Tuesday 18 September 2018

Ria de Arousa

Saturday 8 September to Tuesday 11 September 2018

We headed out of Ria de Muros and Noia early on Saturday morning as it was an 8 hour passage from Muros to Ria de Arousa and we wanted to get there before  Again there was no wind and again we were under motor.  However, it did give us the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful dramatic coastline along the way.

To get to Ria de Arousa you have to navigate a number of rocks and islands along the way, so there are two routes you can take – either on the outside of all the rocks and islands or slowly navigate your way through them.  We had planned our passage based on the weather forecast, which was predicting between 12-15 knots.  We were lucky if we were getting 5 knots.

As the wind was so still, Mark decided that it was safe enough to take the inner route into the Ria and go through the rocks and islands.  Wow, what a treat it was. Not only did it take a couple of hours off our journey, but the scenery was amazing.

Isla Salvora and outlying rocks
(Photo courtesy of the internet)

We went past Isla Salvora, which is part of the Atlantic Islands National Park.  These are protected islands and to anchor or visit them you have to have a permit and book in advance as the authorities control the number of visitors at any given time. Anchoring or landing without a permit or permission can lead to a hefty fine.

Ria de Arousa is the largest of the Rias and was once the most wealthiest part of the region. It is home to half of the mussel farms in the Rias and they claim that their waters produce the best seafood in the country.  They also claim that some of Spain's best white wines are produced in Cambados, capital of the Albarino wine.

I have to say that we didn’t do a lot in Ria de Arousa. We found a little bay with a pretty sandy beach to anchor in on Saturday and stayed there until Monday.

We would have probably stayed longer, but we were awoken by is loud fisherman trawling the bay which we were anchored in. Clearly it was a ripe area as we'd  seen numerous divers and small boats with fishing rods protruding from the back over the weekend.

So, we pulled up anchor, had a sail around the Ria (yay, there was wind) and then dropped anchor in a small bay behind Isla de Arousa and watched the most beautiful sunset.

Tuesday we pulled up anchor and headed off to Ria de Pontevedra.

Monday 17 September 2018

Ria de Muros

Saturday 1st September to Saturday 8 September 2018

We headed out of Camarinas and made our way to the first of the Rias that we are visiting.

The Rias Baixas are a set of four estuaries within Galicia, northern Spain.  We were heading to the first of the Rias, Ria de Muros and Noia. To get to this Ria we would have to round the infamous Cape Finisterre, which is the western most point of Europe (the equivalent of our Land's End).

The landscape and weather conditions of the Rias are a mixture of those you would find in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall, but with glorious sunshine and horrendous fog!

We left Camarinas at about 9.00am and headed out into the Atlantic. Eureka, there was wind! With the excitement of a child on their way to a party, Mark raised the sails and turned the engine off. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, glorious sunshine and a northerly breeze of between Force 4 to 5. Perfect sailing conditions.

We managed to sail for about 5 hours, just before we got to Cape Finisterre. By now we were baking in the sun and down to not a lot of clothing (although we had factor 50 on!).

I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed by Finisterre. After the dramatic views of Capo Vilan, Finisterre was slightly underwhelming.  Having said that, the coastline is stunning and you have to respect the sea and the rocks it hides just beneath.

We had already decided that we didn’t want to go straight into a marina, we wanted to appreciate the beauty of the Ria and anchor in small bays for a few days. So, we headed past the main town of Muros and headed to Ensenada de San Francisco which is a small bay on the village of Louro.

Louro is a small village set on the eastern side of Mount Louro which is an area of outstanding beauty and nature reserve.  The village itself is very popular with Spaniards and is geared up for tourism.  Having said that, it’s maintained its identity and is not overtly commercial.  This is probably because the Ria is the least developed and has maintained its authenticity.

Sunday afternoon we took Upbeat ashore so that we could have a wander around the village and have dinner at a fish restaurant on the beach.  The wander around the village didn’t take long as there wasn’t much to see, so we headed to the beach bar.  We shared a fish platter and a bottle of Albarino wine, both of which were delicious.

