ria in the rib and on the board. With a large expanse of mussel beds just behind the boat creating a virtual ‘track’ for the board a good time was had lapping the beds at high speed.

Lesley meanwhile enjoyed the peace and tranquility of not having two energetic ‘children’ to amuse for a short while and took the opportunity to read her book!

Next stop was the Ria de Arosa. With so many options to explore in each Ria and not a huge amount of time, we relied on the pilot book to pick the anchorage. The book said “If you only visit one anchorage in the Ria, make it Illa de Arosa”. We did and it was immediately apparent that the author is looking for something slightly different than us! Whilst there was nothing wrong with it, it could not be classed as pretty, although going ashore the fishing village was very quaint and pleasant. However we decided to move somewhere different within the Ria for the day. We headed to the beach at Ribiera where the long sandy beach provided a beautiful backdrop to the anchorage. Here we decided to try out part of our almost finished ‘Series Drogue’ by towing it behind the dinghy. It passed with flying colours, rendering the 15 hp outboard virtually useless against the drag of the cones.

After a peaceful night we headed south to the next Ria – Ria de Pentevedra. The claimm to fsame for this Ria is that it produces something like 18% of the world’s mussels. With mussel beds everywhere it still remained a beautiful setting. On the basis that we needed to drop Charlotte at the airport the next day and we had a hire car booked from Pontevedra town, we worked our way as close to the town as we could sensibly find to anchor and dropped the hook off the little village of Combarro – about a 2 mile dinghy ride from the centre of Pontevedro.

The plan was simple: All three of us would take the dinghy to Pontevedro, Derek would jump out, pick up the hire car and drive it back to Combarro and park it up there overnight whilst the girls would take the dinghy back and collect Derek from Combarro, so that the next morning it was just a very short hop in the dinghy for the early start to the airport.

Unfortunately all the best plans are prone to falling apart and this was to be one that fell apart in epic proportions. Firstly on launching the dinghy we realised we didn’t have sufficient fuel to get tom Pontevedra and back. No problem, a quick Google maps search showed there were a few petrol stations close to the river so we could take the can and refill it. The wind also picked up a bit meaning the journey in the dinghy was a little choppier and wetter than envisaged and the girls began to get a bit nervous as to whether they would be ok alone against the wind and chop on their own. Having located a petrol station which was also a relatively convenient spot to drop Derek off, the girls were rewarded with ice creams and chocolates and sent on their way back whilst Derek set off to find the car hire company. On arrival he was met by a very confused lady who explained that she had no car despite the booking, which it transpired was for the previous day!

Unfortunately with no other cars available in the town and the girls on their way back to the boat, after a few web searches, it appeared the only option was to hire a car from Vigo airport, 40 minutes away by taxi! A booking was secured just as Derek’s phone went flat but unfortunately being though a third party, until the confirmation email came through there would be no instructions on where or how to collect the car at the airport!

Arriving at the airport it was pot luck as to which company to try first with a completely flat phone and no confirmation of car hire! Luckily the man behind the first desk had a phone charger and so Derek was able to charge the phone and check the emails, only to discover that the booking had been rejected!

Thankfully another car was sourced and a message sent to the girls to say ‘Problem with booking, currently in Vigo airport, will contact you when I get back in a few hours so you can collect me’

Having secured the keys and a map, things were looking up right up to the point of arrival into Combarro, where it transpired we had picked one of three days of the year when the entire town centre and water front is closed to traffic for an annual festival! The car was unceremoniously ‘dumped’ at the roadside and the girls were called and we were all reunited!

The next day, things went a little more smoothly – the car was still where it was dumped, we got to the airport on time and Charlotte caught her flight home. We then had to return the car to Vigo airport and find our way back to Combarro. We took the opportunity to visit Vigo city, since all the buses from the airport went via the city centre, so we had a delightful walk up to the old castle on the hill that overlooks the city. Another train and a bus and we were back in Combarro and then back on board – a long two days!

Time to move on and we set sail the next morning for the short trip into the Ria De Aldan. A small Ria on the southern entrance to Ria Pontevedra.

There are warnings that if the wind goes northerly it gets choppy and uncomfortable, so when that duly happened in the late afternoon, we decided to up sticks and head into Ria De Vigo.

For such a short trip it was quite eventful. The 25 knot breeze had whipped up quite a sea and having not prepared the boat for anything other than a short 20 minute motor in flat seas when the first wave hit, it came through the open hatches, soaking whatever was in its path and causing Lesley to have a complete sense of humour failure. Having been promised a roast dinner (since it was a Sunday) and having already put the veg in the oven, to be subjected to 45 minutes of total wet wild turbulence, wet cabins, burnt veg, and a stomach that had no desire to eat anything, the promised roast lamb and three veg evening treat was doomed. At least we had found a very nice sheltered spot to drop anchor and mop out the boat.

It wasn’t until the next morning when we were leaving┬áto go via the much talked about islands Islas Cies that we learned the full story of our anchorage. As we sipped our morning tea admiring the bay from a little way off there was something different about the early morning beach goers – the way they were purposefully strutting down the beach was different to most beaches and it was only when we grabbed the binoculars we finally identified why – we had picked the local nudist beach to anchor off! Back to the Islas Cies: Unfortunately when we did a little research, we learned that you have to get a permit to visit the islands to restrict tourist numbers and we didn’t have time to do so, so officially we could not go there. Unofficially it appeared that many boat owners do go there and are not hassled. As we closed on the islands in the early morning, we saw no reason not to take a quick detour, so like may others we did, and they really were stunning, A picturesque anchorage and great views from the higher levels. We decided not to push our luck too much so moved on and dropped anchor in Baiona, a well frequented bay which marks the southern extents of these Rias and for us the end of our time in Spain.

We took the opportunity to refuel, took a walk through the town and prepared to head south to Portugal the next morning.