Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Wendy’s Diary 2nd Sept 2012 – Is it really September already???

Our anchorage at Redes
We are still in the same set of Rias that I wrote my last diary entry in, the day after I wrote that entry our starboard engine decided do cough and splutter to a stop and the initial diagnosis was a blown head gasket, so John ordered one from the UK and we waited for its arrival. Not a bad place to wait, with the other engine happily ticking away we have been able to move around to the various pretty spots within the Ria, but not wanted to go further afield.

We had met a “local” called Rocco – one of the many people who have summer holiday homes in Ares and asked his advice on the best place to eat for John’s birthday on 17th August. We had assumed he would recommend somewhere in Ares, but no, he suggested going back to Murgados to one of the sea food restaurants there.  He had a favourite which his family had been going to since he was a boy and it was still run by the same family.  So, after a stamina building breakfast of coffee and croissants on the foredeck we set off on our bikes to our previous anchorage just the other side of the headland. Rocco’s comment of, "Oh, if you come from Cornwall the hills will be no problem!" was one we reminded ourselves of en route. Our recommended route took us out the back of Ares to a 15th century church, all locked up but interesting to see how weather beaten it looked but still standing solid at the top of the hill. Well, it was the top of the first hill, but not the big hill that followed which had us pushing the bikes for quite a while before finally reaching the summit. The ride back down is always fun, after first making sure that hats and baggage are firmly attached it is lovely to feel the wind whizzing past. A further small(ish) hill up into town and back down to the sea front finally led to our destination.

Octopus for John's birthday lunch
The Casa De Mar was a very quaint old building, interestingly whilst it was on the waterfront the restaurant was at the back with no views, but had a cosy feel to it.  Anyone who knows me well knows I am not a big seafood eater, I am trying to expand but there are limits, which included the Octopus that John had for a starter. I just can’t bear the thought of munching the tentacles with the suckers clearly visible, but can cope with supping a glass of wine whilst John enjoyed this local delicacy. We both had merluza for mains, which was cooked in a very very light batter, not like English Fish and chips, but was very tasty. White fish I can cope with so long as the bones are mainly removed, and it doesn't have its head still attached!

After a gentle stroll around the seafront, we unlocked the bikes and headed back on a different route to Ares, this time finding the shorter, less hilly version which was just as well bearing in mind we had full tummies. We rewarded ourselves with an ice-cream back on the seafront at Ares before returning to the boat.

The shanty town on the outskirts of Coruna

Towards the end of August we sailed around into the next part of the Ria – you don’t actually go out into the Atlantic proper as it is still within the headland of Ferrol. Whilst the pilot books don’t mention it, we had google-earthed the river behind Coruna and thought we could probably anchor in there. We found a delightful little bay behind the main beach, totally protected from wind and swell and so spent a couple of days there. At low tide there are old walls from some sort of marine processing that come into view, and we did sit on the bottom, although not completely high and dry. The other side of the bay had a small shanty town, people living in very old dilapidated caravans with sheets of wood covering gaps. An enormous mound of scrap metal was in the centre of the settlement – perhaps suggesting their means of survival. Incongruously there were always a selection of relatively new cars and vans parked outside. It was weird to see the two sides of the bay within the river having such contrasting standards of living/wealth.

We had anchored in Coruna deliberately as we were waiting for our first resident visitor since leaving the UK in June last year. Ann flew into the airport about 2 miles away from the boat and John cycled to meet her with my bike folded up the rack on the back of his. He had the uphill trudge and had assured Ann that it would be an easy ride to the boat and her suitcase would sit behind him in place of my bike. She arrived at the boat having thoroughly enjoyed the ride, an unconventional airport taxi service!

Ann with Sangria in one hand and book in the other "having a nice time"
We spent a week mooching around the ria, back to Ares and Sada with the weather not at its best although we did manage a sunbathing day at Sada and Ann chilled out in the hammock for a few hours getting a bit of suntan. The phrase, “Did I tell you I’m having a nice time?” became a source of amusement due to its frequency.

A firefighting plane filling up with water alongside our anchorage
The weather forecast of strong south westerlies meant we headed back to Coruna two nights before her flight, we left Ares at around 9pm and so had a sailed with the sun going down and the moon rising, which cast a spectacular moon-path across the water once we left the lights of the town.  We wanted to spend a day being tourists in Coruna and so decided to put the boat in a marina for the first time since Hondarrabia back in April. We chose the old town harbour believing it would be more sheltered and booked in quite early on the Monday morning. Unfortunately it used the “multihulls pay 50% extra” rather than basing the costs on length times beam, so we handed over 27 Euros for a night's berth.

We headed into town, strolling round the old square with it all its restaurants, which reminded Ann and me of Venice. We wandered on through shopping streets and gardens before coming out at the seafront near the newer marina. Ann had offered to treat us to lunch and as we walked by the club nautico someone was updating the menu outside. It looked a good selection for the princely sum of 9 Euros per head for a 3 course meal, wine and coffee. The "menu del dia" in Spain, the workers lunch, is often under 10 Euros per head. We sat in the 3rd floor bar with fantastic views of the bay and enjoyed a tasty lunch.   


In the afternoon we strolled up to a park with a selection of standing stones with a resemblance to stonehenge, and a second set of granite stones that are common in Galicia. The path then took us to the oldest working lighthouse in the world (according to the pilot book) the Tower of Hercules, a magnificent building that dates back to Roman times.  

