Past the Coast of Death to the End of the Earth (Finisterre)

On Saturday 24h June we bid a reluctant farewell to La Coruna and motored out of the marina, past the huge H of the harbour control tower which certainly put the wee blue tower in Ardrossan in its place,

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and past the Tower of Hercules

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heading for our next stop at a small fishing village called Corme in the Ria de Corme Y Laxe.

Over the next couple of weeks we’d spend time heading along the Costa da Morte (coast of death) so named because there have been so many shipwrecks along its’ treacherous rocky shore.

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The pilot book was like many of them, full of dire warnings to keep well offshore to avoid the rocks which are constantly washed by the atlantic swells. In the event the swells were pretty small and we were able to stay relatively close in, motoring the 35 miles to Corme as there was no wind whatsoever.

Corme is a wonderful place with a couple of beaches sheltered behind another large breakwater. It was a lovely small village and we shared the anchorage with another couple of yachts, going ashore to wander through the town and visit the local bars

Blog 4-28We took time out to make water and to catch up on domestic chores, as demonstrated by using Coriander as a drying line 🙂

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This was a beautiful place and we were able to anchor here for 3 nights,

Blog 4-29before the wind turned round to the south, forcing us to move on.

Again we were forced to motor the 12 miles to Camarinas. The trusty pilot again stated that this Ria should only be entered in relatively calm weather due to it being exposed to the Atlantic – not a problem in the weather we had.

The northern half of the Ria is very sheltered, surrounded by pine forests and a shallow 3m pretty much throughout. the winds changed direction and got up to 30kts at times but we were completely secure and sheltered where we anchored, along with 4-5 other yachts.

Camarinas-3 There are a couple of beaches here

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Separated by a small rocky outcrop

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There is a small marina here catering for boats of 12m or less, with a couple of hammerheads that could take boats up to 18m. These were taken all the time that we were there.

There are 2 public slips where we could take the dinghy and leave it while we explored the town.

We spent a pleasant 4 days in this Ria, exploring some of the other anchorages and beaches by dinghy.

The weather had been pretty wild outside the Ria so we waited until magic seaweed predicted the swell would be less than 2m for our next trip around the notorious headland of Finisterre.

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We sailed and rolled for much of the journey, rounding the headland and marvelling at the crouds of tourists visiting the famous lighthouse

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and heading north to the stunning small town of Sardiniero. Again we anchored just off the beach

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where I had to go for a swim. I tested the water temperature first, then put my wetsuit on before heading out to ensure the anchor was well dug in, and to try out my new underwater camera.

Sardiniero-9There’s a small harbour and slip used by the local boats where we could go ashore and head into the town to buy bread and visit some of the bars.

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This final photograph shows the coast looking just like Arran, at least to us,

Sardiniero-11except that it’s hot and sunny 🙂

We were now heading for the softer and more affluent Rias to the south.

The Spanish know how to do fireworks…

We arrived in La Coruna after crossing Biscay,  described in our last blog, on the 20th July. We were assisted into our berth and told the office was closed but no problems, just go up the next day. So we had celebratory drinks and an early night to catch up on sleep.

The next morning we went up to the office where checking in was a breeze. Efficient and friendly staff checked our passports and ships papers, applied our cruising association discount and that was it. We were officially in Spain.

Blog 4-11Marina Coruna is located just inside the huge breakwater. it is about a 5 minute walk from the town centre and 2 minutes from the picturesque old town. The marina is aligned either side of a large walkway with finger pontoons and further walkways with fingers aligned from those. It is able to take boats up to 30m on fingers and while we were there, there were several large boats  – Halberg Rassey 64, Oyster 655 etc easily accommodated. The marina is full service. While we were there it wasn’t that busy and there was plenty of room for any new arrivals. You can hire electric buggies from the office if you don’t fancy the long walk if you are berthed towards the outer end. We were but we didn’t!

La Coruna was much larger than we expected. I don’t know why I had those expectations as it’s the largest town in Galicia. The town itself is pretty tourist oriented aligned either side of a peninsula with a large beach at one side and the port at the other.

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In common with many Spanish towns there are several very impressive squares or plazas.

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Blog 4-16We did the tourist thing and walked to the Tower of Hercules – apparently the oldest working lighthouse in the world. It was built in roman times and really is a work of art.

The stone carving was amazing with a spiral design all the way up.

It was only a 20 minute walk from the marina along the coastal promenade.

As you’d expect it was very busy with tourists and coach loads of school children. That said, it is definitely not to be missed.

There are several other artifacts on the site such as a huge compass and a miniature of Stone Henge!

A gorgeous beach lies at the foot of it and seemed to be a favourite with the locals.

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Blog 4-18No idea who this chap is but a photo opportunity not to be missed.

Anyway, back to the title of this blog. We’d originally planned on leaving La Coruna on the Thursday (after arriving Tuesday) however while we were walking round the town we saw lots of signs advertising the Festival of San Juan on the Friday and Saturday.

Commenting on this to some friends who’d been here a few years earlier, they said it wasn’t to be missed and that the Spanish do fireworks very well.

