Friday 5th June 2009
Posn 48deg 48’86N 008deg 31'.79W
We are 325nm from La Coruna and just 40 miles until we drop off the continental shelf. David says it's clearly marked so we will know and there's a bit of a step too. We are motor-sailing in just 3kts of wind - doh.
So David and Jacquie arrived yesterday morning and we began final preparations for the off. This involved a trip up the mast and replacing the deck light which David had sourced and brought with him (it blew in Kilmore Quay). We checked the weather forecast which showed some nasty stuff on Monday coming into North-West Spain. On www.passageweather.com this is shown as yellow and orange - when Jacquie commented on the sunshine we could expect we didn't have the heart ... Anyways it meant that we wanted to get into La Coruna area by Sunday evening, and even then we could be looking at a southerly F5 for a while. No time for tours of Kinsale and over to Castlepark Marina for diesel. We arrived just in time for the guys to go for lunch - so we hung around for 45 mins and then back to KYC marina for some spares we had ordered. Paul had been excellent at chasing them up but the latest was they had been moved from Skibbereen to Cork and were sitting on the counter with a note that they should be taken to Kinsale if anyone was passing. We decided not to wait or pay the 60 Euros for a taxi as they were nice to have and not essential. As one of our company commented there is no word in Irish that expresses the urgency of manana.
We departed Kinsale at 1515 and enjoyed three hours of a beam reach. We fitted the Windpilot and began to understand both its simplicity and power ... it steers the boat without using any. We think there is a little bit of German magic in there, maybe from the Black Forest. Norma played her outstanding role of maintaining morale by cooking up a chilli for dinner and then it was into our watchkeeping routine. We were motor-sailing as the wind was around 6-7kts and if we were to beat the weather system due on Monday we needed to keep up a minimum of 6kts. With the engine at 1800rpm this proved to be no problem. The night was calm and quiet - even the obligatory bout of MDM from one crew member was conducted with decorum and noiselessly. By 0920 the wind was up to 10-12kts and we were sailing again, with the Windpilot doing its stuff. Maybe we should revisit the "we are not giving it a silly name" policy as it seems to work like two additional crew members. We have seen a few bulk carriers, the odd container ship and a few fishing vessels but traffic is light.
The crew is in high spirits and we have one forecast of a northerly F6 so the preventer is at the ready and if it arrives we will bowl along. We should pass the halfway point around 0400 so we will just have to keep going then.
Sat 6th June 2009
We are currently at 46deg14'.19N 009deg00'.57W
For the overnight watches the wind remained variable to W/NW at 3-5kts, so the engine has been doing its stuff. At 2330 we crossed from the Continental shelf to the deep North Atlantic i.e going from just over 100 metres to over 4000 metres. David said we couldn't see the line in the sea because it was dark. The fuel tank is still showing over two-thirds full so our policy of 1800 rpm seems to have delivered both the required boat speed and fuel economy. By 0900 we had NW F4 and the engine came off. The new preventer and fore and aft guys for the poled out genoa were fitted and the boat took off. By 1130 the boat was doing over 8kts and hit 9.9kts at one stage, but the autopilot was not as happy as it should have been so a reef went in the main and we settled down to a more sedate 7.5kts. Yesterday we got out the sextant - an excellent purchase through e-bay - and David shot a sun sight. This was his first for 25 years and we kid you not, he was spot on compared to the GPS latitude. So to-day, in a rolling sea the feat had to be repeated just to see if it was a fluke. Well, despite the boom being partly in the way he was only 1nm out - we are very impressed, so the drinks will be on him when we get to Spain. As he came up into the cockpit with the sextant he had said to Jacquie "I'm going to shoot the sun", to which Jacquie replied, "oh no, what has Andrew (their son) done wrong now". Hm. We had just one brief rain squall in the morning and as the day has progressed the stratus-like clouds have cleared to fluffy fair weather Cumulus and lots of sun. We have been using the Windpilot again, but still need to hone our skills in fine tuning it. Because the wind was just east of north we had been on starboard and were heading west of our rhumb line, but at 1600 we gybed and are now heading directly for the Ria de la Coruna. We are contemplating heading to Sada first, in the Ria de Betanzos so that we can do a little cruising and exploring before heading round to the bigger town of La Coruna itself. We'll see. We will probably not arrive in the area until early evening tomorrow if the wind stays light or even goes into the