Back to the boat for Ann’s last night with us that turned out to be a rather sleepless one! The fishing boats passed by so frequently and at a speed enough to lurch the boat that we hardly slept a wink – I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as a comfortable berth. In the morning Ann took the more traditional taxi back to the airport and we made the most of being plugged into shore-power by baking a cake (electric oven), and each using a full tank of hot water to shower – what luxury. The wifi at the marina was very poor, hosted by a provider that required a logon, which logged us off within minutes and sometimes seconds of logging in. This was another perceived benefit of spending a night in a marina which didn’t come to fruition.

We left the marina late afternoon and headed back to Ares in the hope that the long awaited for tool to replace the head-gasket might have arrived at the local post office. I contacted Amazon, got a tracking code and discovered that it still hadn’t arrived in Spain 2 weeks after ordering it, whereas the head gasket had taken only about 3 days to arrive. I cancelled the order as a lost cause. However in the meantime someone suggested to John to check that it wasn’t water in the oil rather than the head gasket.  That proved to a good piece of advice and John has spent about 5 days in the engine room finding one problem after another. Two things here – the size and location of our engine rooms makes them more suitable for “The Borrowers”, the other being the string of faults he has found and mended which are all beyond my comprehension, is a very long string!

Finally last night around 9pm as I was sitting in the saloon comfortably reading, John announced that he had got permission to go on the slipway free of charge for one tide, so we needed to move NOW. This meant he could do the next in the long line of jobs that kept self creating, unblocking a seaccock. Ok, so I got up, did the deck hand work and soon we were tied up on the slipway. Back to the saloon, tucked up with my book an hour later, and with the typical English politeness John asked “Would I like to scrape some barnacles off the hull??” Now that was a good question – would I like to, er No! Would I, I guess whilst we have the opportunity of being on a hard slipway then I suppose I should make the effort. 11pm, in the dark, with the aid of a torch I was half sitting half lying under the boat scraping off the damn things! Boat bottom scraped, my bottom wet, my hair wet, but thankfully not cold – time for a cuppa.

“Oh, by the way, we will have to move the boat when the tide comes in at 3am.” Gee thanks for that one. So somewhere between the two we snatched a few hours sleep, and hauled the boat along the wall at the appointed hour,  had another cuppa and went back to bed until daylight, when we had to move the boat again. This time, with the engines on, and woohoo, two engines!!

We left the engine running for long enough for John to test whatever it was that needed testing, and he is now saying with fingers crossed that she seems to be running ok. And hopefully the head gasket doesn’t need replacing after all. Leaving the engine running means a tank of hot water, so we took advantage and had a hot shower, had some breakfast and then went back to bed. Woke up at 12.30 and it is now 5pm and I am thinking about lunch. My body has no idea what planet it is on, but my brain hopefully has been in gear enough for this to be intelligible!!  

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wendy’s Diary 11 August 2012 – Summer!

We had bumped into some locals on the Saturday evening whom we had come to know quite well, Ortiguiera was in mini fiesta so was fairly bustling and we sat chatting until around 1am waiting for the tide to turn. So after 5 weeks we finally left Ortiguiera as planned in the early hours of the Sunday morning and spent what was left of the night at anchor at Carino. This made use of the outgoing tide and allowed us to get away on the Sunday with favourable winds.

With the memory of the journey to Ortiguiera sneaking to mind, one of my worst in terms of sea sickness, I was determined that I wanted to have a good sail for a change. We knew the wind was favourable, the swell reasonable and the weather warm and sunny. We also knew that we were due to go past the spectacular cliffs we had visited in the car with Philippe and Annie last month so I wanted to be on form. On turning in at about 4am, I affixed a seasickness plaster behind my ear to let my body get a build up of the stuff before we set sail. I don’t normally do this as I don’t like the side effects of dry mouth, blocked nose etc, but I gave it a go. I am pleased to say it worked and we had a fabulous sail (motor sail to be precise) around the coast and decided to bypass Cediera and head straight for the Ria at Ferrol.   I was happy to cook some lunch on route and by late afternoon with a full battery and the engine running decided to bake a cake..a far cry from lying wretchedly in the after-cabin waiting for the journey to be over!

Freya Frey anchored in the Ferrol Ria. Does the water look good or what??

One of the anchors that held the chains across the river. 
The Ria becomes quite narrow about a mile inland, with old gun emplacements and forts lining the banks. There is one point where a set of anchors (about 12 feet long) on either side of the river held a chain across the channel making sea access in wartime a very dangerous and somewhat foolhardy business. The ria then opens up again with the commercial port of Ferrol on one side and a very pretty bay adjacent to the smaller town of Mugardos on the opposite side. It was in this bay that we finally dropped anchor next to a very narrow but lovely white sandy beach.

Part of the ruins of Castillo De San Felipe
We spent a week around the Ria, swapping one evening to the north side of the river to anchor out of the wind, under the shadow of one of the forts. The following morning we dinghied ashore and had a wander around the 16th century Castela de San Felipe. After paying the 1.10 euros entrance fee we were free to wander at leisure around the ruins, and spent a good couple of hours doing just that.

