Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: July 2015

Surf’s Up!

You know how I said last week that we weren’t too keen on Portugal? Yeah, forget I said that. We’ve had a complete change of heart, thanks to the last week in Nazaré. We heart Portugal!

Baleal Island, our new favourite beach spot

Baleal Island, our new favourite beach spot

So, after a disappointing- but brief- stay in Figueira do Foz, we sailed down to Nazaré. Our expectations were low: the guide book says that “The harbour is rather bleak and it is also more than 1.5km from the town itself” (do you mean to say I’m going to have to get off my arse and WALK?!) and “Possibly the most compelling reason to visit Nazaré is as a base from which to visit Portugal’s most famous cultural sites.” And then goes on to describe in detail one of the two marinas in Nazaré- and completely ignores the other! Literally, doesn’t even provide a phone number or VHF channel and call sign. However, friends we’ve met along the way overtook us and emailed us some weeks ago giving us the heads up for the second marina That Shall Not Be Named, so we called up, confirmed their existence and that they accept visiting yachts, and headed there- it’s the Club Naval da Nazaré, for those who are interested.

So, once berthed and checked in- the bloke who runs this marina is, incidentally, a very friendly young man and there seems to plenty of space for visiting yachts- we went into town for a drink and explore. We were pleasantly surprised! It’s clearly a popular holidaying spot for not only the Portugese, but the French also, and why not. The beach is clean, pleasant, the sea fairly safe with a small shore break perfect for frolicking in, and there’s a plethora of bars and restaurants in town. Once you get back from the seafront- which is by no means unpleasant, but can be a little tacky with stalls selling towels with dalmatians or the characters from Frozen on them, and overpriced, mostly empty restaurants- the town become much more traditional and charming, with tiny lane ways and cobbled streets.

Traditional fishing boats

Traditional fishing boats

However, the main attraction is the surf. There’s no real surf in Nazaré itself, but the nearest break, only 10 kilometres away holds the impressive accolade of hosting the biggest ridden wave ever recorded. If you want to see something to make your jaw drop, click here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/10410846/Surfers-ride-monster-waves-off-Nazare-Portugal-after-St-Judes-storm.html

Thankfully, no monster waves for us. We’ve been taking surf lessons with the guys at Surf 4 You (highly recommend them, by the way, check out the link if you’re in the area and want a fun morning!), who pick us up from the marina in the morning, take us to wherever the surf is at its best, give us a 90 minute lesson, wait for us while we get in some serious sunbathing time and have a burger at the local bar, then bring us back to the boat. Perfect! We’ve gone to Peniche several times, which is a fantastic beach for learners, evident from the hoards of surf schools around the area. There’s also lots of bars along the beachfront, which is ideal. We’ve become very fond of one of the surf spots in Peniche, Baleal island, which has a very relaxed, family friendly, surfy vibe. Lots of learners in the surf, everyone from children to older folks (gotta be careful of what age I’m calling ‘old’! I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blanks…). We love it.

Post-surf debrief

Post-surf debrief

Nick’s been doing surf lessons almost every day, keen to take advantage of Miguel and Henrique’s expertise to improve his form and try and get out of the bad habits he’s picked up. I’ve picked up a soft board and gotten wet once or twice, but I also don’t mind just lazing on the beach or chilling in the beach bar. Nope, I don’t mind that one bit.

And he's off!

And he’s off!

We’ve also loved the food here. There seems to be a lot of choice in town, but we’ve gone for the Portugese options, since they mainly consist of amazingly fresh and delicious seafood and fish. Our little routine, for those who care, is a beer and a plate of clams in a tomato and onion sauce at a bar called Casa o Santo in a small square behind the seafront, then move on to a Portugese restaurant for dinner. Before coming to Portugal we had absolutely no idea what Portugese food even was. Well, my experience of it so far has pretty much been delicious fresh fish, grilled in front of your eyes, served with a simple salad and boiled potatoes. Or a seafood stew thing, but I haven’t tried that one yet. Maybe tonight? And, of course, Portugese tarts. However, possibly my overriding memory of Nazaré’s food scene will come from the ice cream parlour we visited yesterday. Obviously, we couldn’t just go for a simple scoop, so we leafed through the menu and ordered a couple of small sundaes. Well, they were literally- literally- the size of my head. Even the waitress looked a little apologetic at our bewildered expressions. They must get that reaction a lot. But some miracle, Nick finished his. Boys have that strange capability, don’t they? But I was defeated half way through. Sundae 1. Terysa 0.

