Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for the “Logs 2016” Category

Viana do Castello

The Southwest Rias (Rias Bajas) and offlying Islands have been an amazing place to cruise and I am very happy I ended up visiting them. Would recommend to anyone wanting beautiful anchorages, pretty towns and of course some of the best seafood anywhere. Could have easily stayed longer but decided it was time to head south so on Friday departed Cangas for Viana do Castello in Portugal – a trip of around 40nm. Pleased to discover that on paying the mooring fees for both visits to Cangas I was only charged an average of 6 Euro a night so happy with that.

After exiting Cangas a nice 10 knot breeze pushed Fathom down Ria de Vigo towards the open sea and we made good initial progress with full main and headsail poled out (see selfie below). But the breeze soon died and the engine was required. For the next few hours as we headed south the wind occasionally increased to 10 knots at which point the engine was turned off and headsail poled out again but just as we started making decent progress under sail the wind would die. Quite frustrating as the strong northerly winds, known as the Portuguese tradewinds, should be blowing consistently at this time of year. One notable difference after crossing into Portuguese waters was the huge numbers of fishing buoys and markers. There were so many in fact that our track resembled a slalom as we headed down the coast. Important to keep a look out at all times and definitely not somewhere to sail at night. Ironically on the approach into Viana do Castello in the early evening the wind suddenly built to a good 20 knots out of nowhere and we weaved our way through a  flotilla of kitesurfers and windsurfers as we went up river.

It is not possible to anchor in the river but there is small marina behind a swing bridge about 1.5 miles from the harbour entrance. While waiting for the bridge to open the pilot book mentioned a waiting pontoon outside so I tied up alongside a large Norwegian yacht who it turned out were heading back home after a circumnavigation. Within seconds of tying up I had been invited aboard and it was nice to have a chat and couple of beers with them.

Viana do Costello gained its importance in the 15th century as one of the main ports from which Portuguese explorers set sail. In the 16th century it became famous for exporting ‘Port’ to the UK. Yesterday I walked around the pretty town of grey granite and white stucco houses and watched some traditional Portuguese dancing in the town square. In the evening took the funicular up to the temple which overlooks the town but was too late to go inside and up to the observation deck. Fantastic view looking down on the town nonetheless. On the way down a local told me there was a free music concert on the harbour front with an “excellent Portuguese performer”. I was intrigued so headed down there later on but was disappointed to discover the singer sounded like a Portuguese Peter Andre and after he started his own cringy version of Robbie Williams ‘Angels’ made a swift exit.

Heading south again tomorrow cross fingers for some breeze.

Posted on 17 Jul in: Logs 2016, Portugal

Islas Cies

The weather has been very settled for the last 10 days or so. Daytime temperatures are reaching 32/33 degrees and the wind has not gone above 5 knots. Very good anchoring weather but not much good for sailing.

I spent a very relaxed few days last week anchored off Playa Arena das Rodas on the northern island of Islas Cies. This beach was voted the best in the world by the Guardian newspaper a few years ago. It is a fantastic spot (though Compton beach on the IOW still gets my vote). Unlike the southern island of San Martin which I anchored off the week before it is possible to go ashore on the northern island. In fact it is a hugely popular tourist destination and every day ferry loads of sunbathers and bird spotters arrive from local harbours. There are no cars on the island and only a handful of permanent inhabitants. I made sure I went ashore early one day before the first ferry arrived to get a photo of the beach.

When I arrived Fathom was the only boat in the main anchorage but on average over the next few days were between 5 and 6 other boats. I climbed up to the lighthouse with the crew of a Dutch boat which at around 180m was perfect for stretching the legs. Great view looking down at the southern island and the anchorage I had been the week before. While ashore I also met a friendly English couple who were anchored next to me and they invited me round for drinks and a very nice dinner that evening.

I decided to head back to Baiona for the weekend and anchored off the marina again. I like Baiona it has a good vibe yet is not too big and crowded. Went for drinks onboard ‘Maggie Drum’ owned by Duncan and Caroline who I had first bumped into while walking on Islas Cies. They are heading south through Portugal so no doubt will bump into them again.

I returned to Cangas on Monday in order to pick the mainsail up from the sailmaker. He has strengthened the repair I did so hopefully no further issues.. Yesterday I was approached by an Irish family in the harbour who needed a wind transducer installed at the top of their mast. The local tradesman was busy for the next week and they wanted to leave the next day. I agreed to go and install it for them. All went well but drilling holes 60 feet in the air and trying not to drop screws whilst rocking to the constant ferry swell was certainly interesting. As a thank you they took me out for dinner last night.

I am currently anchored off Ensenada de Barra which is a very picturesque spot. In fact it is another nudist beach. I am not intentionally seeking nudist beaches it just so happens they are some of the nicest anchorages! I am going to swim round the boat (in my swim shorts) this afternoon and clean off the slime which is growing along the waterline before it really takes hold. Portugal next.