Not ones to miss a party we decided we’d extend our stay to the Sunday.

We were visited by Spanish Customs who spent 20 or so minutes with us completing various forms. They were very friendly offering advice on where to visit while we were there. We asked where was the best places to enjoy the festival and when it started. They said to go into town and enjoy the bars with the festivities coinciding with high tide at 3 o’clock.

The following day, Friday, we headed in to town, had a beer or so and made our way towards the beach for 3pm. We then found out we’d mis-understood and the festival marks the summer solstice and the 3 o’clock was the 3am high tide!!! Blog 4-21The beach was marked off in squares by families claiming their pitch, we were originally puzzled by this but all became clear about 6pm when family groups gathered and where we thought piles of wood would be for council bonfires, it turned out to be wood handed out by the council for each family to have a bonfire in their square.

Long lines formed to be handed firewood, families brought down barbeques, chairs, sardines and cases of beer.

Gradually the beach was completely filled with people building fires, starting barbeques and cooking fish. We didn’t miss out as all of the shops had bars outside and were barbecuing sardines and sausage. With complete disregard for health and safety (yes!!!) everyone was having a great time.

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Night drew on and as midnight approached the bonfires were lit.

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We’d seen a fantastic ‘statue’ of Donald Trump astride a donkey as we walked along the beach and wondered what would happen to it…

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Donald-1We needn’t have wondered 🙂

The final fireworks were indeed a sight to behold.

They must have gone on for 30 minutes non stop. They were by far the loudest I have ever witnessed and the closest. Non of the 1/2 mile barrier or anything like that.

Everyone was well-behaved, there wasn’t a hint of trouble – just whole families out to have a great time.

We headed back to the boat, tired and stinking of smoke but really pleased we’d been there.

The following morning it was time to leave La Coruna. It was a great welcome to Spain and if the rest of our stay was to be similar, we’d have a great time while here.

Almost 2 weeks waiting then the big jump

At the end of our last blog post we were in Gigha waiting for the winds to moderate and turn more northerly or at least westerly rather than the persistent southerlies that were coming through.

After 3 days the winds changed direction – to south easterlies which made our anchorage in Ardminish Bay untenable. We moved round to the Queen’s anchorage at the North West tip of the island and had a peaceful night. The long range forecasts didn’t have any signs of the weather pattern changing for at least a week so we decided to make use of our time and visit a couple of our favourite places. We had a fast and pleasant sail up the sound of Jura, on through the sound of Luing and into the sound of Mull before anchoring in Loch Aline.

We spent a couple of days there before heading to Oban to re-stock the fresh food store and top up with diesel. We took a mooring just off Oban and went ashore to visit Rose in the Country Kitchen Deli (a must for good food and drink) Thanks for the Gin J

We took the rib across to Oban Marina to fill up our diesel containers. The new owners seem to be trying to get the marina going after a few years of neglect. I wonder how they’ll fair with the new marina in Oban Bay due to open later this year. The breakwaters were complete and the piles being driven for the pontoons so work going on apace.

We re-traced our route south with a great sail back to Gigha, anchoring once more for the night before sailing to Belfast Loch where we anchored for a couple of nights in Ballyholme Bay just to the east of Bangor Marina. On both of the evenings we were there we had grandstand seats for the yacht and dinghy racing.

The weather window finally appeared on the 18th June – westerlies forecast for our passage through the Irish Sea, veering N – NE’ly as we crossed the English Channel and into Biscay with the swell and weather patterns promising to be light for at least the next 10 days.

We set off at 2:10pm on the 16th June with 2 reefs in the main and 3 in the jib and had a cracking sail all that day and into the night broad reaching at 9-10kts.

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Unfortunately it wasn’t to last and the wind died and backed to a more southerly direction, although all of the forecasts had it westerly!!

We started the long series of tacks down the Irish Sea throughout that day, passing our friends on Destination Anywhere on the Isle of Man. We were treated to the SAR helicopter from Belfast practising winching a man down onto a passing freighter

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We had a first day 2:10 to 12:00 noon run of 143 miles.

By now we were off the coast of Wales and making great time. The wind increased to a stronger Southerly and we planned to tack into Cardigan Bay and then out again to round Milford Haven. Unfortunately the range control called up on VHF and told us there was live firing in the range and we were to stay well out of the bay. That had us tacking back towards Ireland. The swell forecast had rough seas out there so we had to keep tacking through St Georges Channel to stay east but out of Cardigan Bay. That was a long slog against the tide which put at least 12 hours on our overall journey.

We passed Milford Haven around midnight, having been treated to a fantastic sunset off Ramsey Island.

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Day 2 had us crossing the Bristol Channel heading for Land’s End. The noon to noon run was 152.7 miles.

The wind finally died at around 7:30am and we put the motor on to Land’s End. We had a pod of dolphins with us most of the way.

We took a picture of the corner of the UK before heading out across the Channel into Biscay.