Sundae's the size of my head. Or, my entire upper body, depending on perspective.

Sundae’s the size of my head. Or, my entire upper body, depending on perspective.

So we keep putting off our leaving date for Nazaré, and now Nick’s just committed to having surf lessons for the rest of the week. Our lovely friends Matt and Kaitlyn told us yesterday that they’re flying out to meet us next Monday, and I’d like to say that we’ll be in the next port by then…. but it’s entirely likely we’ll still be here this time next week.

Chilling in Nazaré

Chilling in Nazaré

First Impressions of Portugal

It’s been over a week since I posted last, and for that I apologise. I know you must all be going through some serious withdrawal symptoms by now, but fear not: I’m back.

Last Sunday we left Baiona, a wonderful city we could have spent a lot more time in, and sailed south to Viana do Castelo in Portugal. We arrived into the small marina and were pointed towards a berth that had two other yachts on it, with a space in between. This was our first experience with Mediterranean style mooring, and we were so glad that one of the yachtsmen on the neighbouring boat jumped off to help us, otherwise we would have had literally no idea what to do. The next day we helped out another English yacht who looked similarly bewildered, so we’re obviously not alone!

This was our first taste of Portugal and we were pleasantly surprised. What looked like a fairly charmless industrial river-side town turned out to be a prosperous, up-market place with big plazas and narrow paved streets lined with expensive looking homewares and jewellery shops, plenty of bars and restaurants, and a beautifully maintained park running along the riverfront. We were impressed.

In hindsight, we probably should have stayed another couple of days, because, so far, Viana has been the highlight of the Portugese leg of our trip. Next stop was Povoa Varzim, which was an incredible €9 per night (we got a 50% discount). However, you get what you pay for, and, although there was nothing wrong with the marina- apart from a lot of bird poop for some reason- the town had absolutely nothing to recommend it. This is second hand information, taken from Nick who went ashore to find a supermarket. I didn’t even bother to get off the boat. He came back and reported that it was like a Portugese version of Ramsgate. Moving swiftly along…

Porto was our next stop and we were cautiously optimistic that this would be a good town to spend a bit of time in. We arrived into the brand new marina, was helped in by a friendly marineros, and then went to the bus stop to catch the bus into town. Well, that was a mistake. An hour later, and having had a winding tour of Porto’s rather forgettable southern suburbs, we finally arrived into town, map in hand.

Walking around, I think it’s fair to say we felt a bit nonplussed. Nick and I have discussed our impressions of Porto at length, so I’m speaking for both of us here. Porto is certainly a very interesting place, with plenty of historical significance, something that is reflected in it’s architecture. Impressive buildings and churches abound, and, aesthetically, it’s fascinating. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that so perfectly fits the description of ‘shabby chic.’ Many of the residential areas are quite run-down, and even the main shopping or eating areas have a derelict air. Not all the buildings, of course. Many are well maintained, but it seems that this is an uphill struggle- pardon the pun, because, of course, the other defining factor of Porto is its hilly nature. Great for toning the legs. Less good for trying to maintain that effortless ‘all I do is drink lots of water and wear moisturiser’ natural look that I generally aim for (and fail miserably, clearly). Sweat patches, a red face and frizzy hair are not a good look.

Street art, Porto

Street art, Porto

But Porto is as chic as it is shabby, and, underneath all these beautiful run-down old buildings are streets full of tiny wine bars, cool cafes, funky restaurants, boutique shops selling God knows what (all expensive, of course). Add that to the trams running along the riverfront (Nick thought they looked like something out of the 20s, I thought they looked like something out of the 50s, but we both agreed that they were of another era entirely), the hoards of young tattooed hipsters, the hand-written slogans on blackboards out the front of the bars saying things like, “Money may not buy happiness, but it buys alcohol, and that’s almost the same thing”, and Porto was strangely reminiscent of Melbourne, in a weird way.

One of the squares in Porto

One of the squares in Porto

Despite all this, Nick and I didn’t feel a connection with Porto. There was something a little forced and impersonal about it. The city was too big, there were too many tourists, and I just didn’t feel relaxed there. Plus, it was a slog to get to from the marina- we faced either the aforementioned bus ride, or a long walk to the ferry. We chose the latter, but the next day took our bikes to try and speed up the process. Dodging trams, cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists- who all use the same multi-purpose lane on the side of the proper road- meant that what we gained in speed, we lost in enjoyment.