Inside the castle - I liked the angles of the arches in a diagonal line.
A very English bar next to the quay at Ferrol
On another day we went into the small leisure marina in Ferrol. The pilot book suggests no room for visitors other than tied up along the walls, with the risk of ferries whizzing past on a regular basis. As it was, a local pointed out a disused lifeboat and recommended we tie up alongside it. After doing so John checked in the Port office and they confirmed that it was no problem to stay there, if we stayed the night there would be a small charge (they weren’t sure how much – Spanish Marinas either seem to charge a flat rate regardless of the size of boat, or multiply your length by beam to get square metres and then multiply that by any number that happens to spring to mind).

We got the bikes out and cycled to Lidl’s – the first one we have been to in Spain – over 3 months without finding one!  We also called in at “Brikoking” (I loved the name, it reminded me of Burger king, but was as the name suggests a DIY store) to buy a new drill as the old one died whilst John was adjusting something on the anchor roller. As we left, the rain started to fall, so we stopped off at a nearby hypermarket to get some lunch and hide from the rain. It progressively got heavier and eventually John bought some dustbin sacks which we turned into makeshift rain coats for the ride back. With the two of us and the shopping wrapped in blue polythene, we were not at our most trendy and attracted more than one surprised glance from locals!

A couple of stall holders in medieval dress at the market in Ferrol

The entertainers.
We offloaded bikes and shopping and went back into town for a spot of internet access whilst the weather was poor. Later in the day we explored the Medieval Market that was visiting for a few days. Most of the stall holders were dressed in some form of medieval outfit, even if they were selling much more modern goods. There was a collection of birds of prey on display, some items recovered from a torture chamber and a some entertainers who played music and did generally larked around in a medieval sort of way. It was interesting to see, but we went back empty-handed to the boat and cast off to avoid paying whatever nightly fee the port might decide to charge. We anchored to the north of Ferrol, in a little-used bay which was peaceful and flat, away from the commercial ships which create a rather a lot of chop.

Whilst the anchorage at Mugardos was lumpy from passing traffic, it was also far prettier and the water was very clear and good for swimming.  We spent a few more days there, meeting several other cruisers, including a French couple we had met in Ortiguiera. The weather was getting warmer and the rain that fell in Ferrol was short-lived and the skies stayed blue.

Dolphins...unbelievably hard to catch on film.
Ares was our next port of call, a mere 8 miles around the coast without going out into the ocean proper, so we made use of the outgoing tide to leave Ferrol and head around to the next bay. On the way we saw dolphins again, for the first time this year. They didn’t come and play around the boat as they had in France last year, but they did at least show off a bit jumping out of the water not too far off. Ares is a holiday town with very large beach, wifi provided free by the local council that was accessible from the boat, and sufficient shops for our needs. The Spanish were here in hoards for their summer holidays and for the first time there were lots of other sailing boats, something we just hadn’t seen along most of our journey this year. In addition to the sailing boats there were also a large number of motor yachts buzzing around, making the sea somewhat lumpy. It took until after 9pm for the chop to settle down, but once it did the anchorage was charming.

Stopping for a drink at the rather busy anchorage at Redes
A local with a tiny but beautiful day-sailboat told us quite emphatically that the next bay along was far prettier that Ares, so after a couple of nights we sailed along to Redes. The weather was glorious and for anyone reading this who knows Plymouth, it was like Kingsand and Cawsand on a sunny Sunday in summer. It was heaving with boats which we had to weave in and out of, before finding a space big enough to drop the anchor. It was very pretty; we went for a stroll around the town and stopped off for a drink overlooking the bay before going back to the boat. It appears very much the place for all boat owners to stop off for refreshments, be they on jet skis or large yachts.   With so many boats buzzing around it wasn’t a comfortable anchorage so we headed off again in search of somewhere more sheltered.

My favourite building at Redes...

....and John's
Having ruled out a potential anchorage after a fairly close inspection of a not-high-enough overhead bridge, we moved on to the port of Sada, where just past the marina it is possible to anchor in quite sheltered waters.  With a large supermarket at the water’s edge and the town in fiesta, this seemed a sensible spot for a couple of days.  The weather remained hot and sunny and I took to swimming laps of the boat as a way measuring how far I was going, as I would like to lose some weight and this is enjoyable exercise.

A French family who had anchored nearby joined us for aperitifs. With 2 very small children and a third on the way, they had just sailed from L'Orient, across the Bay of Biscay, landing about 30 miles along the coast from Sada. They have my utmost respect. They were equally impressed that it has taken us 4 months to cover a similar distance (as the crow flies). A couple of evenings we went ashore to see what was happening with the Fiesta: it was lovely to take in the atmosphere in a town so alive and vibrant. This is very definitely a tourist destination for the Spanish, as we haven’t seen or heard another English voice at all.

The "Tall Ship's Youth Trust" anchored near Sada - at night it was lit up like the proverbial xmastree.

This morning with the weather forecast suggesting strong south westerlies we have crossed the bay to hide in a little river directly opposite Sada. It has clouded over a bit but is still very warm, and the wind hasn’t yet quite reached that forecast. We have found another lovely spot in which to spend a lazy day. For the last couple of weeks I have felt like I am on holiday, rather than just not working and living in a foreign country. It is rather pleasant and I could easily become accustomed to a life of sunbathing/reading/swimming J.  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Rainwater collection for the shower.

