Arousa – We stayed longer than planned – Again!

After leaving San Francisco in the Ria de Muros on the 10th July, we had an excellent sail with a couple of other British boats the 33 miles to Ria de Arousa. This is the largest Ria in the Ria Baixas area and the prettiest one we’d been in to date. There are many rocks and viveros to watch out for, many uncharted. We’d spend 16 days here when we’d only planned on staying a week. We’ve definitely picked up on the Spanish Manana culture, frequently saying how nice it is, let’s stay another day.

The typical wind direction in this area is Northerly so we spent most of our time on the Northern part of the Ria. We visited many of the anchorages, crossing the Ria several times.

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There is a passage north of Isla de Salvora to enter the Ria however we’d vowed to be cautious and not take any risks so we chose to go South of the island and up to our first stop, Punta Lucia near Ribiera. Although the pilot book doesn’t make much of the place, we found it enchanting.

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We were anchored off a gorgeous beach surrounded by rocks which reminded us of the Ross of Mull anchorages we’d adored in the past, with the exception that it was warm and there were no midges.

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There was a campsite just ashore with a beach café which the online comments judged very expensive. Given our budget, we decided to give it a miss – opting instead to take the rib into Ribiera and stock up in the large supermarket there.

After 4 nights (we’d planned staying for 1!) the wind was forecast to go North Easterly and increase to 20-30kts. We decided to move 7 miles further inland to Escarabote where the pilot book described the holding as excellent. We’ve never had a problem with the spade anchor that we have and again we were absolutely solid. The town is an old fishing port next to a long beach.

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Backed by very expensive looking houses

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We were sunbathing on deck when we heard lots of boat horns going off from the town across the bay from where we were anchored. It turned out that each year the boats that service the mussel farms parade the icon from the local church.

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There must have been 50 or more service boats bedecked with flags as well as a flotilla of sight-seeing boats visiting all of the ports where we were. As they reached each port fireworks were let off making the loudest bangs we’ve ever heard.

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The boats were decked out in flags and filled with people from the local villages

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After visiting the anchorage / port where we were they headed up the Ria to Caraminal.

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That night we were woken up at midnight and got up to watch a firework display that would put Edinburgh to shame.

The winds eased after a couple of days and allowed us to visit one of the ‘must see’ beaches on the island of Arousa at Punta do Cabalo.

There is a lighthouse on the point which doubles as a restaurant.

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And a fine sandy beach with a beach bar and walks in the pine forest

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We took the dinghy ashore but were turfed off by the lifeguard as he didn’t seem to like us having an engine on the dinghy. We’ve since checked and it’s fine – he was overstepping the mark, or was protecting his friends’ pedelo business.

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In case anyone is wondering what the yellow buoys are, they mark off the swimming area and it’s not allowed to sail or anchor inside them – the fines are severe.

After a night here, we went to the marina Villagarcia for a couple of nights. The marina staff were again very friendly and helpful – a boat met us at the entrance and guided us to our berth and the marinaro took our lines. Upon checking in the office staff printed off train timetables for a visit to Santiago de Compostella and gave us maps of the town. Villagarcia is very pleasant with a multitude of bars and restaurants – including the only McDonalds that we have seen while in Spain. There is a very helpful, well stocked and cheap chandlery on site as well as a very good restaurant and bar.

We were up early (for us) the next morning to catch the 9:00 train for the 20 min trip to Santiago. From the train station there it is a 20 minute walk to the old town and the cathedral. It is undergoing a 10 year renovation.

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The old town is very pretty with narrow streets and fantastic old buildings and squares – spoilt by tourist souvenir shops and the prices that were 4 times what they were elsewhere in the town.

I make no excuses for taking some of the following text from the internet in the hope of greater accuracy than my memoty!

The cathedral borders the main plaza of the old and well-preserved city. Legend has it that the remains of the apostle James were brought to Galicia for burial. In 813, according to medieval legend, the light of a bright star guided a shepherd who was watching his flock at night to the burial site in Santiago de Compostela. The shepherd quickly reported his discovery to the bishop of Iria, Bishop Teodomiro. The bishop declared that the remains were those of the apostle James and immediately notified King Alfonso II in Oviedo. To honour St. James, the cathedral was built on the spot where his remains were said to have been found. The legend, which included numerous miraculous events, enabled the Catholic faithful to bolster support for their stronghold in northern Spain during the Christian crusades against the Moors, but also led to the growth and development of the city

Thousands of pilgrims walk to each year and there was certainly no shortage of them. The better off ones can stay at the ‘hostel’ in the cathedral square.

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And get the tourist trains

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The Galician parliament is also here:

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We took a tour of the cathedral and were able to take photographs inside

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Pilgrims queued for hours to touch the effigy.

It is said that whoever butts their head three times against the statue will be given a portion of Mateo’s genius and perhaps enhanced memory

We were a little short on time and were content to look on in awe and leave them to it.

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The crypt, below the main altar, shows the substructure of the 9th-century church. This was the final destination of the pilgrims. The crypt houses the relics of Saint James and two of his disciples. We went down there to view the remains in a silver casket.

The actual Compostela is the golden script to the left of the table in the picture below.