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Once into the Channel, we were out of phone range and also out of AIS range which our friends and family had used to track our progress. We had however installed long range HF/SSB radio which among other things let us send and receive short emails via a shore station in Belgium. The following is the update we sent the first night approximately level with Brest:

Daily update from Coriander 48 11.8″N, 6 17.9W

18 June 2017 18:00 BST

Hi All,

We’re currently passing Brest (well about 70 miles west of Brest). We’ve 295 miles to go and the weather routing has us reaching Spain late on Tuesday. Given experience to date I expect Wednesday.

Crossing the English Channel and entering Biscay has been a lot easier than the Irish Sea was. The sea is pretty calm and the swell has died down. We currently have about 12 kts of breeze 130 deg off our bow and are doing a comfortable 6.7 kts.

We both slept well off watch last night as the wind was a light 8kts and from behind the beam so the motion was slight and the boat noises quiet.

The weather is gorgeous, wall to wall sun which is helping to top up the batteries. We’re getting excellent weather updates via Navtex, quite detailed in French and good overall picture in English from Spain. No gales or near gales forecast 🙂

We passed just outside the shipping lanes off Ushant and they were very busy. We’re now crossing the traffic from the exit of the traffic separation scheme on their way to Portugal and beyond. Some pretty massive ships but they’ve all given us a very wide berth 🙂

Lots of fishing boats to dodge last night which kept us both occupied during our watches last night. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of them for a while and we have a quieter night tonight.

Anyway, all’s well with us, I’ll send another update tomorrow.

All the best

Steve and Gill

The Bay of Biscay was in a very benign mood,

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Allowing us to relax and concentrate on avoiding the shipping. To be fair the ships changed course early to give us a wide berth which we were grateful for, given their size!

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We saw just the one yacht on our way over:

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Time on our night watches flew by. The stars were amazing and we had a clear view of the Milky Way and numerous shooting stars. If we weren’t looking up, we were given an amazing display by the dolphins racing around us. We couldn’t see them but their phosphorescent trails and splashes were breath-taking.

The following nights update:

Daily update from Coriander 45 57N, 7 09W

19 June 2017 18:00 BST

Good afternoon,

We had a really good 24 hours sailing since the last update. I’ve just had to turn on the engine after the wind died to < 4 kts variable just as forecast. I have to say that the forecast we got on Saturday has been accurate in terms of wind speed, direction and timing.

We are a little behind the optimum on our track as we took the prudent decision to reef overnight last night as the wind was forecast to go just forward of our beam and increase to >20kts. This allowed us both to have a comfortable watch and more importantly sleep easily down below.

We made our best daily run noon to noon of 156 miles. We currently have 160 miles to go putting us at La Coruna late tomorrow night. We will decide tomorrow whether we wish to slow down a little and enter the marina in daylight or whether the wind is strong enough to get us there before sunset tomorrow night.

We have noticed a real change in the times of sunrise and sunset on our journey down, from 10:03 sunset and 3:50 sunrise while in Scotland to 9:15 last night and sunrise at 6am this morning.

Biscay is like a millpond just now and the forecast does not give any sailable wind until tomorrow morning.

We had to cross 2 shipping lanes through the night but the ships were very courteous in making obvious changes to direction to give us a wide berth – very different to the Clyde!!

The skipper of one ship, the Maersk Essex, called us up on radio to ask us which side we’d like him to pass. He must have been pretty bored because he spent some time chatting on the radio to us, interested in where we’d come from, where we were going, how long it had taken us etc. He rounded it off by saying he was very curious to see such a little boat in the middle of Biscay!! LITTLE!!! We looked up his spec on AIS and he was 150ft wide and 1201 feet long. You could fit 720 Corianders on his deck so I suppose most boats are little compared to him.

Apologies for 2 mails last night. For Malc’s benefit I sent the first via Belgium on 6khz and it took about 2 minutes to upload and disconnected before receiving an acknowledgment. I then sent it on 8khz and it went in seconds even though propagation should have been better on 6.

We’re about to start our evening meal, going for the Scottish favourite of haggis, beans and croquet potatoes.

Weather reports are now in Spanish – good job we’ve a Spanish dictionary on board.

All the best to all and I’ll let you know tomorrow how we’re getting on.

Steve & Gill

We made much better time overnight than we’d anticipated and our ETA had us arriving in La Coruna by 8pm. The wind in the morining  died completely so we motored at a sedate 6 kts on calm seas, accompanied by dolphins.

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When 12 miles off shore we raised the Spanish courtesy flag as required

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We sighted Spain around 5pm and were moored in Marina Coruna enjoying a well-deserved G&T at 7:40pm 20th June

We’d crossed Biscay and arrived in sunny Spain 🙂

Stats:

776.4 Nautical Miles through the water

728.5 Nautical Miles over ground

Duration 5 days 7 hours 22 Minutes

Motored 1 day 3 hours

Sailed 4 Days 4 hours

Average speed 6.2 kts

Max speed 10.5 kts

Watch System – informal through the day, strict 3 hours on, 3 off through the night, clipped on at all times when on watch overnight or alone on deck.

Weather routing app – Weather 4D using GFS model forecast. This proved to be very accurate – highly recommended.

The Route:

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