Putting the 'shabby' in shabby chic

Putting the ‘shabby’ in shabby chic

So we left Porto a little earlier than we’d originally planned, and made our way to Figueira da Foz. The English couple who we’d helped in Viana with their lines kept popping up, and we saw them again in Porto. Graham and Jayne, a lovely couple who are planning to spend a few years sailing around the Med, were also leaving Porto yesterday, and so we sailed in company with them. It was a long day- about 12 hours- but was hugely enjoyable.

The morning dawned cloudy but mild, without a breath of wind, and the seas were reassuringly calm (swell’s been a bit of an issue- but we’ll be thankful for that when we get to the surf beaches). The sky and the sea were exactly the same hue of oyster grey, and it was a truly beautiful morning, despite being overcast. Another bonus- FISH! We’ve finally been able to justify the huge amount of money we’ve spent on fishing gear over the last couple of years, as we landed mackerel after mackerel, including a large Atlantic mackerel on the “big” fishing rod, the first thing we’ve caught on that bloody thing despite having a line out on almost every passage. So that was a bit of excitement.

The cloud moved off around midday and we had an afternoon of bright sunshine and flat seas. Lovely. That night, after tying up, Graham and Jayne came over to help us eat all that mackerel, which we cooked on the BBQ. It was absolutely delicious.

Figueira da Foz is, again, underwhelming. It seems like perhaps the recession has hit hard here- there’s lots of closed shopfronts and £1 shops, or the equivalent. The big shopping centre is all closed down, sitting there rather sadly in the centre of town. So, despite the fact that we’re quite ready to slow down and just stay somewhere for a week or so, we’ve not found anywhere we’re happy to spend that length of time. So, tomorrow, Nazaré. I shall report back.

 

 

Adiós Spain!

Well, as much as we would be quite happy spending an entire sailing season here in Galicia, the time has come to move on and cross the border to Portugal. We plan to leave tomorrow morning, bright and early, and reach Viana do Castelo by mid-afternoon.

But first! The last time we spoke, we were waving goodbye to Nick’s parents in Combarro. Dragging ourselves away from Combarro wasn’t easy, it’s the type of place that pulls you in and refuses to let go. However, we knew we had to move on, and off we went to Islas Cíes, a nearby island group which is also a national park. We had to apply for permission to enter the park, and once that was approved, had to register our intention to anchor in the park. We only had two nights, because the weekend was fully allocated already.

We motored our way across calm, flat seas to the islands, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and sunshine. One of the islands is a bird sanctuary and you can’t land there (although anchoring off the beach is fine) so we chose the other island which had a stream of ferries going to and fro the mainland, carrying hoards of spanish tourists. The island was obviously a popular camping spot also, as we saw many tents dotted around the place as we approached.

This is the life!

This is the life!

By mid afternoon we were one of about fifteen yachts and motor boats anchored off a beach absolutely teeming with people. The island was craggy and wooded, with only a few run down buildings off the beach, and that’s it. Nick and I sat around all afternoon, sun baking on deck or napping in the shady cockpit. We made a few noises about going ashore, but characteristically stayed put.

Evening arrived and, after a lazy afternoon, we made a reluctant decision to go ashore, born more out of guilt than any desire for an excursion. I stood to go ready the dinghy, and Nick stood to take off his t-shirt and retrieve his snorkel and mask from the locker. We looked at each other, confused.

‘Aren’t we going by dinghy?’

‘What’s the point in that? Let’s just swim.’

‘Er, no. I dipped my toe in before and my entire leg went numb with cold.’

‘Are you exaggerating by any chance?’

‘Me? Exaggerate? How very dare you.’

‘Well, if you want to go by dinghy, you’ll have to get it in the water yourself, because I’m swimming.’

‘Fine! I’ll row alongside you and point and laugh.’

‘Come on, girl! You’re Australian! Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little cold water.’

‘I spent my entire childhood swimming in cold water! The next landmass after Adelaide is Antarctica. Believe me, the water is chilly.’

‘That’s settled then.’ (Jumps in. Teeth are chattering, pretty sure his skin is turning blue…)

‘Is it cold?’

‘Y-y-yes.’

‘But… it’s okay once you’re in, right?’

‘Nope! S-st-still freezing.’

‘Bugger.’

