So many people pick up their yachts in La Rochelle and head straight for the Med. Quite a few of them had said to us “don’t rush the Spanish Rias, like we did...” OK so sometimes we try to take the advice of the experts. Although we had a late start to the season, our fearless skipper planned a steady pace down the Atlantic coast on our way to Gibraltar, as chances are we probably wont be back this way any time soon. Our aim was to do short day hops between anchorages and if we liked somewhere, stay a little longer, if not, move on. In the back of our minds was our timing to go through the Straits of Gibraltar which gets pretty hairy later in the year. Another time constraint was to get the first and very important (from a warranty perspective) service on the Volvos (engines) which is due between 40-60 hours. Hard to predict but Vigo (ES) turned out the be the right place to do it, and we just got in before the agent went on summer holidays!
So back to the Spanish Rias, the rivers that line the Atlantic coast of Spain and the beautiful towns and Anchorages that are hidden within. Certainly some gems amongst them. Check out “The Tour” section of this website to see some of the highlights and photos.
High and dry in Combarro
We almost missed this one thinking it would be better to just anchor off a beach closer to the coast and make a quick exit in the morning, but the RCC pilot hinted that this was not one to miss, and they were right! The old fishing village had been restored, maintaining the original charm and character, and possibly some of the original residents. This one also wins the award for the narrowest streets so far, with many of them pedestrian (and motorbikes) only. One of the main features of the town was the multitude of Herreos or storage “sheds” that seem to take up prime real estate in the waterfront, some with restaurant tables tucked in underneath. Originally used to store grain or root vegetables through winter, aided by the constant flow of fresh air through the slots. We arrived in the middle of the day, anchored in moderately shallow water just off the marina. We headed into town for sight-seeing, pulling the RIB up onto a concrete ramp and tying it off to an older wooden dinghy that didn’t look like it was going anywhere anytime soon. After walking all the way through the old town we picked a restaurant for dinner and scoped out a small wharf nearby where we could tie up the RIB and nonchalantly step onshore for a carefree evening. We returned to ITIKI for a siesta (as one must in these parts) and headed back out for dinner around 8ish. As we motored in to our pre-selected target, we saw one of the locals waving madly at us from a window, gee people are friendly here, although he actually looks like he is shooing us away... Oops its getting pretty shallow all of a sudden, oh dear the tide is out BIG TIME. Looks like we wont be tying up to that wharf after all, lets leave the RIB here and walk the rest of the way across the mud flats - good thing I didn’t wear my heels... Once we sat down at the restaurant and realised the tide was still going out (for another 3 hours as it turns out) Keith decided he had better go back and push the RIB out a little further, an exercise he repeated 3 times between courses, with its final position being closer to ITIKI than the restaurant. We could have walked home and did wonder if ITIKI was sitting on her keels... Anyway nothing like an after dinner stroll across a kilometre of mud flats to get back to your RIB to drive 100m to the mothership. Note to selves, check tides BEFORE going out to dinner. At least we provided some entertainment for the locals and now we know what those floating yellow buoys mean (low water mark). A lovely English couple arrived at ITIKI not long after we got back to make an apology, firstly for anchoring so close to us (windlass issue at a critical moment) and secondly for laughing at us picking our way across the mud flats. We shared a port and a few stories and they emailed us the photos they took...
Viana do Castelo - What a gem!
So here we are in Portugal, on our French built, Australian registered yacht, drinking Tanqueray, overlooking a double decker bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel and about to eat a chicken vindaloo made with a spice mix I bought from a shop on Lygon St in Melbourne... In front of us a French yacht, behind us Spanish and Norwegian. Where else in the world would you rather be?? Apologies for those reading this in the office...
This town in serious party mode in the lead up to the festival of ... There are speakers in surround sound mode pumping out festive music, think “hooked on Abba”, followed by German folk music, accordion crimes and some Morris dance tunes! The streets are packed with holiday makers and locals, there is an artisan market with traditional foods and some slightly evil looking puppets, and at night are lit up like Christmas (or at least the early years of Vivid). This town was a pleasant surprise when we thought it would be just another little town along the way. Well worth a visit.
First world problems
Of course there is a less glamorous side to cruising on a luxury yacht, and that is “housework”. Its hard to get cleaners to turn up on a weekly basis like at home, and of course there is always washing to be done. Fortunately a two tiered clothesline is conveniently located around the perimeter of our gorgeous vessel (they also double as lifelines...) and as you may have noticed in the pictures, ITIKI has a 5kg Bosch front loader in starboard fore peak and a 5KVa generator that should make light work of the task, either in a marina or at anchor, right?! Wrong!! Well we had no problem washing in the marina on shore power, but anchored out, the drum would just not turn, leaving me with a load of wet clothes, a locked washing machine door and an error message that gave little hope of resolution without divine intervention - not even Google could help with this one! By now we are in Portugal where I have so far learned to say please, thank you and gin-tonic (the latter seems to be the same in every language, although “do you have Fevertree tonic?” gets some strange looks...) Nod from MHS had made a valiant attempt to diagnose our problem via email and phone but there was no getting away from the need to call the manufacturer’s technical help line - not exactly how I planned to spend my morning in Porto... grrr. I tried, I failed - its hard to explain how much more difficult this minutia is to deal with when you live on a boat with no fixed address in a foreign country, where you don't speak the language - off to the marina office for assistance. Wow, the lovely Claudia at Marina Douro, abrogado! (thank you!) Once we had established that my “broken washing machine” was not actually the shower (“people washing machine”) but the “clothes washing machine” we were in business! Thanks to her brilliant negotiation Mr Bosch would be paying us a visit, at the marina between 13h30 and 18h30 tomorrow - good to know that booking a time with tradies is the same the world over eh?! Mr Bosch did indeed turn up, escorted by the lovely Claudia, at 14h30 while I was doing my nails, and promptly fixed the error message issue. Now to the generator issue, well thank you Mr Bosch for resetting the power frequency (WTF?!) of the “clothes washing machine” to the correct number for the generator. I clearly do not have sufficient university degrees to manage ITIKI's more technical aspects. Now I am so hot and bothered I think I need to test out the AirCon on the genset, oh and I think it is time for the gin-tonic....