Rain:  A source of free water?
When planning our extended cruise south we decided to avoid marina berths as much as possible, so one of our biggest concerns on leaving the UK was how long we could survive without going into them for water.
Our HT had two prismatic flexible tanks in the lower bows, each holding about 25 gallons.  The  portside feeds the galley cold (drinking) water via a carbon filter which keeps it tasting sweet,  while the starboard domestic tank feeds the heads cold, plus the feed for the domestic hot water cylinder, which in turn provides hot water for the galley sink and the shower and basin in the heads. The water is heated using a 2kW immersion heater when we have shorepower, the engine cooling system if we run an engine, or a 10sq ft solar panel on top of the wheelhouse if we are at anchor in direct sunlight.  This system gave us enough water for about ten days of careful use, and if we stopped having daily showers we could make it last for about 20 days, but the domestic water rarely lasted longer than that, although we never came close to running out of drinking water. 
Last year as I was watching crystal-clear rainwater pouring off Freya Frey’s decks in Millbrook, I wondered if there was an effective way of harvesting this natural resource, and came up with a design.  It consists of a set of deck fuel filler fittings strategically placed on the side decks, which feed a small collecting tank located in the starboard aftercabin.  An automatic bilge pump inside this tank pumps the water through a fine filter to remove any dirt and debris, and from there the water passes in a small bore pipe along the underside of the side deck to a 35 gallon triangular flexible tank in the starboard bow.  This then gravity feeds the domestic (non-drinking) water tank, via a shut off valve. 
Installing the collector fittings.   
I checked carefully where the water flowed on the decks, and identified a spot for the collectors just forward of the main bulkhead as the best place.  The fuel fillers used were equipped with a lip around three sides which makes them ideal.   They needed to be adapted to fit the pipework used below deck so the first stage was to bond an adaptor into place.
Fig 1 Deck fitting and Hep2O reducers for assembly
Hep2O, an industry-standard push-fit domestic water piping system, was used for all the water pipes on board, including bilge pumps.  I decided to use GRP sealed with Sikaflex to bond the adaptors in place, and the first step was to make a mould for the GRP, which was done using a small piece of commercial plastic packaging from the galley wastebin.  A felt tip pen was used to draw round the Hep2O fitting on the packaging, and this was then cut out with scissors,   

 Fig 2 The mould with the hole cut, ready for fitting

The mould was assembled onto the adaptor and some glass fibre repair paste prepared.  This was put into the mould, and the deck fitting pushed into the mould.  Excess pasted was smoothed and removed on the inside of the fitting using a teaspoon, and the past was allowed to set.  Once it had set, the mould was split and the excess glass fibre trimmed off with a Stanley knife. This is best done once the paste has set but not fully hardened.  Next, the joint was reinforced with more glass fibre paste and this was allowed to harden fully before being sanded, and then the joint was covered in a layer of Sikaflex to ensure it remained watertight.

Fig 3a. The mould assembled onto the adaptor.

3b. Glass fibre paste in the mould.
3c. The deck fitting pushed into the glass fibre.
3d. Excess GRP trimmed off when set.
3e. Reinforced with more glass fibre.
The location of the deck fittings meant that the pipes came down through the after part of the galley, and behind the nav station, before going aft through the starboard engine room to the collecting tank. 
Fig 4. Under the sidedeck in the galley showing the collector in place
The collectors were fitted onto the side decks using a hole saw to cut a circular hole, and then sealed with Sikaflex, leaving a small gap between the toe rail and the collector so that saltwater and dirt from the deck can be drained away before water collection starts.  Once the rain has rinsed any salt off the decks, a piece of kitchen roll is screwed up and then pushed into the gap to act as a dam, and the plugs are removed, lowing the water to enter the system. A small breakwater was also constructed using Sikaflex between the coachroof and the collectors to divert the water into them.  A small teastrainer element fits inside the collector, and this filters out the larger particles of grit and other debris which collect on the decks.
Fig 5. The collector on the sidedeck with the tea strainer and the kitchen roll plug in place.  The Sikaflex breakwater extends to the coachroof under the window
A couple of minor modifications were made on deck, which involved blocking off the first set of scuppers on each side to ensure that the rainwater stays on deck.  This was done with white UV resistant Sikaflex as a temporary measure.  I originally intended to do a permanent job with glassfibre, but the Sika has worked so well that I have never considered changing it.
Fig 6. The modification to the scuppers with Sikaflex
Another modification was to bond hardwood strips onto either side of the coachroof to ensure that water from the coachroof flows far enough forward to go into the collectors.  This was done using Sikaflex and stainless self-tappers, which were subsequently covered over and the wood painted with Toplac.
Fig 7. Hardwood strip on the coachroof to divert rain to the collector

The pump tank

The pump tank was made from a 5 litre airtight plastic clip-top food container from a local supermarket. 
A submersible bilge pump was screwed in the bottom of the tank using stainless nuts and bolts, along with a floatswitch.  An ordinary domestic tank fitting was used to feed the water from the deck collectors by gravity into the pump tank (bottom right fig 8), and a piece of polythene tube was used to connect the outlet of the pump to a through-bulkhead connector (top right) which leads to the filter.  The hole for the wiring was deliberately not sealed in order to provide a breather hole to prevent airlocks.   
Fig 8. The assembled pump tank, ready for fitting. Note that all electrical connections are made outside the tank.