Fast-forward two minutes, and I’m standing on the bow, dry bag stuffed with a towel, a shandy, our sunglasses and our shoes slung over my shoulder, watching Nick swim towards the beach. Having no choice, I jumped in. And yes, it was bloody freezing.

Now, I’m not sure how far the boat was from the beach. Probably a few hundred metres. But gone are the days where I can swim forever and ever without getting out of breath. Not to mention the fact that somehow I ended up towing along the bloody dry-bag, AND I forgot to grab my goggles, so my head was lifted out of the water the whole time- which makes swimming far more tiring than it ought to be. Needless to say, we dragged ourselves onto the beach (and I could only touch the bottom when I was, like, a metre away from the sand) panting and wheezing, and knowing we had to swim back.

However, I’m tempted to say it was worth it. The evening light across the mouth of the ria, all the Spanish families running around, the bay full of boats at anchor, all contrived to create a very relaxing atmosphere. We drank our shandy, went for a walk up the beach and back, then swam back to the boat.

At this point, we were finally able to make use of our stern shower. The water from the shower head was far warmer than the sea, so it felt quite nice to sit on the back of the boat and give ourselves a rinse. In fact, I decided to take it one step further. I collected my various lotions and potions and, sitting on the steps on the stern, washed my hair and my face. Then I started to wash my body, but thought, ‘Hold up. All these other sailors wander around stark bollock naked on their boats. [Indeed, we’d spotted several men and women on neighbouring boats in various states of undress throughout the day.] Why can’t I?’ So, to prove to myself that I’m most certainly NOT a prude, and I can embrace the hippy live-aboard lifestyle as wholeheartedly as the next person, I stripped off and got scrubbing. After all, no-one could really see me. There were only two other boats in my line of sight, and I couldn’t see anyone on deck looking my way. And we were facing away from the beach, hidden from view, so really it was pretty low-risk.

Needless to say, like something out of a predictable sit-com, that was the moment a dinghy full- FULL- of 30- something men decided to zip past, not two metres away from the back of our boat, my naked ass- and more- in full view. I thought furiously. What to do? Do I appear all nonchalant, like, ‘Hey, nothing to see here, move right along, I’m naked and totally fine with that!’ No, clearly not. I did what we all do when caught in an embarrassing situation: avert one’s eyes and take a sudden and keen interest in something totally banal. In this case, rinsing my hair. Definitely no conditioner left in my hair that day. Ohhh, no.

That night the wind picked up and the anchorage became really quite rolly. Neither Nick nor I got much sleep and the next day dawned to drizzle and cloud. We had to leave the next morning anyway, not being able to secure anchoring permission for the weekend, so we decided to get going and head to Baiona, only 7 miles away.

Baiona

Baiona

Baiona has two marinas, and we have a discounted rate for one of them (the MRYC), which is, of course, the more expensive of the two. I’m not sure why this marina is so pricey. The facilities are nothing special, although the wifi speed is pretty good. The restaurant and bar are too fancy for us- we try and avoid table cloths and waiters in crisp white shirts wherever possible, unless, of course, we’re in London and Nick’s paying- so we headed into town.

Baiona is charming. It’s a bigger town than anywhere we’ve stayed apart from La Coruña, and has plenty of hustle and bustle. The old town is quaint, with a narrow pedestrianised street packed with tiny bars, occasionally opening onto a square with restaurants. We love it. Prices are cheaper than Combarro, the food is just as good, and the atmosphere is buzzing, especially at night (well, it doesn’t become ‘night’ here until 11pm, which is when I go to bed, but you know what I mean).

Free mini croissants and a shot of freshly squeezed orange juice with my morning coffee. I love Spain.

Free mini croissants and a shot of freshly squeezed orange juice with my morning coffee. I love Spain.

However, as I said, we must move on to Portugal if we intend to cross the Atlantic this November. To be honest, we’re so taken with Galicia that, if we weren’t already booked onto the ARC and had our crew lined up, we’d be tempted to spend the rest of the season here, picking up where we leave off next year. But no, the Caribbean also beckons, and we’re sure we’ll enjoy sailing other parts of the world as much as we have the Atlantic coast of Europe. Besides, we gotta come back this way at some point! And when we do, Galicia will definitely be on our list of places to return to.

Charming Combarro

We’ve now been in Combarro for a week, and, dare I say it, but I think we have a new contender for favourite Galician town so far. It is absolutely beautiful. The old town is a charming jumble of granite buildings, most of them residential, but with the obligatory souvenir shops and restaurants thrown in here and there, mainly along the seafront. The town is also dotted with horreos, which are 18th century granite sheds on stilts, mainly used for drying food back in the day.

