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Mike, Meg and Lobster Pots

11-15 Oct 2021

So Biscay was done. It was time to relax and enjoy a new country. We had dinner out in La Coruna with Mark before he would leave the next morning. Mark spoke Spanish so it was a gentle introduction to ordering meals out and about. In the past we had snowboarded in France every year so it took us a bit of time to stop ordering things in French. I know, us English people are hopeless! Meg had decided to stay on with us for a bit longer and our friend Mike was joining us on the 14th for a week. We’d therefore remain a crew of four through to Portugal.

Before he left, Mark sat us down with the chart of the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic coast and offered some suggestions for anchorages and marinas to stay in along the way. It proved to be really useful as some of these places we would never have known to stop at.

15 Oct 21 - La Coruna to Muros, Spain ( 76.7 nautical miles)

After a few days of meandering around La Coruna it was time to move on. Since the sun set around 6pm every evening the days were short so we opted to leave in the dark so that we could arrive in daylight. We slipped the lines at 1:30am. After all of us were up to slip the lines and see us out of the marina, Carl and Mike took the first watch whilst Meg and I went back to bed. Unfortunately the sails did not make an appearance at all as it was flat calm, no wind at all. There were a lot of fishing boats around without AIS so the night time watches were occupied with trying to work out what the lights on the horizon were, shore or boat, which direction the boat was in and did it have long nets trailing out the back of it. Similar situation in the day time to be honest.

This was to be our first anchorage with Rockhopper. The anchor had never been used so this was its first test. And ours with this boat! We had no chain counter and I had no idea how quick the anchor windlass let out the chain so there was a bit of guesswork as to how much chain went out. Possibly the reason why it took three goes at it! I erred on the side of caution and dumped a load out. Probably half of the shiny new 100 metres of chain, in 4m depth of water :-)

We’d read on Navily (Trip advisor for boats, great app) that a trip line connected to the anchor was suggested in Muros in case it fouled on something. We hadn’t used one in a while but how hard could it be? Turns out harder than it should as a friendly dolphin appeared and started playing keepy-uppies with it! I’m trying to work out whether the anchor is dragging by looking at the bouy and this dolphin keeps dragging it under. He was quite well known in the bay and stayed around our boat for at least an hour [see video]. Mind you, he had been in the wars judging by how many scars he had. He was the biggest dolphin we had seen in these waters.

Our first experience of taking the dinghy to shore was a bit of a challenge. The only place that looked ok to leave it was next to a 20 foot ladder up to the marina wall. We tied off and each climbed up. Some of us a bit less sure-footed than the rest! First outing for the first aid kit too.

16 Oct 21 - Muros to Combarro, Spain ( 35.3 nautical miles)

We had a lovely calm night at anchor. I only woke up a few times to check that we hadn’t moved (damn my anchor paranoia!) Not too bad for me. We weighed anchor at 10:30am, luckily no issues, and set off for Combarro on the banks of the Ria de Pontevedra. This was a place that Mark had suggested, good choice.

Unfortunately another day of motoring! Poor Mike came out to spend some time on a sailboat and just got a really slow powerboat experience. We spent the day looking out for lobster pots. For the non-sailors reading this, lobster pots generally have a line from the pot to the surface which is marked with a buoy/plastic bottle/flag. Running over one of these in a boat can get the line wrapped around the prop so best avoided. There were hundreds of these pots along this coastline, some clearly marked, some not so. We tried to go out a bit from the coastline to avoid it but there were times when we saw one breeze past us on the other side in 80m of water! With the grey skies overhead making the sea look a similar colour it was difficult to spot.

We dropped the anchor at around 17:45 and waited for the rain showers to stop before heading ashore. The town was beautiful, narrow stone streets with 17th century raised granaries along the shore. It had a weird witchy theme. Apparently it was a place where witches would congregate. As we walked through the narrow stone streets a lady coaxed us into her shop offering a balcony view and shots! A very strange shop but a lovely friendly lady.

We came across a great little bar with a pirate theme (right up Meg’s street!) - see photo. Meg left a present for the mermaid (and some free advertising). We later sat down at a different restaurant for a fantastic dinner of seafood paella and hake.

