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!!