La Coruna to Gibraltar
After a relaxing day recovering from the night before and getting some washing and shopping done we left La Coruna the next morning, headed south down the Spanish Rias for a series of relaxed day sails in 6 hour hops. First stop was Lage where we spent at least five attempts to anchor, dragging the anchor through just about the entire anchorage and waking everyone up on the neighbouring boats. Finally we held and settled down for the night.
Next morning an early start on towards Ria de Muros, and we finally had some wind that wasn’t coming straight at us, so a nice sail ensued around Cape Finnistere and we arrived at Muros and put ashore in time to enjoy some Tapas. We realised that we were extremely low on diesel, but it was a Saturday and the nearby bunkering station wasn’t open until 3pm Monday, which seemed to typify the Spanish’s relaxed attitude to work! We used the last dregs of diesel to go on a little excursion up the other side of the Ria and then visited Noya, a town supposedly dubbed ‘Spanish Florence’ but a slight disappointment except for a couple of nice buildings.
Having taken on water and 1100 litres of fuel the next afternoon (showing that the fair Northerly winds expected at this time of year to help us sail from France were not necessarily to be relied upon) we set off towards Isla Salvora where we stayed the night. After having many problems anchoring in the dark we realised that the anchor was badly bent, and so had to heft the 180lb fisherman’s anchor overboard instead, an enjoyable task to be repeated many times in the next week. After a windy night we set off early towards the Isles Cies, some lovely islands to the west of Vigo. On the way we were assaulted by rain and very high winds and seas, so decided to pull in to Bueu which gave us some welcome shelter and a chance to enjoy a quantity of beer in a local bar, followed by a slightly drunken shopping trip.
Next day we arrived at Isla Agudo, the main island of the Isles Cies and put ashore for a nice walk around the island along the beach. During the walk we spotted a less crowded anchorage off one of the smaller islands, Isla St. Martin, and motored around and anchored close to the beach in lovely clear water.
Spotting a rocky hill that looked like it needed conquering, we all set off early the next morning before breakfast for a two hour climb through brambles and gorse and arrived at the top of the hill somewhat scratched and sweaty.
We spent the rest of the day lazing around and had an excellent sail into Vigo, arriving about 6pm and straight off to the local bars (after a shower) to celebrate Guy’s last night. Guy valiantly finished off the last of the Stella after a fine meal and lots of strange alcoholic drinks served from a barrel in jugs and from unlabelled bottles in the fridge – luckily none of us were blind the next morning, although we did experience some bad headaches and Guy almost missed his train.
Following a recommendation from a chat Jay had with someone at the quayside, we set off the following day (after having a day recovering from our hangovers, getting some washing and block maintenance done, and finding someone to weld up the broken gammon iron) to find “Manolo” at a fishing port on the other side of the Ria, who we were told could straighten and reinforce our anchor. After little hassle finding the right place, he had a look and asked us to return a couple of days later, so we headed off back to the Isles Cies to enjoy some beach activity while we waited – the weather had been steadily improving over the last day or two and we now had very warm sunny weather ahead of us for quite some time.
After putting in some rock climbing, scuba diving, sunbathing and snorkelling and having a generally relaxing time it was up at 6am a couple of days later to head back to Manolo for the anchor repair, which seemed to go OK.
We then headed off south, keen to get further down and into Portugal towards Lisbon, from where Noel and Jo were due to fly back home for a bit for Noel to complete sorting his life out and for Jo to do her last month at work.
Next stop after a day’s sail was Viana de Castillo, a very pretty small town where we tied up along the harbour wall for the evening and went out to dinner, then another day’s sail to Porto which was also very pretty, although time to explore the city was limited.
We were able again to stop on the harbour wall after travelling 4 miles up the river, although the entrance to the river was quite a ride as the Atlantic swell rose up over a sand bar and threw us about a bit, so we headed out at lunchtime the next day at high water and had a much better departure. We had several of the fairly frequent but still exciting encounters with dolphins, swimming alongside us and around the bow.
Video – dolphin antics
We were headed for Aveiro, but ended up doing an all-nighter and arrived in Lisbon late Wednesday 26th August, managing to find a spot in the marina where we moored on a pontoon and had the benefit of electricity and water nearby. We all then had several days of sightseeing in Lisbon and carried on with some of the inevitable repairs/jobs to be done; Noel and Jo leave and then there is only three!
Another sad departure from the boat was Keith, whose skin had finally given up the fight and had been discharging his stuffing all over the place. He was laid to rest in a comfortable looking bin.
Departing Lisbon after a few more days, we headed round the bottom of Portugal and into the Algarve, planning to meet Noel at Gibraltar a few weeks later. Although the boat is fine to handle with three people, there is obviously less time between watches (steering the boat, usually an hour each in turn during the day) and not much point in trying to sail overnight, since for safety we usually do watches in pairs.
First anchorage was Sesimbra, then the next evening after trying to sail in the light wind with all the sails up we stopped at Sines, where we moored up and made use of the washing machine at the marina.
