Leg 2: Spain's Atlantic Coast

Despite heavy pressure by Leen to reach Lisbon by coming Thursday, we stayed another day at Gijon. Even though the detour proved unnecessary for meteorological reasons, it was worthwhile for the place of Gijon itself.  The city, or what we could see of it, struck us more like Mediterranean city then one you would expect on the inhospitable north coast of Spain. However, traveling with children, we have less chance of visiting places of interest in our ports of call. Once ashore, most time is spent at playgrounds our on beaches.

Wednesday 12 September we we left Gijon with the idea of reaching Vigo in a two day trip. Once at open sea we were forced to redefine this goal, as our autopilot gave up.  We had to handsteer for the complete trip, something which might be acceptable for a normal double-handed crew, but which becomes a real ordeal with the added burden of keeping three toddlers occupied. We thus decided aim for La Coruna, which we reached after a long and tiring night, with way to many sail changes.  We clearly still have not found the cruising balance.

That same day Kwinten and I took a 4 hour excursion in the vicinity of La Coruna to pickup a new fluxgate for our autopilot. The unforeseen long duration of this outing apparently caused major concern with Lotte on the whereabouts of her big brother. Next day’s stroll around the city of La Coruna started with an unexpected “Pacifier overboard” alarm, causing major despair with both Lotte and Kwinten. Luckily all ended well when  “TUTTE” was recovered in one piece. Though it might seem on the picture that Kwinten is laughing at Lotte’s despair, he is actually crying as heard as she is. Saturday we further explored La Coruna, and fulfilled our promise to the Ordinary Sailer’s by getting on the historic tram. We headed out without a clear idea of what to see, and ended up in the Aquarium, despite its 10 Euros pp entrance fee. As we didn’t have to pay for the kids, visiting both tram and museum free of charge, we could convince ourselves we paid only 4 Euro pp.

Our autopilot worked for at least a full 300 Seconds with its new fluxgate. It seems we will have to seek professional counseling in a next port…

We left La Coruna Sunday 16 September in the haze, planning to reach Ria Arosa to  put Cabo Villano and Cabo Finisterre past us. The haze soon turned into dense fog, reducing visibility to only 30 meters. Using our radar on, there wasn’t any immediate danger, but when Leen asked to put the VHF on, it crashed the same way it did during the reprogramming of the MMSI number. With this demolition run in our electronics department ongoing, we decided to head for Laxe, also because hand steering in the dense fog was all but pleasant.

10 minutes on our changed course, the proximity alarm indicated two small vessels which sneaked through the 5nM circle into our immediate vicinity. The persistence of the echoes ruled out false alarms, and indeed minutes later we almost crashed into a French yacht which suddenly emerged from the fog. She was headed, together with another yacht for Ria Camarinas.  We decided to join and also cover the extra 10 nM to Camarinas, which would at least put us passed Cabo Villano, and close to Finisterre. Though we failed to kill our black beast Finisterre, we at least killed its brother Villano.  Anchoring became an easy task, with expert help from Kwinten on the winch button. Leen can remain comfortably behind the wheel, while the men of the family reel the anchor in or out.

We left Camarinas early morning to reach Ria Muros. The fog of yesterday was gone, but we still had no wind. We dropped anchor at Muros, , beautifully sheltered from the NW and N winds which were blowing and forecasted to strengthen. After dusk, the wind turned east and strengthened, leaving us exposed and close to the lee shore. Our anchor proved to be made of the right stuff, keeping Aspro effortlessly in place under. Come morning time the wind increased to an established 25 knots, so we decided to head for Portosin Marina. The 5 nM ride was a wet and uncomfortable ride, as the mountainous geography caused Venturi streams presenting various 30+ knot areas before reaching the shelter of Portosin. Mooring also proved interesting as the Portosin port basin has very low breakwaters. Luckily an army of French retirees, on their way from Marseille to Brest, came to our help.  After securing Aspro, one of them kept insisting that the most rare and expensive item on the international sailing market isn’t a nice boat, but a wife who loves sailing. Considering the advanced age and the complete male constitution of their crew, one could his insight was well founded.

Talking to the yachts around us in Portosin we realize that most are 2-3 months into their trip, but that we more then made up in distance for this period, putting us comfortably on schedule for our Atlantic tour. Most descended the coast of UK and France, hopping from port to port.  All complained about very bad conditions during the July and August part of their trip. It seems we were very lucky, having ideal conditions for Biscay, and only lacking wind for the last 4 days.

