9th August 2005

La Coruņa to Gijon

When Derrick left I did lots of cleaning and laundry, having 36 hours before John Carlsson arrived. I decided to save a little money by anchoring off the harbour for the two nights and in the calm of evening the city appeared alive with colour and people.

Now here's a thing. Most of you will know that I invested in a flat in Bilbao a while back. Compared to the process in Ireland, buying property here is much more civil and less hassle. I bought from a guy called Aitor and the estate agent got the two of us together and said this guy is going to give you 10% on agreement to sell at this price, "OK?" He agrees and we all have coffee to discuss dates, logistics, etc. Then we meet again when the deal is finalised. We have coffee and chat before Aitor, I and the estate agent go to the notary public's office. She asks us does we agree to the deal. We say yes and she signs the property over to me. Deal done. Then its all off to the bank to pay over the money. Very simple. My plan was to rent the place and the estate agent had tennants lined up from the end of the month so I let Aitor leave stuff there for a bit until he had space to move. One of the days I met his mum who is from Galicia. We chatted about my plans and she said that I would have to come visit her Galician summer house when I was out west. It was the sort of invite that Irish and English make without ever expecting the invite to be taken up. Anyway, just after my arrival in Galicia, I got a phone call from her saying that I must come out. I was surprised but pleased to get the invite. I was up to my eyes with bowthrusters at that stage so I explained I would try to meet up when I came back to La Coruņa after my spin south. So the day of Johnīs arrival I hopped on a bus to Guitiriz and met up with Tere, Aitorīs mum, Begoņa, his sister and family. We had traditional Galician octopus with young red wine in the market in the town, followed by a leisurely coffee and Orujo (herbal liqueur) back at the house. Then Begoņa's hisband Rafa dropped me back to the city. It was a great aftenoon with some really pleasant open people who only fancied a chat with this weird Irish guy who had stumbled across their path in Bilbao. The question is, would that have happened in Ireland!"?

So anyway, John Carlsson arrived and we set off on glassy seas for the trip back east. The high pressure was back in place so we had good weather ahead and low swell. Sadly John had to return a bit earlier than expected so we wouldn't have enough time to dawdle throught the Rias Altas as I had hoped. So first stop was Cedeira again where I hoped to meet up with Gordon and Ann who have been living on board for the last 8 years, cruising such exotic places as Ireland, the UK, carribbean, Nova Scotia, the US and were now slowly meandering along the north Spain coast. They are hoping to winter in the Canaries so they don't rush like me. They get to a nice place, stay there for a few days, and when the weather is right they head off again. Now, that is how to cruise. None of this slogging on lumpy seas.

Another big draw od Cedeira for me was the chance to dive again on the headland where Gerry and I went. I only saw a bit that time since Gerry had difficulty sinking that day (too much hot air!). But what John and I found were sea mounts, pillars of rock covered in sea life and great visibility. Some of the best diving I had done in years. From Cedeira, it was back to Viviero, a second day with little wind. But at least this time I could see the coast as there was a lot of fog on the journey west. The weather was playing a blinder except for the wind which was light and from the east. THe next day we were more hopeful as we would be heading south east. Indeed we did sail, yippee, for about 2 hours on smooth seas into Ribadeo. But then the weather started messing with us. Forecast was for strong wind on the nose the following afternoon, so we started early but found choppy seas and nasty wind. So it was back to Ribadeo for another night. We anchored in a bay nearby and went for a dive which did not live up to the one in Cedeira, but it was a nice way of passing a morning caught by the weather. In the afternoon we took the local ferry across the Ria to Castropol, a sleepy old town built on a small hill with wonderful views over the water. John made the valiant move to eat out that night so we spoiled ourselves on shellfish. Thank you John!

The wind had gone down a bit the next day so we headed to Luarca, 25 miles up the coast. It wasn't a very comfortable trip for John, who was coming down with a chest infection. But he battled on just glad to be covering ground and seeing a new harbour. Luarca doesn't make much allowances for yachts, making us stay in the outer harbour where the swell is still active at high water. Mooring is interesting as you have to come in with the dingy in the water and use it to thread a rope through a steel buoy before rowing ashore with a long rope to tie up on the keyside. It was a real operation but one I could not have done without John feeling comfortable enough to control the boat as I set up the ropes with the dingy. The town itself is beautiful with steep hills covered in houses and streets full of character. We found the medical clinic for John and were seen by a doctor immediately (would that happen in Irelad?). And then the medicine turned out to be only 2 euros!

The surge gets into the harbour at high water which meant for an incomplete nights sleep. Nonetheless, we were up at 7 the next day to avoid the worst of the wind which was forecast to be on the nose again. One of the things here is the fact that the wind here tends to be light in the morning and rises as the day heats up, falling off at sunset. So if you expect winds on the nose, you can make it easy on yourself by leaving early. Our next stop was Cudillero, 20 miles along the coast. It is another town perched on the steep sides of a gully which falls down to the sea. They built a massive breakwater here to enclose a reasonable sized harbour. It was a bit packed inside but we were able to use the berth of vessel which was away for a few days. We had lovely sunshine to greet us on our arrival after yet another day motoring.

By now John was feeling worse and found it difficult to walk around the town in the heat of the day so a course of antibiotics would have to be found in Gijon. I feel sorry for him this trip. So far we had covered 150 miles and sailed for a total of 3 hours. The only good thing was that we had seen no rain except a shower or two at night. So after a brief look at Cudillero we left earlyish on Sunday for the 25 miles around Cabo Penas to Gijon where we were due to meet up with John Brewster and family.

I had seen a lot of John over the winter when he was getting a new engine installed in Bilbao. Being a little quirky, him and I got on well and after meeting his wife Maureen I understood that there was more than one of them like that in the family! As for Claire the brave, she was joining after a trip to the Picos where she skinned animals alive, leaped mountains in a single bound and descended the big white water rivers (only slight exaggeration) and now she had the struggle of a month sailing ahead of her. I am not sure which was scarier: sailing for a month or being stuck in a confined space with a man with a shiny head and a woman who gets drunk on the smell of a barman's fart.

Anyway, we were able to sail for about an hour until the wind died only to rise up again from the wrong direction. Our arrival in port was to be a big spectator event as a number of crews I had seen were in the marina ready to give the critical eye on our manoevering into the berth in moderate winds. Luckily Pablo, the bowthruster, did a good job and we slid in with inches to spare on each side. There was a regatta going on with lots of racing boats from all north Spain, including quite a few from Bilbao, and the marina was all a buzz with people wearing loafers and brand names mixed with the scruffy crews of the cruising boats. Naturally you can picture which category I fit into !!!!

So now I am in Gijon waiting for favorable winds for the last 135 miles to Bilbao. Johns days are numbered and he has to leave in 2 days. So after that I will be on my own. Luckily, the weather as I go further east tends to be easier with lighter winds and a reduction on the ocean swell which made so many of our recent days uncomfortable.