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Tuesday, 6 November 2012



"Oryx" in Galicia

We left Brittany on the 27th September at around 10 in the morning. Pete had rowed ashore just after breakfast to walk into Benodet for the latest forecast and to post some cards, only to find that the forecast hadn't been updated and that the post office opened later on a Thursday. While I was on board getting ready for the passage across Biscay, I flicked onto Facebook wanting update our position I discovered that my sister in law had died.

Initially we had fair winds and we left Benodet swiftly and smoothly doing a comfortable 7 – 8 knots. That night the wind died on my watch and we drifted, a little aimlessly, it seemed, across the Bay of Biscay. I stepped into the cockpit to determine whether the distant loom of light was a ship. A fishing boat had been trawling nearby all night, but nothing new.

My thoughts were filled with life,the universe and everything. Elsa, whom I'd known literally all my life and whom I'd admired all my adult life, was gone. The how and why where still unknown, but in the scheme of things it didn't matter. Perhaps it was these thoughts, or the beauty of the moonlit path, that we were roughly following, that caused me to linger. Sailing is never absolutely silent. The sails flutter, the masts creak, ropes squeak and on this occasion the rudder blades were chuckling as “Oryx” sped along. This partial silence was broken by a loud exhalation and suddenly the water about the bow and stern of the starboard hull were teaming with a troupe of dolphins! No, they were definitely more than a school – they were skilled acrobats and for about 45 minutes I watched my own private performance.

The joy I felt was akin to holding Hannah (my granddaughter) for the first time. The dolphins frolicked ahead of the starboard bow and I felt as if Calypso herself was guiding us across the dreaded autumnal Bay of Biscay. Their chirps and clicks joined the sounds of sail and sea and their dance was to a muted symphony. Once again I realised how blessed I am. All the dizzy, headachy moments, the choppy, stomach churning moments,for all the yearning for a hot shower or a soak in a tub and a longing for my family are cleared with a single moment such as this.                                                           

For two consecutive nights the dolphins were around. The Bay of Biscay lay slumbering and on the third day we spotted Cape Ortegal emerging on the horizon and we tacked into the port of Cedeira, only putting the engine on for the very last leg. Night had fallen and the town lay silently sleeping, but for an occasional set of headlights. It was 2230 when we finally anchored. The mountainsides were covered in evergreen forests and the smell of pine had wafted over the waves welcoming us once more to the land. it had taken us three days to sail 320 miles from Benodet to Cedeira across the Bay of Biscay.


Rowing ashore at Cedeira.

The enchantment of Cedeira was even more evident the following morning and we couldn't wait to go ashore. My feet touched Spanish soil for the first time, other than tedious over nights spent in the clutches of Madrid airport. A quick reconnaissance of the town found a small, well stocked supermarket, a tourist information centre with free maps, but no fresh water readily available. On our second day we packed a picnic lunch and did a circular coastal hike through the forests to Trasmontana and back. We picnicked at the chapel on the cliff side with spectacular views and Pete caught me glugging back my beer in a couple of candid shots!

Anchorage at Cedeira

Off on our hike
Spectacular view from Chapel

Chapel on the hillside above Cedeira

And I thought Pete was photographing the view!

The sail from Cedeira to A Coruna was anything but pleasant. I had loved Ceidira so much, that I was reluctant to leave anyway and once we cleared the harbour we were met by choppy, unsettled seas and the short sail to windward was particularly unpleasant. My Facebook connection on the phone was still working, and I received many supportive responses to my seasick status – (Thanks!) Coruna loomed large and cumbersome, in comparison to Cedeira, but the Tower of Hercules was a welcome sight as it grew closer and closer. I had taken a Stugeron and was feeling much better by the time we dropped our anchor off the Playa de Santa Christina.


Tower of Hercules

We hadn't bothered to try clear into Spain in Cedeira, but the next morning we packed our passports and made our way to 'Doane', who sent us to the Policia National where we took a number and waited to be seen in a department dealing with 'estrangeros' only to be told it wasn't necessary to have my passport stamped! We thought this was due to Spain being laid back, but a Portuguese immigration officer in Lisbon has clarified matters – with a valid Schengen visa, I need only clear into the first Schengen country and then again when leaving the Schengen states for other territories! Hamdulillah!

Town square in Coruna

A Coruna is a lovely city, particularly the old town and after our wasted half hour, we relaxed and wandered about the city, having another picnic in a park, before heading along a passeo back to Oryx.

Cuban restaurant

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I have always wanted to visit Santiago de Compostela and Pete thought that it would be easier from A Coruna, so on Friday the 5th of October we made our way to the railway station and caught an express train to Santiago de Compostela. The Spanish countryside whizzed by at up to 160km per hour, not quite the same as the leisurely pilgrimage route, but soon we were in the medieval city.


Paul and Jannette visiting us in Falmouth
Santiago de Compostela is steeped in history and was brimming with tourists and pilgrims of all nationalities. Once again we found our way to an information centre and after collecting our map, made our way around the city. At the cathedral we paused to pose for a photograph to send to Paul and Jannette, who have actually done the pilgrimage, but my phone internet connection was playing up so we couldn't send the mms.

'after a walk of several hundred meters we finally arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela!'

 We abandoned all thought of technology after watching a brief history of the pilgrimage and soaked in the sights. We stopped a a small restaurant and ordered the plate of the day. I went for paella followed by calamaris, which was a little too filling, but excellent value for money. ( 9 euros including bread and wine!) The restaurant was frequented by more locals than tourists and we basked in the afternoon sun, sipping our vino tinto. After lunch we walked to the various view points before slowing making our way back to the station and then A Coruna.

