Saturday, August 19, 2006

La Coruna for real

We've finally made it to La Coruna - see below. Here we are at the Torre de Hercules, the world's oldest working lighthouse

Today’s big excitement has been going to the fuel berth, before our expected departure tomorrow. The fuel berth is still at the old marina around the corner, and you have to go alongside a wall where there isn’t much depth. It’s only about a mile around the corner and we arrived with a brisk westerly wind blowing us away from the pontoons. We were completely unable to see any pumps, so managed to tie up to a vacant pontoon while Sam went off to investigate. Just as well he did, as you have to head straight down a narrow gap between pontoons towards a stone wall, turn at the last moment and secure between the two flights of steps. The marinero was there to fling warps to us, thank goodness. It was a lot of hassle for just over 30 litres of diesel, but much too far to carry a can by arm - our big diesel can must weigh around 35kg when it’s full and I can barely lift it.

We’re negotiating with the boat across the way from us to buy a cruising chute – like a smaller, easier-to-handle spinnaker. We’ve never actually used our spinnaker, which was purchased for racing and used once by the previous owner. Sam, who knows slightly more about spinnakers than I do, feels it would need three or preferably four adults on board to fly it safely. We’ve rigged the ropes a couple of times but didn’t actually raise the sail – once because we arrived at our destination and once because we were 150 miles from anywhere in the middle of Biscay, and were nervous about what might happen if things went wrong. Sam asked the lady on board how long they had been in La Coruña and the answer was “since October”. I think they must like it here.

Friday 18 August
Thank you Imray

Now I know we’re real liveaboards. In Gijón I ordered from Imray the latest edition of the pilot book for Atlantic Spain and Portugal – it was published just after we left. We have the previous edition, but things have changed so much in the past five years that the marina we’re in at the moment isn’t even mentioned in the old edition. I asked Imray to send it to the Marina here to await our arrival, and behold, it is here. Well worth the £48.50 investment (£37.50 for the book and £11 for postage – yes, those are pound signs and not euros). In the old days people used to pick up mail quite commonly, but in these days of blogs and email, getting something sent to you feels like a real adventure.

I have since discovered that you can buy the pilot book from the chandlery across town. Oh well. It’s probably even more expensive. (80 euros, in fact).

Yesterday we had an educational day, visiting the Torre de Hercules – the only lighthouse in the world which has operated non-stop since Roman times – and the Domus, a museum of the human body. Our trip to the Torre was made more dramatic by a lady who slipped and broke her ankle on the last steep spiral stair – we all had to wait until the medicos came and took her away. The view was great, although the huge swell crashing impressively on to the rocks and beaches was rather more daunting. The wind reached 21 knots in the shelter of the marina but apparently there was a 3-metre swell in the open sea, which is big enough to be dangerous (and also rock us at our sheltered mooring). Fortunately the wind has eased today and the swell should die down by tomorrow.

The Domus was really excellent, tying in very well with Ben’s science lessons. It had loads of interactive stuff including pumps squirting red liquid to simulate the heart, machines to measure your height, hand-span, strength, reach and length of femur, and a complete chart of the human genome. It was also very good for our Spanish as you could guess most of it but had to look up key words. Ben is impressed to find his Latin is proving very useful, which I’m sure his Latin teacher with be delighted to hear.

In the evening we went out with Paul and Val from Intemperance to sample some raciones – like tapas, only bigger helpings. Everybody has a bit of everything. It works well with five of you as you can order lots of different dishes and not end up with too much to eat.

Wednesday 16 August
La Coruña

Four months ago I started this blog with an entry called “La Coruña dreaming”. At the time I didn’t know much about La Coruña, except that it was on the north-west tip of Spain and we were quite likely to go there.

Now we’re here and I’ve discovered that, among other things, it’s actually called A Coruña (in the local language, Gallego). It’s a big, elegant port and we plan to spend several days here, relaxing, sightseeing and waiting for the forecast strong winds to pass over. Overnight and this morning we’ve had heavy, cold rain and it’s now moderately windy, but no gales yet. Yesterday we left Viveiro in drizzle and dark grey skies and I was very concerned that the winds might strengthen before we arrived in La Coruña. (Fortunately we had found a wireless internet connection on Monday and I kept Sam awake late checking every weather site I could think of). In fact there was almost no wind all day, the sea was relatively flat, hooray! and the sun came out for the last 15 miles or so. Sixty miles of motoring is distinctly boring, though.

We’re pretty much halfway through our four months away, so here are some facts and figures:

  • We’ve covered 1271 (nautical) miles over the ground so far in 243 hours under way, an average of 5.23 knots (nautical miles per hour).
  • Because the winds have been so light we’ve only been sailing (without engine) for around a quarter of the time, which is disappointing.
  • We’ve been to 35 different places, mostly marinas, for overnight stops, plus a few lunchtime anchorages.
  • We’ve been to dozens of different supermarchés, supermercados and other kinds of market, including fish markets, and loads of acastillages (chandleries) although none in Spain so far – it seems the few that exist tend to close during August!
  • We’ve seen craft fairs (Camaret and Viveiro), concerts and entertainments (notably in St Peter Port, Vannes and everywhere in Spain), and numerous museums and exhibitions plus a lighthouse in Calais.
  • We’ve eaten out in Calais, Boulogne, St Peter Port, Lezardrieux, Treguier, Brest, Camaret, Port la Foret, Lorient, Port Crouesty and Gijon, and we’ve had coffees, beers, ice-creams, chips and chi-chis in numerous other establishments.
  • We’ve paid a consistent 20 euros or so a night for marina berths, with the most expensive marina at Trebeurden which jacks its rates up to 30 euros a night in July and August and makes you pay extra for showers! The cheapest, apart from anchoring for free, was a mooring buoy in Sauzon, Belle-Ile, for 11 euros, Le Havre where we couldn’t pay because the marina office was closed, and Viveiro where the capitano winked and only charged us for one night instead of two. The cheapest proper marina rate was in Audierne (17 euros) where we were rafted three deep, couldn’t get to electricity or water and the loos were locked during the brief time we were there – it would have been nice otherwise!
  • Food is our other biggest cost with a supermarket trip every three or four days costing about 60 euros, plus bread from bakeries and fresh fruit and veg and occasional fish from markets. We tend to go for supermarkets where we can, because it’s much less exhausting.
  • On board we eat cereal or toast for breakfast (we brought some of our favourite coffee from the UK and ran out a couple of weeks ago), local bread, cheese, ham and salads for lunch, and lots of pasta, rice or potatoes with various vegetables for dinner, with sausages, pizza, chicken, occasional fish or steak and (once) rabbit. We’ve boiled whelks, collected and cooked samphire, and picked herbs where we can. Fruit is difficult, as anything not eaten straight away tends to get bruised and inedible.
  • We’re on our fourth gas bottle (for cooking) and we’ve probably used 150 litres of diesel (for motoring).
  • Ribadeo is the only place we’ve been with no other British boats close by, although there was one anchored out in the ria. In Spain there’s a very varied mixture of non-local yacht nationalities – French, Dutch, British (and Irish), Belgian, German, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. We’ve seen one Maltese yacht which unfortunately was aground on a sill at the time (in Trebeurden), one Finn, one Italian, one Canadian and a few Swiss boats

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