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A dome above the crossing contains the pulley mechanism to swing the “Botafumeiro”, which is a famous thurible found in this church. It was created by the goldsmith José Losada in 1851. The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is the largest censer in the world, weighing 80 kg and measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral, but during certain important religious high days it is attached to the pulley mechanism, filled with 40 kg of charcoal and incense. In the Jubilee Years, whenever St James’s Day falls on a Sunday, the Botafumeiro is also attached in all the Pilgrims’ Masses. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros pull the ropes and bring it into a swinging motion almost to the roof of the transept, reaching speeds of 80 km/h and dispensing thick clouds of incense

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After walking round the cathedral and the town for a day our sore feet decided that we’d done enough culture for July and we got the train back for some beach time.

The next day we anchored off the beach at Puerto de Cruz and toasted Mike and Claire getting back to their boat in Italy

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After having the bay to ourselves overnight, we were woken a 7am and got up to finds dozens of clam fishermen working the shoreline

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They anchor in 2-3m and use rakes attached to long poles to rake up the clams

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At times the head off at full speed (they only have 2 speeds – stop and flat out) to offload their catch at a larger boat before resuming their ‘fishing’

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We left this delightful spot and went to Pobra do Caraminal, again anchoring off the beach. Actually, slightly too close to it as the wind changed direction overnight and we swung over an uncharted shoal patch at low tide where we were millimetres from touching the soft sand. I dived under the boat to confirm we were fine and within 20 minutes the tide turned and we had plenty of clearance. We’ll give it a bit more room next time.

Pobra is a great place to stock up with 2 supermarkets just off the beach. It isn’t designated a swimming beach to its fine to dinghy straight to shore for a swim.

The next day we decided to go back to Riviera once more as it had a large chandlery and we were on the lookout for an inflatable canoe to augment our stock of toys. Unfortunately we arrived to find the whole town shut down for 3 days for yet another fiesta.

After watching the festivities that day (raft race, bands etc.) and the fireworks that night we decided that this was a great way to end our time in Ria Arousa and head further south.

We hope you’re enjoying the blogs. Cheers until next time 🙂

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Ria de Muros, Pedro and another Fiesta

After leaving the gorgeous beach at Sardiniero, we sailed to the first of the Rias that form the Rias Baixes. This proved to be a slow but satisfying sail with around 4-6kts of wind. We resisted the urge to turn on the motor and coasted past and through the many Bajos (rocks / seamounts), which are a feature of this coast and call for constant pilotage, until we rounded the point and get into the calm of the Ria.

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It had been our intention to anchor off the Enseada de San Francisco, a long sandy bay, however the swell would have made it a very rolly and uncomfortable night. Instead we called up Muros marina and booked a berth for a couple of nights.

Upon calling up on Channel 09, we were met at the entrance by Mini Pedro and directed to our berth where he took our lines and helped tie up.

The berth easily took Coriander, with a metre or so to spare – something that we’ve noticed out here, in contrast to the shorter fingers back in the UK.

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We went to the marina office where we checked in, having to show passports, registration documents and a copy of our boat insurance in Spanish. All of this was conducted through gestures and very poor Spanish on my part. Upon conclusion of the check in procedure, the marina owner introduced himself as Pedro in excellent English a proceeded to give us a tour of the facilities (excellent) and information about the town (supermarket, hardware store for camping gaz, bars and restaurants). Muros marina is run by Pedro and his son, Pedro, known to us a mini Pedro henceforth. They were both extremely helpful and friendly throughout our stay however we also noted that any boats that failed to call up on Ch09 and just took a berth were moved on in very short order – be warned!

Our berth backed on to the fishing fleet who were very considerate while manoeuvring within the harbour and not shy about remonstrating with anyone foolish enough to create a wash

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The marina is right in the heart of the town, overlooked by the promenade

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And next to a very clean bathing beach

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We then explored the town, it turned out to be a fascinating mix of modern squares and old fishing village.

The town square was typical of what we’d come to expect:

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Surrounded by restaurants and bars

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Utilising pretty much any space available

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What we hadn’t expected, and were blown away by was the old town with its’ rabbit warren of tiny streets

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As we wandered around the town, we came upon people decorating the streets with netting and polystyrene or plastic fish. We hadn’t seen anything to suggest why, there were no posters or anything.

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Upon returning to the marina, we asked Pedro who told us that there was a fiesta dedicated to fishing and crafts from the Friday to Sunday. We’d only planned on staying in the marina a couple of nights but having become enchanted by the town that became 6 nights. Not as bad as the couple on the boat next to us, their 2 nights had become 2 weeks!

Over the next couple of days all of the streets and squares were decorated and a stage erected in the main square

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Bars began to pop up in any available space

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Along with mannequins depicting typical scenes from the past

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Then came the days of the fiesta. All of the locals dressed in their national costume, including the kids, although they didn’t always seem keen on it 🙂

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Marching bands paraded the streets

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Some more professional than others

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It was enlightening to compare the very professional fiesta we’d witnessed in La Coruna with the one here which wasn’t put on for tourists, but was instead themselves celebrating their way of life for themselves. Their passion and great nature stood out to us, the party went on all night without the slightest hint of trouble. In many ways, whilst not as spectacular as the huge event in La Coruna they’d all come together as a community and put a massive effort in. We loved our stay there.

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We left the marina and went around the corner to spend our final night in Ria de Muros at anchor off the Enseada de San Francisco – pretty much where we’d started.