Two battens were made and were screwed to the lid from the inside using stainless steel screws and large penny washers.  The battens were then attached to the inside of the aft hull void and the tank clipped onto the lid from underneath.  This makes for easy servicing to remove any dirt which gets past the deck filters.
Fig 9. The pump tank clipped in place showing the inlet (left), outlet upper right) and drain (lower right) pipes and the wiring loom (top right).
Fig 10 General view from above of the tank clipped into place, showing outlet pipe leading to the blue filter housing at the bottom.  The white stopcock on the right is a drain leading to the bilge, which is used to drain the tank down completely when the unit is serviced.
The filter is an off-the-shelf heavy-duty domestic type with replaceable filter elements.  I picked this up with a supply of about 20 elements for a fiver at a car boot sale.
Fig 11.  The filter body and a replaceable element. This screws into the blue housing at the bottom of fig 9.
The feed from the filter going forward to the flexible storage tank in the starboard forepeak was done in 10mm Hep20, as it is flexible and could be built into the underdeck insulation where it would be completely unobtrusive.  The storage tank has three connections:  a large bore filler on top, a 15mm breather (also on top) and a 15mm outlet on the bottom. 
The feed pipe from the filter housing was led forward under the sidedeck to the storage tank using  10mm Hep2O in order to reduce the amount of water which would siphon back into the pump tank when the pump switches off.  The pipe was led steadily upwards to ensure that the water would drain back to the pump tank thus preventing airlocks.  It was attached to a conventional deck fitting on the foredeck, drilled through just below deck level to accept the pipe, which was sealed into the fitting using Sikaflex.  An ordinary large bore reinforced hose fed the storage tank from the deck fitting.  This arrangement enables us to fill the tank whenever mains water is available, for example at a fuel berth.   The breather pipe fitted to the tank also serves as an overflow, and this is led at deck level into the starboard anchor chain locker.  
Fig 12. The deck fitting, showing the 10mm plastic feed pipe coming from the main filter
Does it work?
It is probably one of the most useful systems I have installed on the boat.   Rainwater is wonderful for showers, as very little soap is needed to get a lather.  There is practically no limescaling of the immersion heater, and no scum formed in the shower, so the inside surfaces of the heads stay cleaner for longer.  A decent shower of rain typically gives us between about 10 and 25 gallons of water.  A thunderstorm will often harvest twice that, so with the rainfall in Northern Spain we have gone for three months without needing to fill our domestic water tanks from the mains, in spite of each of us having a shower practically every day, as well as handwashing all of our laundry in the heads.  Obviously we only use the system in a sheltered anchorage or mooring, and the collectors are plugged off with screw caps before we put to sea, regardless of the forecast.   The system also provides us with a very useful reserve tank of water, which can be turned on when needed, and this  will give us greater endurance when we reach more arid areas. 
There is inevitably a certain amount of fine particulate matter which gets past the deck filters, and a small amount of this settles in the pump tank.  The rest is removed by the filter, and there is no sign of dirt in the storage tank.  The pump tank is cleaned out annually with warm soapy water, and the main filter is replaced at the same time.  The system is also sterilised from time to time by adding a capful of ordinary bleach to the deck fittings.
The most expensive part was the flexible tank, at £120.  Four deck fittings came to about £80, an automatic bilge pump another £40. The pump tank was about £10, and miscellaneous pipework and fittings about another £50, so all in all it cost around £300 to install.  Our water endurance between marinas is now much greater, which obviously cuts costs, if only in the diesel used to get to a tap, let alone marina berths.  Given that in France the marina showers were typically E2 each, being able to have two showers a day for 90 days at zero marginal cost has given us our money’s worth.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Wendy’s Diary 28 July – A month of no sailing but meeting with friends!

Our journey so far has followed some unexpected paths – the biggest being my 3 months in a wheelchair living with some now very dear friends Annie and Philippe. This last month since I last wrote my diary has been unexpected in that we haven’t moved the boat, rather strange for a summer month. I left off last time with John’s impending dentist appointment...all went well there. In the days we were waiting for his appointment we discovered that there was a large Celtic music festival being held here 12-16 July. I had just booked a flight back to the UK on the 12th to see my mum for her 80th birthday, and John decided he would like to stay in Ortiguiera for the festival whilst I was away. So we are still here 5 weeks after arriving.

When I headed this entry a month of no sailing, it isn’t quite true, the ria is large and we have explored the little creeks and one day went out to Carino, the port just outside the ria which now hosts the fishing boats that once worked from Ortigueira. That evening we met a couple from Guernsey and spent an enjoyable couple of hours drinking “Tinto De Verano” (red wine of the summer – a type of red wine spritzer that is nicer than it sounds) on their boat. The anchorage was a little bumpy so we headed back into the ria on the next tide – 2am and were back in our usual spot by 4am (John’s idea not mine).

Richard and Chris, some good friends from Cornwall arrived a few days later on their catamaran Aquarelle, accompanied by Howard, another River Tamar boatowner. We spent a lovely few days socialising, if anyone ever asks me if there is anything I miss, it is seeing my friends, so this was really lovely. Howard became a grandfather the day after he arrived, so we celebrated with a couple of bottles of good cava. Then sadly the time whizzed by and after nearly a week the others headed off for Brittany. Howard ran into problems with his new autohelm and returned within a couple of hours, whilst Aquarelle sailed off to France.