The Saturday we decided that our current lack of contact with the world was too much and went out and bought a Spanish Internet dongle. Coruna had a fairly accessible water supply, so we attended to our topping up and our laundry. The marina had several foreign boats, but we were the only boat at anchor. Towards sunset we saw a Wylo sailing into the anchorage. At first we thought it was Nick, as the boat had the same tan mainsail , a white Genoa and a black hull, but on closer inspection Pete noticed the finer differences and we later learnt that the boat is called 'Shandoo' and she belongs to a chap called William who had spent the summer in the Dandy Hole - near Plymouth.

After leaving A Coruna we were hoping to sail to Laxe, but the winds died and we spent a night off the beach at Malpica, then sailed to Laxe the next morning.

Bay of Laxe

 The winds were forecast as light, so we decided to spend a day or two off Laxe so that we could go for a hike and a picnic on my birthday. We set off after skyping my daughter, Irene, on the day, but the weather proved fickle. Initially we walked up to the small chapel on the hillside and then sheltered from the rain, thinking that it was just a shower. We started back down the hill, but decided to continue our walk to the next beach. Unfortunately the rain continued relentlessly and after a thorough drenching we decided to return to Oryx and have lunch on board. Ever the optimists we bought a small leg of lamb to braai that evening.


    Luckily, the rain did stop and whilst the weather wasn't cosy, we did have a lovely evening with barbecued lamb and trimmings along with a fine bottle of pinotage, procured in a French supermarket of all places!


Pete has many memories of Camarinas .We arrived in the late afternoon, anchoring off a beach where he once repaired the damaged mast of his 27' Wharram Tane called ' Stormalong' in 1975! Unfortunately there was no sign of the beach bar, but the area was still easily recognisable. We went ashore on the 12th, having forgotten that it was a public holiday. We explored the town and the waterfront before returning to Oryx.

"Stormalong" at Glaston Dock in 1975. Pete is bending forward near starboard bow.

The beach where Pete fixed 'Stormalong's' mast


 The 13th dawned breezy but bright and we set off early arriving at the supermarkets just as they opened. Pete picked up the fixings for our picnic, whilst I loitered admiring the fine lace work of the region (although I'm not a lacy person.) We set off towards the lighthouse at Cabo Villano which we had sailed passed on arrival. We walked along the ridges with wind farms whirring away. A factory set amongst the rocks turned out to be a fish farm.

Faro at Cabo Villano

The lighthouse had many other visitors and we pored over the maps depicting hundreds of ship wrecks along the Costa del Morte. We intended to picnic at a nearby beach, (Pete had cleverly chosen our circular hike by using Google Earth to explore the options!) but as we started off along the cliff we noticed several fishermen and a strange phenomenon. The sea was frothing between the rocks and just beyond the opaque milky area were literally thousands of fish! They were feeding off the outlet from the fish farm. After close encounter with a gorse bush, we found a nearby spot on the rocks, hauled out our baguette, our pate and our wine and watched the nearby fishermen catch twenty to thirty fish all just a bit over a foot long.

The fishing spot!

 (Richard Duval Hall of Eau de Vie – you must check this out next summer!)

The Duval Hall's

Pete relaxing?

After a leisurely lunch we walked to the beach and napped in the sun before walking through the forested area to Camarinas and back to our anchorage.


The next leg took us past Cape Finisterre and out of the Bay of Biscay to Muros where we anchored on the north side and rowed across the bay to the town. There is an incomplete marina, as we had been advised and it is possible to tie up alongside the pontoons for free as the marina is not manned, but the gate is locked, so one would have to use the dinghy to get ashore. We explored the small town and stocked up.

 The weather forecast predicted two bad gales, one after the other, so we decided to move sooner and sailed across the bay to the shelter off a small island with a causeway and a solitary house. We stayed off Playa A Gueira for three days, by which time the gales had passed and Pete had realised that there were light northerly breezes each morning for a few hours, so we sailed slowly down the coast anchoring off Aquino and in the Bay of O Grove before finally sailing to Baiona.




The area around Baiona is stunning. Vigo dominates the northern end of the bay and we sailed slowly by in the warm afternoon sun. Some yachts were anchored off a small island reserve called Isla Cies and a beach called Playa Rodas that Spain claims is the most beautiful in the world. We didn't have the necessary permit to anchor so we sailed on towards Baiona. Sailing into Baiona was like playing in the traffic. We dodged rocks and shoals and fishing boats and finally came to rest in an anchorage alongside, or near to William and 'Shandoo'. For once there were a few boats at anchor and once again Oryx attracted inquisitive stares and positive comments. We spent a few lovely days in the area. We went for a picnic near the castle on the first day.

The castle at Baiona

The Bay of Baiona from our picnic spot near the castle.


The following day we took a bus into Vigo with another picnic in a park, watching a motley group of alternative locals interact. Vigo is a more modern city than Coruna, so she lacks some of the charm, but we managed to find interesting old bits and apparently there were early Visigoth and Roman settlements in the area!

Vigo harbour

Restoration in Vigo

William came for dinner the final evening in Spain and the next morning we hauled up anchor after breakfast and headed for Portugal. The wind was abaft the beam and Shandoo was soon following us as William headed for the Guardiana whilst we sailed to Lisbon.

Sailing out of Baiona en route to Lisbon!
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