A CRUISE AROUND GALICIA
20 July to 3 August 2002
Onboard: Anita Sharp (Skipper), Reg Worledge (Mate), Sally Gilchrist, David Hutton, Doreen Hutton, Mike Jenkins, Mike Sharp, Paul Evans (first week), John Hall (first week)
The journey to La Coruña required some research to find the most economic means of travelling from the UK. Rather than flying to Santiago (the simplest but most expensive route), Anita, Mike, Reg, John, Doreen and I had decided to fly to Madrid and take the 10-hour train journey to La Coruña, arriving early on the Saturday morning. Mike and Sally had flown to Bilbao and then taken a train along the north coast of Spain and finally a short ferry trip to La Coruña, arriving on the Friday. Paul had mixed fortunes in his journey, and having missed his flight out on the Friday afternoon did not arrive until Sunday.
A taxi took us to the sailing club where we found Marabu anchored off the pontoons. She was soon brought alongside and the clean-up and hand-over were completed. Soon we were aboard and stowing our kit. At our briefing Anita told us that there was a problem with the engine and that an engineer would be needed to fix it before we could begin our cruise. It was therefore unlikely we could sail before Tuesday. The good news was we would have a shakedown sail around the bay on Sunday and in the meantime we should provision the boat and sample the local food and drink. The next few days were spent exploring La Coruña. As the main town for this part of Spain it retains much of its old world charm, but is suffering from the creep of modernisation. However, there were plenty of traditional-type bars and restaurants to keep us all occupied and happy.
On Sunday we had a good sail around the bay; the wind was cooperative, giving us a gentle breeze to start and then piping up to a good 20 knots, which enabled those of us who had not been on Marabu before to see how she sailed. On Monday, whilst the engine was being sorted out, we took the opportunity to look around the town. We visited the Roman lighthouse – said to be the oldest working lighthouse in the world – and looked at the new marina developments in the centre of the town. In the evening we all gathered in the sailing club for drinks and an excellent meal.
The engineer’s report suggested that whilst we needed to take care with the engine, there should be no trouble for a while, providing we did not work it too hard. Anita decided that we should start our cruise southwards and take it day by day. We left La Coruña on Tuesday morning and had a good shakedown sail down the spectacular Galician coastline. The sun was shining and Marabu slid gracefully along on the gentle Atlantic swell. Our first stop was to be in the Ria of Corme and Laxe. The Corme anchorage was chosen because it was more protected; in fact so well protected behind its walls that we had some difficulty in identifying the opening.
We anchored off close to a fish farm where we spent a peaceful night. The following morning we went ashore to get milk and bread (not difficult, we thought, in a small fishing village with ‘Bread Street’ as one of its main roads). We found the bread in a van parked in the main square and when Paul discovered that they had ‘chocolat pan’ there was no holding him back and he bought almost the entire stock. We enjoyed coffee on the pavement of the square before making our way back to the jetty for our trip back on the rubber-dub to Marabu.
Next day, looking out across the Ria, we all watched the banks of mist rolling in off the sea and hoped that the sun would burn it off. As the morning wore on the mist persisted and so we decided to sail just across the bay to the fishing village of Laxe. If the engine had been at full strength maybe we could have motored south in the light winds using radar – but then we would have missed the interesting village of Laxe. First we anchored in the bay so that Reg could dive around the boat to check her bottom, then we went over to and tied up on the harbour wall in amongst the fishing boats. As we did so we saw photographers on the quay and in no time at all we found we were ‘news’. The local paper wanted to know all about us and the following day pictures and an article appeared about the ‘German war boat and its preservation’.
A local reservist arrived and took us to the local bar where we were made welcome and where over the next two days we did much eating and drinking. Laxe was a fascinating place: the Galicians use it as a beach resort. There is a fish market where a siren summons all to come and buy the catch. On the headlands we were able to see the rocks and cliffs of this spectacular coast with the Atlantic breakers washing them all in foam. It was also easy to see why this coast is known as the ‘Coast of Death’.
After returning to Marabu on the first evening we were all getting ready to turn in when a large steel trawler appeared near the harbour wall and some Spanish fisherman on the quay started shouting in our direction. Although we could not understand them it was plainly obvious that we were in their berth and they were coming alongside either us or the wall, we decided that we must get out and so we did and anchored off for the night. The mist persisted through Thursday.
On Friday the mist lifted so we sailed on south to Camariñas. It was a good sail with the wind NW and a south-going tide. Soon Marabu was into the Ria at Camariñas. Camariñas is a fairly large fishing port. It also has a fish-canning factory and the smell from this factory can make the stay in Camariñas quite unpleasant. The yacht club has a small marina and we berthed Marabu end-on to the pontoon. Clearly the pontoons were designed for shorter boats than Marabu, as the stern pick-up line was only just long enough for us. The Yacht Club was very welcoming and the showers were free and generally warm. In the evening we all gathered in the club and had a splendid meal.