We spent much of the time tied up to the quay. Unfortunately we managed to knock an anchor overbaod and watch it sink out of sight without anything attached. Richard provided his scuba gear and JOhn donned his boring old wetsuit in attempt to retrieve it. Unfortunately the water was too cold and too murky and the attempt failed. A couple fo days later with the help of Howards super magnet and our underwater CCTV we had the anchor safely back on board. 

We had met up with an English couple who live here several times and they took us on a tour of the local peninsula in their car – it is always lovely to be able to see a bit further inland. We visited one of the Rias that we had sailed passed, and had coffee in an old semaphore station that has been converted into a restaurant, which has fabulous views in both directions along the coast. The scenery reminded us very much of Dartmoor only closer to the see, with granite rocks amongst bracken.

Mum's Birthday
On 12th July I flew back to England, primarily as it was my mums 80th birthday as I wanted to be there to celebrate that with her.  I had a lovely weekend with family up in the midlands for that, then a few days in Cornwall catching up with friends and doing some shopping (for the boat mainly – not me). I stayed with Amy for a couple of days in her little flat provided by work, very strange to be me visiting her in her own home. We had a lovely couple of days together around Port Isaac, it was nearly a year since I had seen her so lovely to be able to spend the time together. I then stayed with Jane and family who provided a bed in Saltash whilst I finished my visiting/shopping.  

On the beach at Polzeath - not quite warm enough for me to go in the sea.

A hot chocolate with all the trimmings to warm us up on a July day!

The week was soon over and I flew back to Spain where it was nice to be home and catch up with John and all his news of the festival and his week without me. He had thoroughly enjoyed the festival, met some of the bands to chat to and had even stayed up until 3am one morning caught up in the throng of the festival.

We had an invitation to join in at a local fiesta a few of days ago where we saw Queimada being made for the first time, this is a Galician drink a spirit distilled from wine and flavoured with special  herbs or coffee, plus sugar, lemon peel, coffee beans and cinnamon. The really interesting part being it is set alight, and then the burning liquid is ladled out and slowly poured back into the pan from a height. Think of lighting a Christmas pudding only many times more spectacular. This was done in a dry grassy patch of land and every so often a bit of burning liquid would be spilt and stamped out before it set the grass on fire. Health and safety is thrown out of the window when the drink held in the ladle, the flame blown out by the maker and poured into disposable plastic cups. How they didn’t melt is beyond me, however the drink was actually quite tasty, a sort of hot liqueur.

Me and Annie

A couple of days ago John had suggested tying up alongside the wall for the morning, making it easier to go to the market with the bikes and do a general food stock up. Back on the boat I suggested we return to our anchorage and John wished to stay alongside the wall. I was down in the saloon when I heard someone call my name, there aren’t many people here who know me by name, so was quite surprised and went to see who it was. To my amazement on there on the quayside stood Annie and Philippe, our friends from St Nazaire. It transpired that they had been plotting with John and that was the reason he wanted to stay on the wall, he knew they were arriving and had decided to surprise me – he certainly succeeded!

The view accross the Ria

The 600M Cliff

 They had booked into a local hotel and we spent a lovely couple of days together catching up on news from both sides. Yesterday we explored the local mountains/cliffs in their hire car. At one point they reach over 600m, the highest cliffs in southern Europe and amazing to see. Cows which remind me of Jersey cows and wild ponies roam the cliff tops, under the shadow of wind turbines and around a hermitage that is many centuries old, a curious mix of old and new in one place. We then went to Cedeira, our next port of call in the boat, strange to visit somewhere by car first knowing we would soon be sailing there. We finished the day with a rather splendid meal in a local restaurant and bid farewell to our French friends sometime after midnight. They are now on their way to Porto from where they are due to fly back to Nantes.
Animals grazing under some of the many wind turbines

Today the Fiesta of Santa Marta has started in the town, with a selection of local bands (both orchestral and pipe) marching through the town. The music tonight is likely to carry on until well into the morning, so I feel a siesta coming on in preparation for a late night. The weather is looking good for sailing on Sunday, so I think we shall finally be moving on from here.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Wendy’s Diary 22 June – Caves and waves

A Swedish couple arrived in Ribadesella and tied up alongside the quay next to us and we had an interesting couple of days chatting with them. They have spent the last 5 years sailing and are on their way back to Sweden for a winter of repairs before sailing off again. They have so much experience and it was lovely to be able to pick their brains on what they had encountered.

A typical granary close to the caves.

Sven was keen to see the local historic caves with some 30,000 year old paintings and asked if we would like to join him. The cave entrance was blocked by a landslip around 5000 years ago and the cave was rediscovered in 1968 by some pot-holers. Hence it has been remarkably well-preserved and visits are restricted in both numbers and time as just people breathing changes the atmosphere and can cause deterioration of the paintings. There was an excellent museum alongside the entrance to the cave, and if anyone is likely to visit I would recommend doing the museum first, as the whistle stop tour of the cave with the narration in Spanish meant it was difficult to work out what we were supposed to be looking at some of the time.

The sketch of the boat, including the new dinghy cover!
Whilst I was finishing sewing the sun cover for the dinghy I noticed a mother and son standing close by. The boy was sketching the boat and after a couple of minutes he finished and I asked to see the sketch. It was a very good outline drawing of the boat and in my very broken Spanish I complemented the boy on his skill. A couple of hours later, the boy with both parents this time returned and presented me with the sketch which he had taken away and added in much of the detail. It was now instantly recognisable as Freya Frey and I was very touched by the gesture. We invited them on board for a cuppa and discovered that he is 12 years old and attends an art college. Maybe one day he will become famous and the sketch will be worth a lot of money!? Not that we would part with it anyway.