 

Horreo in Combarro

Horreo in Combarro

In fact, it’s probably better if I just let the pictures do the talking.

 

Lots of red roofs, flowers and quaint houses

Lots of red roofs, flowers and quaint houses. Oh, look, there’s a bar.

 

A gap between two houses shows the beach with the tide out

A gap between two houses shows the beach with the tide out

On Friday, Nick’s parents arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed. Even after a 2am start they were keen to get out and explore the area. We showed them where they were sleeping, reminded them how everything worked, let them have a drink, and then we went for a long and boozy lunch.

The seafront of Combarro is dotted with restaurants overlooking the beach and fishing boat moorings, accessed by a narrow laneway full of shops all selling exactly the same souvenirs- namely, plates for serving octopus, bottles of local liqueur, and, inexplicably, little witch dolls. It’s a bustling place, especially late at night, where couples, friends and families- everyone, from the very young to the very old- sit down somewhere in the region of 10pm and start their evening meal. Right about my bed time, although Gwen and Marco, party animals that they are, made me push that back a couple of hours. We marvelled at the fact that, even at midnight when we were making our way home, children were playing in the playground or sitting at a restaurant with their families. The Spanish approach to family life is very different to the English or Australian one, and I think I prefer it. Why not let the kids run wild while having a late dinner and drinks with the grandparents? None of this 7pm bedtime nonsense. Where’s the fun in that?

The beach with the tide out. And a boat. Also, some houses.

The beach with the tide out. And a boat. Also, some houses.

On the Saturday we went for a drive in the car Gwen and Marco rented to Noia, a town at the head of Ria de Muros. We had a coffee and walked around, and while it was quite a nice medieval old town, we decided to move on to Muros for lunch. You might recall that we spent some time at anchor off the quaint village of Muros, so we were more than happy at this surprise return.

Unfortunately, our arrival on the outskirts of Muros coincided with what appeared to be a large cycling event, and we found ourselves stuck in a series of mini traffic jams while waiting for cyclists to pass. As we inched towards the city centre, we at least had plenty of time to admire the views and plan our lunch.

Eventually we made it into Muros, parked the car and walked up to the main square. We ordered a leisurely lunch of calamari, pimentos, and razor clams, which look like fat juicy worms, and taste absolutely delicious. Then we had dessert, a tart type thing, which was a delicious if slightly curious mix of creme brûlée, cake, and custard. Then we dragged ourselves back to the car, drove home and fell into bed for a nap.

On Monday we had another day trip, this time to Pontevedra, which is only a few kilometres up the road. This was, apart from La Coruña, the biggest town we’ve been to since arriving in Spain, and it had loads of charm and atmosphere. The architecture of the old town was impressively grand, very beautiful, and there were many pedestrianised areas. I’m sure there’s plenty of cultural activities to do there, but all we wanted was to wander around and enjoy the bustle.

While we were here, we saw a road sign that caught our attention. It pointed towards the house where Christopher Columbus was born. Interesting, considering he was born in Genova, Italy. Now, most of us (well, I) would see that sign, puzzle over it for approximately three seconds, then forget about it and probably never think of it ever again. Gwen, on the other hand, was determined to solve this mystery, and, to this end, took to questioning anyone who showed even the slightest inclination to chat. So, we got it from several locals that, based on what seems to be rather tenuous evidence, the Galicians have decided to adopt Christopher Columbus as their own. Fair enough!

Entre Pedras, our favourite restaurant. Marco is easily spotted in the yellow cap.

Entre Pedras, our favourite restaurant. Marco is easily spotted in the yellow cap.

We spent a lot of time in one particular restaurant called Entre Pedras, where we practically tried everything on the menu and, by the end of the week, were on first name terms with the waiters. The benefit of this soon became clear, as we were slowly given a little bit of extra bread, then our glasses of wine became a little larger, then, finally, after four days of being as charming as we possibly could, they plonked some local liqueur on the table and let us help ourselves.