7th June 2009
Posn 43deg34.91N 008deg24'.18
It's raining. Er it's supposed to be sunny on the Spanish coast. You know, the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. Anyways we have had wind from the west and then from the south as predicted. In fact we have had wind from every direction on this trip. We are still aiming to get in ahead of the SW gale now forecast by Navtex and La Coruna radio for tomorrow. Looks like our plan to maintain 6kts is working since we expect to be tied up by 2200/2300 in Sada - we have gone firm on this as our first destination. The last 24 hours have seen us in the company of a lot of traffic - about 0200 we were in the middle of a fishing fleet, accompanied by south-east-going cargo ships, including one container ship which as overtaking vessel and to port of us should have changed course - we ended up putting our 5 million candela light on his bridge and turning 20 degrees away to starboard to avoid the bugger. Anyone on the bridge?? We should report it to the MCGA - oh, no problems on that score since we have our very own MCGA rep on board. The other traffic has been dolphins - we have had three visits from pods of 8/9 dolphins that came leaping in alongside Minnie B and staying with us for 20-30mins at a time. It is so good - they are lovely creatures. Apart from that it's been look out, adjust sails, eat, sleep, read, chat. Well what more can we want. The champagne is in the fridge awaiting our arrival in Sada.
Update - Arrived safely at Sada at 2115 - that's 500nm in 78 hours, and all's well.
9th June 2009
Location : Sada, Galicia
It’s raining ... still. Well, since we arrived on Sunday night we have had sunshine and showers but now, Tuesday evening we have solid rain. We even had breakfast in the cockpit to-day.
Yesterday we explored Sada a little – it’s a very clean and neat town which seems to be full of retired people. The municipality has even provided free, outdoor exercise machines which this morning were being used by a crowd of (well, for Sada it was a crowd – two) people. Nevertheless, there were lots of senior citizens out for walking. It was a bit like something from a LS Lowry painting as everyone was walking quite purposefully and carrying umbrellas.
The marina is huge but in very good shape. It even has a resident harbour dolphin which is 3-4 metres long, and comes up right beside the boats. Poor thing is covered in scars on its back from getting too close to propellers.
Yesterday evening, we encountered one of the many adjustments we will have to make, when we turned up at a restaurant at 2045 and were sent away as dinner does not start until 2100 at the earliest. However, we had a very nice meal, with David ordering the largest steak we have ever seen. In fact it was so big that there has been enough for dinner for the four of us to-day.
The Marina office person, Anna, recommended that we visit Betanzos, which used to be the capital of the region. It has a lovely main square and some 14th and 15th century churches. We just had to have a go at the automatic votive candles – you put 10 cents in a slot and an electric candle lights up. Presumably it’s safer than real candles, but still ... We had an excellent lunch at La Casilla, which included a traditional tortilla – potato and onion omelette. Dos raciones is enough for four people.
We have been taken by two characteristics of the local people – they are all very friendly and helpful, as we struggle with our quite pathetic (but improving) Spanish, and most of them seem to be, well, at its bluntest, short. David at six feet seven inches gets stares, and yesterday one poor woman who was on crutches nearly fell over as she hobbled along but was unable to take her eyes off him. No, seriously, it wasn’t funny. David is a health and safety risk to the local people so we will probably have to keep him on the boat and only let him go ashore when it’s dark.
Thursday 11th June 2009
Location: La Coruna, Galicia
Posn 43deg22’.07N 008deg23’.74W
It’s not raining ... yeehaa. Finally, the weather has changed and we have had sunshine. Fingers crossed it will last a while.
Yesterday it rained most of the day, despite the forecast indicating it would be over by lunchtime. We had a leisurely morning, filled up with water and diesel – the Fuel Berth at Sada marina has a row of ball fenders fixed so you don’t need to put out your own. It is very professionally run, but it is not cheap. We motored out of the marina and hoisted sail – Caspar, the Harbour Dolphin, had come alongside to say a final farewell - and we beat out of the Ria de Betanzos in a light wind with drizzle. Despite lots of fish farms we had no luck with the fishing line – we may have to try different lures as the mackerel feathers didn’t do it. As we rounded the island of Pena de la Marola, the wind freshened and Minnie B was sailing along beautifully close-hauled.