Next morning we left not long after dawn since we had a fair way to go to the next available stopping point, and managed to just catch a thorough soaking from a thunderstorm as it rolled over the harbour and followed us out to sea. A little while later as the dark clouds cleared and the morning sun came through, it gave us a nice chance for some photos, and an idea for a new page on the website!
Click here to go the the "Arty photos" page. (Also on the 'Voyage' pop-up menu)
After escaping the thunderstorm we later rounded the St Vincent Cape on the bottom corner of Portugal and anchored off a lovely beach at Sagres for that evening and the next day, visiting the fort on the headland and even trying some surfing on the beach.
That night, there was a lovely sunset over the Cape that we rounded earlier at the corner of Portugal. The little rock off the end is called 'Gigantica'.
The next couple of days saw daytime journeys to Portimao (full of rowdy pink British tourists) and on to Faro, having a rare lovely sail with a flat sea and strong but steady wind on the beam (from the side). We anchored up the tidal river at Faro where there was a large amount of birds on the estuary wetlands, also a nice sunset.
We woke up to loads of fishermen in their little boats fishing all around us, and nearly managed to run one of them over on our way out of the river - we realised afterwards that he wasn’t suicidal, he was just practically blind judging from the thickness of his glasses. As soon as we got outside the river, we were straight into sea fog, our first really thick patch since leaving Britain. Since fog usually burns off fairly quickly in the morning, we carried on thankful to the radar system that we fitted before leaving!
After the fog eventually cleared after lunch, the wind and sea remained calm so we just motored on to outside El Rompido where we stayed that evening, and motored through the next calm day into the mouth of the Guadalquivir river where we anchored in the riverbank.
The run up the river, some 55 miles, could be accomplished with the help of the tide in about 6 hours if caught right, so we went off with the tide in the morning, through very hot, still weather all day and arrived outside Seville in late afternoon. Used to the usual sea breeze, we were hot in Seville as the weather reached 40 degrees!
Having made it through the big lock into the Seville docks and dodged the container ships we came to a swing bridge which as far as we were aware, would lift up to let us go underneath. In the end we had to wait two and a half hours for it to open, since it only opened at a certain time every two days…eventually we moored at the Seville yacht club, where we stayed for five days mostly due to the three swimming pools to choose from!
Unfortunately, certain crew members were not allowed ashore before they tidied their bunks….
The usual mixture of maintaining the boat and sightseeing ensued - Merryn painted the side of the boat, Jay repainted and cleaned the F'castle and Rob put on the guard rails, useful in stopping people falling over the side.
There are things that you have to see in Seville - the massive cathedral and the Alcazar, a beautiful tiled palace with extensive grounds.
We finally pulled ourselves away from the swimming pools and set off back down the river from Seville, going out through the bridge at the only available time of 8pm. We thought it might be a good idea to go on through the lock and anchor in the river in order to get an early start the next day, but light was failing and we ended up having a few close shaves with the sharply sloping river bank in the dark, actually getting stuck aground for a while, and having to pull ourselves off with the anchor (which was dropped into the middle of the channel by dinghy); we had to do this before the tide went down any further and left us high and dry!
We finally anchored safely back near the lock three hours later.
The next morning we were up early to catch the tide down the river, spotting some flamingos feeding in the mud on the way, and stopping again near the nature reserve at the bottom in the afternoon. We went ashore to try to spot the infamous feral camels, but all we saw were wild horses, some deer and lots of mosquitoes that decided to eat us alive. We had a barbeque on deck that evening, hoping that the smoke would keep them at bay.
The next morning we were off again in a South Easterly direction down the coast towards Gibraltar, unfortunately we were lacking a small scale chart of this particular area past Cadiz, so we stayed well off shore just in case, making our journey a little longer. Going round Cape Trafalgar towards Barbate, our scheduled stop for the night, the sea was extremely bumpy, reminding us of our Biscay crossing, although once round the cape, we headed into Barbate in slightly calmer sea.
After a few beers and a decent night’s sleep we headed for Tarifa and on the way had our first sight of the Atlas mountains on the North African coast. A ‘Levanter’ is the gale that sometimes blows out of the Mediterranean Sea through the Gibraltar Strait and with our usual luck we found ourselves beating into both some version of this wind and a strong current flowing against us – so the easy twenty miles ended up taking us six hours, with the engine going full tilt!
When we left Tarifa the next morning, this time trying to time our departure with the current, there was a beautiful sunrise over the African coast.
We arrived in Gibraltar that early afternoon after dodging the huge cruise ships and tankers in the busy bay, and settled into a berth at one of the marinas after visiting the customs dock (back to British red tape.) It was strange to see British road signs, Marks & Sparks, bobbies on the beat, etc. but to have lovely hot weather at the same time. We were even more pleased to see cheap duty free booze and fags and to visit Tesco’s and re-discover the special British items such as Marmite & Coffee Mate that we hadn’t seen for some time..
Rob was also most pleased to find that the harbour had a broadband wireless internet connection, so he could sit in the cockpit and do the website update (geek!)
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