Foooooood

Foooooood

 

More foooood

More foooood

We also found a bar called A Rosa Dos Ventos, which is a nautical themed rooftop bar with fabulous views over the beach and towards the old town. We signed their guestbook on the first night, and put the name of our blog down on the off chance they’d actually be interested. The next night, the owner and his sister told us they had both not only looked at it, but had read back at least several blogs. The owner, a man called Jose Luis was very friendly, who was happy to sit with us and chat, putting up with my non-existent Spanish, Nick’s improving Spanish, Marco’s reasonable Spanish, and Gwen’s excellent Spanish. In fact, here’s a picture of them now. If you’re in the area, go have a drink! At €1 a beer, you can’t really go wrong!

The lovely owners of A Rosa Dos Ventos (and some random in the background)

The lovely owners of A Rosa Dos Ventos (and some random in the background)

 

Enjoying one of many drinks at A Rosa Dos Ventos

Enjoying one of many drinks at A Rosa Dos Ventos

However, all good things must come to an end, and yesterday Gwen and Marco made their way back to London. We couldn’t have chosen a better place to spend a long weekend with them, and we had even more laughs than usual after the last couple of months apart. Nick and I were extremely relived that they were comfortable on the boat and there were no issues- not something we take for granted: boat life certainly isn’t for everyone. But Gwen only managed to crack her head half a dozen times, which we considered to be pretty good going, so all in all, it was a success and we can’t wait for them to come back and visit as soon as possible, hopefully with some more members of Nick’s family in tow.

We had planned to leave today, but even though it’s lovely and warm, it’s also very windy, so we’ve decided to wait. Tomorrow night’s stay in the marina is a freebie, so now we might just be forced to stay another day. To be honest, I could probably spend the rest of the summer here, but it’s coming up to mid-July and we’re not even in Portugal yet. We better get a wriggle on!

Charming Combarro, seen from the terrace of A Rosa Dos Ventos.

Charming Combarro, seen from the terrace of A Rosa Dos Ventos.

 

Back to Marinas

Well, that would be about right. I lived in London for five years, and the only time I experienced anything akin to ‘heat’ was when I went back home to Australia, or joined Nick’s parents in their house in Greece. Now, there’s a bleeding heatwave! Today the temperature in London is 35 degrees! They’re actually issuing public health warnings. It’s only 20 here, and I’m in Spain, for crying out loud. Where is the justice in that?

Actually it’s lovely here, weather wise. We have had some scorching days, but it’s cooled down today and there’s some cloud cover and a pleasant breeze. Warm enough for shorts, but cool enough to avoid unsightly sweat patches. Ideal. So I’m trying not to be too jealous of the weather in London. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say!

So, where’s ‘here’ exactly? Well, we’ve moved south since I saw you last. We left our idyllic anchorage in Muros, and sailed to the next ria along, Ria de Arousa. Now, according to our trusty cruising guide, Arousa is “not only the largest Galician ria, but also the most attractive for cruising, with many pleasant anchorages.” Well, large it was, but we were unimpressed. It was far more developed than Ria de Muros, and although it did have plenty of anchorages, few were suitable for us due to weather conditions. We decided to make for a town called Pobra do Caramiñal, which the cruising guide describes as “Gaining reputation for good restaurants in town. Well liked marina.”  Sounded good.

Perfect sailing conditions!

Perfect sailing conditions!

A long beach curves away from the marina, which is where the recommended anchorage is. There were several other boats anchored here when we arrived in the early evening, so we joined the party- only to realise that our chain counter had broken, meaning we didn’t know how much chain we had put out. We made an educated guess, then Nick spent the next hour fiddling with the small handheld device trying to get it to work again. You know the drill: take it apart, swear a bit, get your iPad out and look something up on the internet, change the parts you happen to have, put it back together, swear a bit more, connect it up to the windlass (the electronic bit of kit that saves us from having to let out or haul up the anchor ourselves), turn it on, swear quite a bit more, then announce that you’re giving up. That process takes about an hour, during which I wait impatiently, occasionally tapping my foot or looking at the clock and sighing loudly. Sometimes, when I’m really over it, I actually ask the dreaded question: “How much longer are you going to be?” I’m either rewarded with silence, or I get the expected reply, “It will take as long as it takes, now either do something useful or be quiet!”

Did I mention that we were both starving, had very little food on board (apart from frozen cornish pasties that somehow survived the Bay of Biscay passage, and we are now saving for a special occasion, or possibly some kind of ceremonial festival of english food, complete with Marmite and Branston pickles), it was extremely hot and we were knackered from a full day of sailing. So, I made myself useful and got the dinghy ready to go. We needed food and a cold beer, and we needed them now.