17 Oct 21 - Combarro to Baiona, Spain ( 30.1 nautical miles)

As we had decided that tonight we would be eating on the boat and staying there for a few days, we thought we could leave a little bit later on. It was only a 30 mile sail to Baiona. So after coffee and a stroll on shore we weighed anchor at midday. Within a couple of hours the wind had finally picked up to around 12kts so we hoisted the main sail. Meg and I had decided to do a bit of cooking on passage. Meg braved the boat oven and baked us a fantastic banana loaf. Meanwhile I took out the trusty InstantPot and made a carrot and coriander soup. Perfect for lunch as it was a bit misty and grey. By 3pm the jib was unfurled and we were making 6.4kt over the ground. Mike had finally got to see the sails up. We were close hauled though so going up the passage to Baiona required a fair bit of tacking. Meg took the opportunity to get in some sailing experience and she hand-steered us, tacking between the mainland and the islands that make up the Cies National Park ( a.k.a King Kong’s Island). We arrived in Baiona at 18:15 and anchored outside the marina in 5.4m of water. Carl and Mike decided that a sortie of the town was required for educational purposes (i.e. they wanted to go for a beer!). As we weren’t sure where to park the dinghy Meg acted as chauffeur. When they came back later we had our first BBQ on the boat.

We woke up and looked across at the marina berths to find that our friend’s boat, another Lagoon 42 called Gamesmaker 2 had snuck in while we slept. We would later bump into her crew in town and exchange a few stories from our Biscay crossing. We stayed in Baiona for a few days to explore, even instigated a midnight raid on La Pinta Caravel (a replica of the ship Christopher Columbus took on his first voyage to America in 1492). Well, the guy on the dock had been a bit snooty to us not allowing us to tie up our dinghy on the empty pontoon when the museum was shut for the day. Check out Meg's super large hand in the slideshow below!

19 Oct 21 - Baiona, Spain to Povoa de Vazim, Portugal ( 52.9 nautical miles)

We left Baiona at 08:30 on our way to Portugal. This time we had on average 16kts of wind for the day but it was straight on the nose. We put the mainsail up just in case but to no avail. The day was occupied by lobster pot watch again. It's amazing how these little flags can hide in the waves and pop out just in front of you! Especially since it was a really sunny day and so bright on the water. A pod of dolphins came to say hello and surfed the bows for a bit. We had booked ourselves in to a marina in Povoa de Vazim using the Navily app, not too bad at 30 euros for the night. The wind picked up just as we were coming in (turned out to be a typical thing with us) and, after hovering around for the marineros to make up there minds as to which dock they wanted us on, we were blown onto one. Thank goodness for fenders, no harm no foul and in the end the marineros were very helpful.

Not much was open in town given it was the winter season but we eventually found a place to eat. It was very popular and specialised in the local Portuguese dish - Francesinha - which is a large sandwich with steak, ham, and sausages, covered in cheese and a beer sauce…with French fries too. We all had one in various forms, the meals were huge - we could feel the arteries blocking. Meg was the smart one and asked for a half portion. Clearly I had not been a good host to Mike as he devoured the lot.

20 Oct 21 - Povoa de Varzim - Porto, Portugal ( 17.1 nautical miles)

The next morning we aimed to leave reasonably early but the rain was coming down quite heavily so we opted to wait for it to ease. We eventually left at 11:40 into cloud and drizzle. We only had 10kts of wind again in the direction we were travelling so no chance of sailing to Porto. The fog set in and visibility dropped to around 50m so we switched on the radar to help with spotting fishing vessels. Not so much the ever-present lobster pots but we had all eyes peeled for them. Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out but the fog remained so not much help. We started to think forward to our arrival in Porto. The city straddles the Rio Douro and to get into the river there is a reasonably narrow entrance with a strong current across the bar. It can be a challenge in strong swell and after rain. There are also river cruise boats that come up the Douro to the entrance to the river mouth then turn around and head back in. Not the best to navigate in a thick fog. Carl decided to ring up Doura Marina to ask whether they could see any fog at the river entrance. The very helpful lady said it was clear so we made the decision to carry on. True to her word the fog was clear at the entrance and Carl brought us into the river and backed us in to our berth at Douro Marina with no issues. We had arrived in Porto! I was looking forward to this :-)



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