Getting back to Offbeat was interesting.  As there was no moon, the sky was very dark so pushing Upbeat out into the water in pitch darkness, knowing that there were rocks around us was very sobering.  Thankfully Mark had put our anchor light at half mast so we could tell which yacht was ours. Would have been interesting if we’d rocked up at one of the other boats!

Monday morning the fog decided to join us.  It was fascinating watching it creep in over the water and through the wooded hillside.  At times we couldn’t see the beach or the rocky landscape on the way to the beach so we stayed on board and caught up with jobs.

By mid afternoon the fog had cleared, although the weather was still cloudy.  As there were strong winds from the north forecast, we decided to pull up anchor and find shelter from them.  So, we headed to our next destination which was Esteiro and arrived just in time to watch the sun set over the hill tops.

We had a lovely day in Esterio the next day, just wandering around soaking up the ambience of the village and watching people go about their daily business.  Esterio is a lovely little village tucked away in the corner of the Ria and as it’s not bothered by tourists it has a real authentic feel about it. We stopped off at the little cafe for coffee – 4 coffees and 4 cakes €7. Unbelievably cheap and fantastic service from the lady that owns it.  We bought fresh bread and eggs from the bakery, had a drink in one of the bars overlooking the beach and wandered back to Upbeat to row back to Offbeat.


It was at this point Mark decided I should have a lesson in rowing and I’m very proud to say that I got us back to the boat. Ok it did take a long time and we did go via the Swedish boat moored in the middle of the Bay, but we got there in the end!

Wednesday we headed to the town of Muros.  We had hoped to go to Portosin but they just so happened to be hosting the international La Solitaire yacht race.  This is an annual single handed yacht race from France to Spain and back via the Bay of Biscay.  They were due to arrive in Portosin on Wednesday and were there until the Saturday, so there was no room at the inn!

When we arrived at Muros, we went to the marina office to check in and the duty manager asked us how long we were staying.  One or 2 nights we said. You’ll stay longer was his reply and he was right.  I am a great believer in things happen for a reason and as it turned out staying in Muros was much more interesting than we had ever hoped it would be.

Muros is a town of historic and architectural significance and many of its structural features are protected. It was once a major fishing port, benefiting from deep waters and continues to have a thriving fishing community.

The town itself features many narrow and colonnaded streets which are to be found behind the main square which is home to a very palacial town hall.  The streets of the old town are very narrow and steep, with numerous flights of steps taking you from one level to the next.

Muros is also one of the coastal town known for the quality of tapas, especially seafood and Mark and I can certainly vouch for this.  We had octopus and squid that just melted in your mouth, not the rubbery tinned stuff that takes minutes to chew!

After a visit to the local tourist information centre,  we discovered that the origins of Muros and Noia date back to the bronze age and there are a number of Petroglyphs in the area that confirms this.  Petroglyphs are images created in rock surface by removing part of the surface and are a form of rock art capturing thoughts and beliefs in time.

Oh boy, were we going to be busy sightseeing here! I won’t bore you with the minor details of our six mile hike through the forest and hills on Thursday, but we eventually found the petroglyphs on an obscure but very atmospheric rock outcrop in the woods.


If that wasn’t enough culture for one week,  on Friday we headed off by bus to Santiago de Compostela as it only takes 1 ½ hours by bus from Muros.  I have to give it to the Spanish, their transport system is really rather good, even in little remote villages there’s still a daily bus service.

Santiago de Compostela is the capital city of the Galicia region.  It is also known as the end point of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and the alleged burial site of the Apostle St James, whose remains lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela can be via a number of different pilgrimage routes, some famous and some relatively unknown, but they all have one thing in common – the pilgrimage is seen as a form of spiritual retreat from modern life or as a form of spiritual growth.  The majority of people undertaking the pilgrimage do so by foot, with the most common route starting on the French side of the Pyrenees and covering about 800 kilometres.


In addition to the Cathedral, the old town is home to narrow winding streets and numerous beautiful historic buildings and squares.  The only downside to this is that the old town is overtly geared to tourism which somehow undermines the reason why the city is famous and why so many pilgrims make their pilgrimage to the city.