But after his unsuccessful repair of the chain counter, Nick decided to opt for the next best thing: to go for a swim. More specifically, to swim to where the anchor was (hopefully) embedded in sand and weed and make sure it was secure and we had enough chain out. Well, that took a bloody long time, not least because his flippers and snorkelling mask were down the bottom of our stern lockers. Out came everything in that locker, including, but not limited to, folding bikes, baskets for bikes, extension lead, hose, wetsuit x2, lifejacket, a BBQ, a broom, the attachment for the hydrovane, a bucket and an extendable ladder.

Finally Nick was happy with the anchor. He dried off, got into the dinghy, we wrestled the outboard engine onto the back, and I was just about to drop the painter, mouth practically salivating with anticipation of my impending dinner, when the wind went from almost nothing to really quite something. Our boat swung around with the new wind direction and we were now on a lee shore.

Nick: “Wait! We can’t leave the boat like this! It’s far too windy.”

Me: “Like what? It’s fine!”

Nick: “No- what if the anchor drags? We’ll go straight into the beach.”

Me: “I’m willing to take that risk. I don’t think you realise quite how hungry I am.”

The conversation deteriorated from there, and ended in me eating weetbix and Nick making the decision to go into the nearby marina. He also ate some weetbix. We felt a lot better after that.

So, out came the lines and fenders and into the marina we went, wind howling. We had two options. To go into the marina proper, or to moor up to an outer pontoon which was about 100 metres long and had only one motor boat on it, with all the space in the world for manoeuvring. Clearly, we chose the more difficult option, which was to go inside. Nick was heading to a berth directly ahead, but we were distracted by a tiny man on the opposite pontoon, all skinny brown limbs and an straggly long white hair and an impressive white beard. He looked like Tom Hanks after he spent all those years on that island, except Spanish and about one hundred and ten. We couldn’t understand his words, but his meaning was plain enough: “I’m the boss, come over this way and moor up here.” Fine. That’s what we did. And it wasn’t quite our worst mooring. After much discussion and debate, we decided it wasn’t even our second worst mooring. But we agreed that it was almost certainly our third worst, and we’re just thankful the boat survived unscathed, unlike our pride. The wind was pushing our boat off the pontoon, and it took about fifty lines, and five people to get it sorted.

[Nick: actually it is debatable whether our Spanish captain Ahab was a help or hinderence. Our boat has high sides which means it is always blown downwind when turned to the said wind. As such we have a technique where we lead a midline through the mid cleat and back to a winch. The line has a bowline on it which we place over a pontoon cleat with a boat hook. Then in a blow, we winch ourselves in. Simple . Yes? Except señor Ahab sees us on a mid cleat, attaches a stern line then releases our mid line. Off goes the bow downwind. I think that left to our own devices, we would have taken a downwind pontoon finger and been blown on, like we did when we arrived at combarro marina. But there is nothing like a shouting,gesticulating,Spanish version of uncle Albert to put pay to our fine ideas.]

Minutes later, the wind died off. Of course it did.

Well I can’t complain about the marina, but how this town has a reputation for good restaurants is beyond me. We could barely find anywhere serving food, let alone good food. There were more bars than you could shake a stick at, but few of them had a menu. By this time we were so tired that we made do with the free food you get with your drinks. We found one place that brought out the beers, then a big bowl of crisps, then an equally big plate of olives, and then a fried egg each with a piece of bread. That would do.

The town wasn’t overly offensive, it just didn’t have the charm that Muros did, and we were disappointed. It did, however, have an excellent supermarket, and the marina had very good wifi, so we stocked up on food and drinks, downloaded Jonathon Strange and Mr Norell from BBC Iplayer, did our laundry, and moved on.

Lunching it up in Combarro

Lunching it up in Combarro

I’m delighted to report that our next destination, Combarro, is as charming and beautiful as one could possibly wish for. We arrived yesterday and will stay until Tuesday, as Nick’s parents are coming out to meet us over the weekend. The sail was painless, with barely a breath of wind or a hint of swell. Predictably, as soon as we came within sight of the marina, the wind increased to 15 knots, gusting 20, as suddenly as flicking a switch. We were like, “Seriously!?” However, this mooring went far more smoothly, so our confidence is restored. A quick walk around the old town revealed numerous restaurant options, one of which we sampled today and were not disappointed with. But I will leave a full description of Combarro until my next post- gotta keep you lot wanting more, after all.

An excellent incentive to learn Spanish

An excellent incentive to learn Spanish

 

Until next time!