It was 4th June before we finally left, setting sail for 18 miles to Villaviciosa, a place I am still trying to get my tongue around how to pronounce. We motored again as there was very little wind, our thoughts of sailing along this coast appear to be misconstrued! There is not a lot apart from scenery and birdlife, so just our sort of place. We found a deep part of the channel albeit with a very fast current, but with our hefty anchor and plenty of chain we weren’t going anywhere. It seemed strange to be at anchor again after just over a week tied to a wall but lovely and peaceful. The top of the estuary further up was covered in weed, some of which worked its way loose with each tide, and we watched clumps of it drift past the boat on a regular basis. When it came to lift the anchor, it made a rather interesting sight:

There is an anchor in there somewhere!!

We thought this made a lovely photo..our anchorage at low water.
On our second day here we decided to take the boat as far as possible upstream on the rising tide and made it to a huge cider bottling plant just outside the town with the unpronounceable name. A pretty river with mountain views, although no sign of snow now, I guess too late in the season for that on the lower slopes. Having established that there really wasn’t anything else around apart from one bar and a campsite we made plans to set sail for somewhere that maybe had a shop – not a big ask, although I do try and keep the boat well-provisioned, and fresh bread is always at the top of the shopping list.

A very common sign of the times, a half built building left for years since the property bubble burst
As we exited the river mouth I spotted another yacht – a rare sight on this coast, pointed it out to John who said.. “It’s a cat(amaran)..., it’s a Catalac...  it’s British!...  I think it is Horizons!” He picked up the radio...”Calling the Catalac Catamaran off of Tazones... Is that you, Jeff?” We think Jeff must have jumped somewhat at this as he hadn’t spotted us before John made the call.   We know the previous owners of the boat well (Bev and Mary), but had only met Jeff once before at the TMA (Tamar Multihull Association) annual(ish) Paella gathering, at which John cooks the food (last year for the second time at Bev and Mary’s house). Small world stuff going on here!! Had we been 10 minutes earlier or later we would have missed him. Anyway, we came alongside each other, had a quick chat, took the obligatory photos of each other and discussed destinations. Jeff was heading to Gijon to meet up with another English boat owner (Roy), whilst we were heading for Aviles 34 miles away.

Some interesting rock formations on the entrance to Aviles
The pilot book says it is possible to anchor at Aviles, but having written off the first anchorage as too exposed, we headed further up river, passing several places that looked suitable for anchoring before reaching the pontoons just before the end of the navigable part of the river.   We had heard of ports that offered 2 nights free berthing, so I thought this would be a good place to ask if this was one of them. It took the harbour guys an hour or so to arrive with info and at the suggestion of 22 euros for the night. The weather forecast for the following day was a little iffy, so the thought of being caught out for 2 or more nights was something we wanted to avoid. “No anchoring within the port is allowed” was the response to our first request and statements starting with “but it says in the pilot book..” got us nowhere.

Our Spinnaker
We did a quick tide/wind/distance check and decided we would head for the next estuary instead, only about 6 miles further west. For the first time this season we did a spinnaker run for the hour’s sail to San Esteban. For non-boaty readers, these are the big, usually brightly-coloured, sails that protrude from the front of sailing boats and are good to use with gentle tail winds. Anyway it was fab to really sail for a change, albeit a short distance and an hour later we were tying up against a wall (free of charge of course) in this former coal exporting town. That is how most of the pilot books describe it, just a “has-been”. The reality was yet another pretty port, surrounded by mountain and sea views, with the most sheltered stretch of water yet. Good move, leaving Aviles behind, although we would have liked to have explored the old town.  

The quayside at San Esteban, with the wall that encloses the anchorage
There were 3 other yachts in the harbour, all French, 2 monohulls and an enormous cat, the owners of the latter kindly took our lines. Over the next couple of days we spent lots of time with Jean-Luc and Katia, swapping notes on where we had been and where we were going. As always the men got onto discussing technical stuff so Katia and I managed to extricate ourselves onto whichever boat the men were not on to discuss things more interesting to women folk. Our list of coincidences includes:
  • 1.       We are the same age. (If you don’t know I am not telling you)
  • 2.       We both have 22 year old daughters.
  • 3.       We both have 20 year old sons.
  • 4.       We are both accountants by trade.
  • 5.       Contrary to what we may have believed possible a few years ago, we are both now sailing around the coast of Northern Spain in catamarans.
  • 6.       We share the view that one can never drink too much tea!

This is a close up of the tree in the foreground in the previous picture - it had some curious birds on a nest in it which took quite a while to work out they were fake!!
Needless to say we got on well, conversing mainly in French (thank you again, Annie), meaning I now understand how John gets confused swapping between languages. Whilst I only have a very small vocabulary of Spanish, the hello, please and thank you had become automatic in Spanish, so reverting back to French was rather complicated. They set off a couple of days later with hopes on both sides of meeting up again soon.
John and Jean Luc deep in conversation overlooking the next bay

Jean Luc and Katia leaving San Esteban
We swapped to anchoring as the fenders rubbing against the wall were taking off a layer of paint. On John’s recommendation Jeff arrived in San Esteban a couple of days later, and joined us for a proper chat and an invitation to stop for dinner. With the conversation going back to when we had met in the UK, and the not so old email trail that had gone around inviting TMA members to a BBQ as John was not available to cook the Paella, the conversation very quickly brought up the question” who was/were in the wrong place – most of the TMA members or the Paella Chef”?? And so we had our own Paella evening on board Freya Frey, with the only other member in the locality very willingly attending!