From Ria Muros we skipped Ria Arosa and continued to Ria Pontevedra. Sailing the distance I had to admit I am missing our autopilot. Not only because it frees our hands, but also because its course keeping capabilities seem superior to Leen’s, who at times wanders 50 degrees off because of various reasons. After an unsuccessful anchoring attempt in Raxo bay we continued to Combarro, an old fishing town in 2-3 m water with impressive scenery both on and offshore. You should not look S however, where there is an industrial port, a diesel electricity plant and chemical industry. We stayed two days at Combarro to explore the various beaches and the town center, which is very beautiful with it houses made of granite stone. Kwinten and Lotte also loved the place, though be it because of the unavoidable souvenir shops which immediately caught their attention.W

We left on Sunday 23rd of September, and decided to sail from start to finish. The recent re-reading of V&V’s “Si on vous faisait aimer la petole” certainly had something to do with this decision. We beated up in 6-8 knots winds, and were able to reach speeds of 4-6 knots. Yes indeed, the log is a tad optimistic, but not more than 0,5 knots. In spite of her 10 tons GRT + 1,5 tons DWT, she keeps surprising us positively. Reaching the open sea, the wind turned about 100 degrees, and we put spinnaker to keep some speed in Aspro.

We spent the night anchored in front of the isle of Cies, which actually deserved much more time then we could dedicate. We had to continue to Vigo however for the pending repairs. It was our intention to return for more in depth exploration after, but the weather would decide otherwise.

Registering at Vigo was very entertaining and rich in gadgets. Both Kwint and Lotte came along, and the presence of a grand daddy caused us to return much heavier loaded than we came. The harbor master also took it upon himself to contact the best electronics repair man of Vigo to free us from our worries. After Mr Raymarine’s visit we visited Vigo, getting 60% of the family a haircut and a lollipop for around 20 Euros. Outsourcing can be rewarding… Later we visited the local hypermarket “Corte Ingles” to buy an overly deserved gift for both Kwinten and Lotte. Kwinten returned with around 0.5 m of fire-men truck, while the Lotte opted, 100% independently, and after a selection process of a mere 20 minutes, for a farmer’s tractor and cart filled with cattle. Both toys are off course battery powered, and according to Lotte and Kwinten need sleep in bed with Kwinten and Lotte to prevent early depletion of these batteries. Descending the escalators, one of them swallowed Lotte’s shoe. Everything happened that fast that the complete family ended up a floor lower in a bit of a shock. Many cashiers rushed to our rescue, but when one told us “to be more carefull”, the lid came off. Both Kwinten and Lotte were walking at a parent’s hand, and neither was playing. We were so annoyed about the comment that we decided to file an official complaint, which off course will get us nowhere but at least relieved us of some pressure.

Yesterday’s harvest of gadgettery was completed today with free access to the marinas swimming pool. Kwinten reacted enthusiastically, and proved his status of water rat by swimming 200 meters under own power, using a small floating device. Leen continued our barber outsourcing, bringing the overall cost at 30 Euros, about 2 Euros more than Leen’s average haircut in Belgium.

Autohelm repair man proved to be a real Spaniard, preferring to sell a re-composed/repaired unit in stead of a new one. However, the repair proved insufficient, and thus a complete new computer had to be ordered, setting us back two more days and many more Euros. At the same time he did a full checkup of our VHF antenna-cabling, and installed a new VHF unit for only 200 Euros.

Wednesday was spent by the men washing the bed sheets using the Curver boxes on the pontoon, due to the exaggerated price quoted by the local laundry shops, while the ladies went hunting for a new Crock shoe. We like some corners of Vigo, while others really smell bad.

Thursday 27th of September will be remembered as resurrection day for our autopilot. Mr. Raymarine was delayed until 11:00, but finally the new computer was installed.  The next problem was to gather the necessary funds to pay in cash, as the cash dispensing machines in Vigo refuse to give more than 600 Euros per card per day.  Three cards and two machines had to be visited to do the job.

We really enjoyed the time spent on the Spanish North coast, though we felt sorry not to have entered the Bask Country and the various little fishing harbors there. Maybe next time sounds a bit off…

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