Soon after we had tied up in Darsena de la Marina, run by the Real Club Nautico, we had the cockpit tent up and the rain came in hard. We had a small celebration at yet another voyage successfully completed – OK, it was only 12nm, but it was a good 12nm. After dinner the rain cleared and we had a stroll around the centre of La Coruna. We are very impressed as we had the impression from the Pilot book that it was an industrial/port city with little by way of charm. Wrong – it has some delightful architecture and a lovely square, Praza Maria Pita. Now, this square is named after a woman who allegedly led the resistance to Sir Francis Drake’s attempts to capture La Coruna in the aftermath of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Really, whose leg are they pulling? As if ...
Now we had a bit of a surprise here in La Coruna. I mean, you sail nearly 700 miles from Ringhaddy and whose boat do you tie up next to? Of course, it’s obvious isn’t it? Yes, ‘Hilaros’, the Moody 36 belonging to Peter Cheyne, the Commodore of Ringhaddy Cruising Club. Now that’s some coincidence ... and a fund of knowledge about Galicia.
To-day we had a trip to Santiago de Compostela, which is a 45 minutes train ride. The train was modern, clean and on time. S de C was once the third most important Christian pilgrimage site after Jerusalem and Rome. Its importance derives from the discovery of the supposed tomb of St James the Apostle in the 9th century. There is an outstanding cathedral dating from the 11th-13th centuries with an ornate high altar in silver and gold. We entered during the 1200 mass and the place was packed with pilgrims – rucksacks, walking sticks and boots everywhere. Many of the pilgrims have a scallop shell, which is also prevalent on many parts of the cathedral, as it is the symbol of St James. But then you all knew that, didn’t you? Coquilles St Jacques?
S de C has many medieval squares, convents and churches, and is well worth a visit. We had lunch away from the tourist areas by the market. It was excellent value – two courses, a beer and a coffee for 10 Euros each.
We are developing a fondness for the character of the place – the people are very nice, friendly and helpful. The motorists seem considerate to pedestrians and other drivers – now that’s strange, compared with the UK. Most importantly, there are lots of people over six feet tall in La Coruna so we can let David out without scaring the natives.
13th June 2009
Our exercise regime is in full swing and comprises lots of walking and right arm raises. The walking yesterday included a visit to the Torre de Hercules which was originally a Roman lighthouse, falling into disrepair and being plundered for its stone before being restored in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are 234 steps to the viewing gallery from where we got our first sight of the Costa da Morte – the Coast of Death – which runs west from here and is so called beacause of the many ships lost in storms or smashed on the rocks by gales. We are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast.
We had Peter and Sally over for drinks and the craic was mighty. Then it was off to the Real Club Nautico for dinner. Reeds Almanac indicates that the club welcomes visitors but for men a jacket and tie are needed, especially in the evening. Not so, but nevertheless we smartened ourselves up. Friday night is buffet night and is the most amazing value – we had two rounds of drinks before dinner, three courses (the starters were superb), three bottles of wine and coffee, all for 16.25 Euros a head. Now there’s something for RNIYC to contemplate. The club is large and spacious and the staff are indeed most welcoming. We were well looked after. We will be back.
Then, of course, we had to have a nightcap as it was our last night on this trip with David and Jacquie. Their company has been superb and we have had a lot of fun.
They left us at 1200 to take the trian to Santiago de Compostela and the flight to Dublin. We look forward to their next visit. We are assuming they will return even though Jacquie claims she was forcibly sedated and press-ganged into the Biscay crossing. It’s not true about being press-ganged.
We did a bit of shopping at the local market and just thought to ourselves “Hm, this is what we do now – no hopping in the car and heading for Sainsbury’s”.
Then we did a mammoth wash – how can so few people produce so much laundry in just two weeks. The facilities at the marina are OK but we dried clothes on Minnie B – quite a few people off other boats asked if we would take in their laundry. At last we have found an opportunity to supplement our income ... not.
Dinner was freshly caught (not by us) sardines – note to self, make sure you spend more time cleaning the scales off. It was a bit like picking your way through a pile of plastic at times, but they were good.
The evening was rounded off with an episode of ‘Fortunes of War’ the TV dramatisation of the two Olivia Manning trilogies – the acting is awesome: Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. To bed and at peace.