Having said that, we had a wonderful day out exploring the old town and visiting the Cathedral.  I loved the Cathedral and waited patiently in line for 50 minutes to pass the tomb of St James.  It was very spiritual and quite humbling and I can see why people make the pilgrimage to the city.

Mark was waiting for me patiently outside the Cathedral (20 minutes was enough for him!), but I knew that by now he needed a beer, so in true Spanish style we left church and went for drinks and tapas.

By Saturday we were ready for some peace and tranquillity so we said goodbye to Muros and headed off to Ria de Arousa.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Camarinas Revisited

Wednesday 29 August to Saturday 1 September 2018

We set off from Laxe early on Wednesday morning, eager to put the trauma of the last 24 hours behind us.  The weather was overcast when we left, but no where near as bad as what we’d experienced on Tuesday.

Yet again there was only a slight wind so we had to motor to Camarinas.  Thankfully it’s a short journey of 20 miles and took us about 4 hours. Unfortunately we didn’t have the dolphin show to keep us amused, so we had breakfast and coffee instead.

One thing that did get Mark excited was rounding Capo Vilan, which is a notorious headland on the Costa de Morte, which has claimed numerous boats and lives.  The buildings on the cape are like something out of a James Bond movie, very dark and sinister looking, which could be hosting machines and men ready to take over the world!

We arrived in Camarinas at about midday. This is Mark’s second visit to Camerinas.  It was landfall on his first Biscay crossing, when he crewed for another boat and it was here that he realised just how much he loved sailing in the open ocean and was determined to one day cross Biscay and return to Camarinas in his own boat.  So for Mark, entering Camarinas and mooring up was the realisation of a major ambition.

Once safely moored up, we headed up to the office to do the paperwork (you have to show passports, proof of boat ownership and insurance every time you go into a marina).  However, as we had arrived at lunchtime, it coincided with siesta time so the office was closed and they were all in the bar having tapas.  It would have been rude not to have participated in wine and tapas as well before a little afternoon snooze (we were ready for it after our 4am awakening!), so that set the tone for our stay in Camarinas!

Paperwork sorted, we showered and changed and headed off to a fish restaurant that had really good reviews on Google. Hmmm. The food was delicious, but it was bit of a culture shock when you order crab for starters and get two whole crabs plonked in front of you with claw crackers, but nothing to wipe your hands with.  Oh well, if you can’t beat them, join them – lick your fingers clean!  I then had mixed fish platter with noodles, which was absolutely delicious.  The prawns here are something else, so big and juicy (once you’ve peeled them and again no hand bowl). Mark had monkfish and boiled potatoes, which was also delicious.  I must give credit where its due, you could taste the freshness of the fish, but the service left a lot to be desired.  Never mind, there was a married  couple on the table next to us that kept us entertained for the evening

Next day we spent the morning doing mundane things like engine checks and washing, but by the afternoon we both had a strong urge to break free of Offbeat and go for a walk.  And boy, what a walk we had.

We left Camarinas with a view to go for a walk for a couple of hours. We headed out towards the hills that we had seen when we’d sailed in to Camarinas. And we just kept walking. The views were absolutely stunning and there was always a hint of more on offer. We ended up walking to the top of Monte Farelo.

On top of Monte Farelo is the beautiful church Ermida Da Nosa Senora Do Monte. The church dates back to the 18th Century and has a very significant history with the fishing community of the Ria.  It is said that women  would climb on the roof of the chapel to change the direction of the tiles and therefore the direction of the wind so that men had good days of fishing and return safely.  The church is still revered by the community and every Easter Monday the community undertake a pilgrimage from the town of Camarinas to the Hermitage, carrying a sacred image of the Virgin Mary.  Three turns of the Hermitage are undertaken and she is asked to look after the community, particularly those that go to sea.

In addition to the church, the views from Monte Farelo were spectacular. To the right is the landscape as far as Capo Vilan and it’s stunning coast and beautiful beaches, to the left is Camarinas and Muxia and straight ahead is Punta da Barca. On top of that was the smell and the colours of the ocean and the heather. It truly is an amazing coastline, with something for everyone.

We headed back into town via a different route, that brought us out at the back of the town so that we completed a full circle of the hills. Then we found a bar and had a couple of drinks to finish our day.