We were now halfway through the cruise and we needed to press on south and so left Camariñas the following morning in bright sunshine and a good NW breeze. As the day wore on the wind picked up until we had a good Force 5 and the swell began to increase. However, Marabu romped along, her long waterline smoothing out the waves. During the afternoon we passed Cape Finisterre, the most westerly point of Europe. For most of us this was our first sighting of this infamous cape; it looked rather tame and unimpressive from a distance. Later we would find out that Finisterre looks very different going the other way. Once south of Finisterre, we sailed in to the large Ria of Muros and made our way inshore to Portosin on its southern shore. We chose Portosin because John and Paul had to leave us in the morning and Portosin has a good bus service into Santiago where they could catch their trains home. The town of Portosin is modern and uninspiring; but on the other hand the marina and the sailing club are excellent.
As Marabu’s engine was still unreliable we decided not to go further south. We decided to have a celebratory meal in the yacht club. A few drinks before a good meal and then a few more drinks afterwards made for a happy evening. Part of the clubhouse was being used for a private party and later when the music started we could see and hear it from the balcony and before long we were treated to impromptu dancing from Anita and Mike.
After John and Paul had left us the following morning, we set sail in a pleasant breeze for the mouth of the Ria. Our destination was Sardiniera, a small village inside the Finisterre peninsular. It was directly up-wind and up-current from the Ria Muros. During the afternoon the wind increased, as it always seemed to on this coast, and we began a long series of tacks up along the coast. Progress was slow but the sailing was good. We were well inside Finisterre as the sun began to set. Just as it began to get dark we motored into the bay at Sardiniera and dropped the hook.
With much thought we planned the next leg north past Cape Finisterre. We did not want to get strong winds and adverse tides all the way, so we planned to leave in the evening as the wind decreased and then motor or sail north until we were clear of Finisterre and could bear away. From then on we should we able to have a good slant as the wind increased. In the morning we went ashore for provisions. The village was very remote and seemed totally unspoilt by any form of tourism at all. There was a bar on the edge of the bay overlooking the anchorage and we all had a drink or two before we headed back to Marabu.
After a good meal on board in the evening we set off just as the light was fading, sailing south to Cape Finisterre. Soon after we rounded the cape we turned north and motorsailed along the rugged coast. All went well until around 1 a.m., when the engine faltered and after a short while finally stopped. Marabu was not quite clear of the Finisterre peninsular and we began tacking northwards into the current. Progress was slow; we tried sailing inshore and offshore but it seemed to make little difference. By late afternoon we had only made a few miles, so the decision was taken to bear away and make for Camariñas. We had a terrific sail on a broadening reach towards the shore and managed to lay the transit for entry well. As we shot along the transit it looked as if we would have to tack up the next leg to the anchorage, but the wind kindly freed and we were able lay up to the anchorage where the tired crew dropped anchor.
The following morning the general consensus was that to try and sail on to La Coruña without an engine would be unwise and we therefore decided to end our cruise in Camariñas. Getting Marabu alongside the pontoon was not without its difficulties. The marina could only offer to tow us with a 12-foot boat with a small engine so we decided to do it ourselves with the aid of sails and the rubber boat. We managed to sail slowly over towards the pontoons with the tender alongside to give a shove on the side as required. In the final approaches the marina boat gave us tug as well and soon Marabu was secured. We then spent the rest of the day relaxing and cleaning up Marabu, and Thursday revisiting Camariñas and the surrounding area and drinking in the friendly yacht club bar in the marina.
On Friday Mike and Sally stayed on Marabu for the hand-over to the new crew who were to sail her back to the UK. Anita, Mike, Reg, Doreen and myself caught the bus into Santiago so that we could catch the train into Madrid for our return flights to London. Anita, Mike and Reg had to catch a train early on Saturday morning. Doreen and I had all day on Saturday in Santiago exploring this very interesting town. We eventually arrived back home a little late as Iberia had overbooked us. However, we did get a very generous cash refund for our inconvenience.
Despite the disappointment of not having been able to sail as far or as much as I had hoped, it was a very interesting experience; the Galician coast was beautiful, the Rias quite unspoilt. The sea swell and currents in this area definitely must be respected.
As a postscript it remains to be seen what devastation has been caused to the Galician coast by the recent sinking of the oil tanker – and hope that all possible efforts have been made to preserve this beautiful coastline.