San Esteban at night

The following day on Jeff’s recommendation Roy arrived and anchored close by. Whilst refuelling at Gijon that morning he had passed on the recommendation for our anchorage to Rick who followed within the hour. So with 4 red ensigns anchored we felt obliged to get together that evening and had a good old natter over a couple of bottles of wine on Roy’s boat. This was followed by gatherings on each boat for teas/coffees over the next two days swapping views on amongst other things “wifi” and of course the latest weather forecasts etc., as we were all looking at moving on West.   

Reasons to stay in port!
On Saturday Jeff headed out in a mild westerly leaving the rest of us behind waiting for the wind to change. Bright and early on Sunday 17 June we up anchored and waved goodbye to Rick and Roy, who were also preparing to depart in the now very gentle Easterly. We had Ribadeo in mind, as it was the next place with guaranteed shelter, albeit a rather long haul of 47 miles. With a favourable sea and wind we had the spinnaker up again and sailed all the way, in the company of 3 French boats to the North, Rick out ahead after he whizzed by us and Roy on our tail. I was NOT seasick at all on this run and it was nice to be back to what I call “normal” sailing, being able to prepare meals on route without either feeling nauseous or in risk of things toppling over in the swell. Maybe I will have to rename “normal” sailing to “what it used to be like” sailing!

We anchored for the night in a small inlet just beyond the commercial port. Ribadeo is, as with all the others, a lovely estuary surrounded by mountains etc and this time with a decent sized town with a Lidl!!!!! We went into the Marina (alongside Roy) in the morning and asked if we could tie up for a couple of hours to do some shopping and fill up with fuel when we got back. This was warmly accepted by the marina staff and so we headed into town (after setting off i-Tunes to download all the latest podcasts whilst we were out).

We haven’t found a Lidl since arriving in Spain and assuming the same low prices apply here as in France were keen to stock up on favourites like part-baked bread, almost impossible to find anywhere else, and if found, too expensive to consider worth buying. Unfortunately we didn’t find the Lidl but we did find a decent sized Galician-branded supermarket and bought rather more than was practical on the bikes and so rolled back down (thankfully) the hill to the boat fully laden – with the exception of the elusive part-baked bread. After filling up with fuel the marina staff suggested that we may like to stay a while and use the showers etc. Roy asked John for a lesson in Spanish pronunciation and I played on the internet whilst I had the chance.

We then took the opportunity of the rising tide to explore up the river to Vegadeo, where we found nothing of interest except the scenery on the way there and back. We made the call to sail further west again the next day so anchored up again and made preparation for a long sail of 47 miles to Santa Marta de Ortiguiera. I made some vegetable soup and Spanish tortilla (potato and onion omelette but nothing like what the English call Spanish omelette) so that we would have some easy to eat journey food in case the sea was a bit rough.

We snook back into the marina at around 5 in the morning and downloaded the latest weather forecast, all looked good, a decent Easterly along with an Easterly swell for a change. As we exited the estuary there was a large choppy swell which threw the boat in all directions. We are used to river exits being lumpy but this was worse than normal. We continued out in the hope that it would soon settle down, which it did very slightly once we were able to start heading West. After only half an hour I made the call that I couldn’t cope with 10 hours of this kind of sea as I was already feeling rough. We changed direction again to head in for the next estuary of Foz, and I went to bed. John checked out the pilot book and decided that it would not be possible to enter with the swell as it was, so reverted to the original course.

I spent the day feeling very ill and the only time I was out of bed I was feeding the fish (more times than I thought possible).  The sea state did settle a bit and John started to really enjoy the sail, and we blasted along at between 6 and 7 knots for the entire journey, a speed which will amaze some of our fellow cat-owning friends who think we are far too heavy to do so. It was consolation to both of us that the trip would be around 3 hours shorted than originally thought, and on the entry to Ortigueira John deliberately slowed down so that we wouldn’t get there too early for the rising tide.  We passed our French friends with the big cat at the entrance; they were just heading out to Cediera. We made our way up to the innermost anchorage in the pilot book and dropped the hook. John was snoring within seconds of his head hitting the pillow, it had been a long haul to do singlehanded.  

It was still a bit bumpy for me after the day I had had, so 3 hours later when John had recovered we moved again and tied up alongside the old quay, which was completely sheltered from the wind and swell. We went ashore, found the (very nice) club nautico and popped in for a quick drink before heading back for an early night.
Recovering from the long haul - a BBQ on deck in the sunshine

Whilst we have been here we have got the bikes out for a further explore, including to the old windmill above the town and has a 360 degree view. Yesterday we arranged to meet Jean-Luc and Katia roughly halfway between our two anchorages. After a string of misunderstandings we finally met up at a restaurant and had a relaxing afternoon chatting about where we had been since San Esteban. Prices here are so much cheaper than in France and we enjoyed the rare luxury of a meal out, 3 courses, drinks and coffees included for 12 euros each.

John has lost a filling and has an appointment with the dentist here next Tuesday, so we shall be tied up along the wall for a few more days yet.