Posted on 07 Jul in: Logs 2016, Spain

Baiona

Just before I was due to leave Cangas I received an email from Peter Orban to say he had abandoned his attempt to reach the Azores and was headed for Cangas. Peter had entered the Jester Challenge with his bilge keeled Kingfisher 22 Tisza’ and had spent 29 days at sea fighting gales and constant headwinds but in the end after getting to within 330 miles of the Azores decided enough was enough. It was great to catch up with him and hear the stories from his trip. For those interested of the 24 sailors that started the Jester Challenge everyone has now arrived safely at their destination of choice. 10 reached the Azores and 14 retired.

On Thursday last week I left Cangas much to the disappointment of a small bird that had tried to make a home for itself under the cover of the self steering gear. We had a nice sail out of the Ria de Vigo towards Islas Cies. The wind was from the NW so decided to anchor off the Playa de S.Martin beach on the small southern island of San Martin. As the island is a bird sanctuary the pilot book mentioned that going ashore is forbidden but it was enjoyable sitting in the cockpit with a glass of wine doing some bird spotting!

The forecast for the following 24 hours showed some strong NE winds building in excess of 30 knots. The anchorages
at Islas Cies have no protection from NE to SE so I made the call to spend the weekend in Baiona a few miles to the south and return to Cies next week when the winds calm and go back to N or NW. Baiona is renowned as being an attractive town and well worth a visit. It was the first European harbour to hear that Colombus had discovered America in 1493. It is also renowned for having expensive marinas so I am at anchor just outside which is a little bumpy but bearable. Yesterday I took a walk around the medieval fort on the northern headland of the harbour which gives a great panoramic view.

Baiona - Fathom at anchor back of shot

Another visitor to Baiona has been Chris and Kath on ‘Harlekin’ who I know from the Island. They set off from Island Harbour at the beginning of May and despite several technical issues on the way are in good spirits and planning to head south to Portugal in the next few days. They are anchored nearby and invited me aboard for dinner yesterday evening. I also spotted at the other side of the anchorage a Dutch single hander who I had last seen in Yarmouth Harbour in May. Small world.

I have really enjoyed chatting with the locals wherever I have been. Despite not speaking Spanish it is always possible to find someone that speaks english and everyone I have met has been incredibly friendly. The Spanish certainly like their late nights and most bars and pubs don’t start getting busy until after 11pm and stay open until at least 3am. On Friday a quiet beer turned into a longer night than planned. I bumped into the crew of an english yacht called ‘Kitiwake’ who had just arrived after their Biscay crossing and several hours later I suddenly realised I had forgotten to put the anchor light on before going ashore. At this point though it was 04.30 and the sun was coming up so I figured it wasn’t worth it!

Next week I hope to spend some days chilling at the Cies Islands and then I will temporarily go back to Cangas where a sailmaker will come and check my mainsail repair before I head on south to Portugal next month.

Isla Ons & Ria de Pontevedra

I stayed a second night at Isla Toxa and on Monday walked across the small island and causeway and onto the big island to the fishing village of ‘O Grove’ to stretch my legs. I had decided to head to Combarro in the Ria de Pontevedra that afternoon but while checking my emails just before leaving saw the permit had come through allowing me to visit the national park island of Isla Ons.  That island was enroute to the next ria and the weather was still good so decision was made. The pilot book suggested two possible anchorages the first off the main mole midway down the east coast and the second just off the beach ‘Playa de Melide’ about a mile to the north. I decided on the beach which the pilot book also described as ‘being favoured by nudists’…

The nudists must have seen me coming or perhaps it was too early in the season. Either way the beach was deserted and I anchored close in. The dinghy was inflated and I rowed to the shore with a wine glass and half bottle of Rioja that needed finishing. I underestimated the amount of swell and nearly flipped the dinghy as I landed but despite half filling the dinghy with water and sand no harm done. Really amazing location as the sun set and I had my own private sandy beach with Fathom swinging at anchor in front of me. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far.

DSC00887-2

The next morning I went ashore and walked round the island which took the best part of three hours. Incredible scenery, flowers and wildlife. I didn’t see another person until I got to the only village where I stopped for some lunch. The only trouble was I had left my phrase book on the boat and no one spoke two words of english. That was until a man came out from the kitchen and introduced himself as Winston from Ghana! Apparently he used to work on cargo ships and after arriving in Vigo eleven years ago jumped ship and has been working in the cafe on Isla Ons ever since. Winston had immaculate English so I had no problem ordering fresh crab which he told me had been caught that morning.

The anchorage had been a little rolly due to the swell so I headed off to Ria Pontevedra on Wednesday afternoon. The wind was again very light only blowing 6 to 7 knots from the west but it was enough to sail so I unwound the yankee (foresail) and Fathom made her way into the Ria at a sedate 3.5 knots. Too lazy to take the sailcover off and hoist the main but what’s the rush?! I made the decision to anchor off the beach ‘Playa de Silgar’ which is between the village of Porto Novo and Sanxenxo on the north shore of Ria de Pontevedra. This area of Galicia is a major tourist attraction for the Spanish and the beach was rammed.

Thursday I made my way to Combarro at the end of the Ria and anchored off the small marina. The old fishing village is very picturesque especially the old quarter with its narrow alleyways  and sea houses. There are about thirty Horreos (raised granaries) still existing from the 18th and 19th centuries which were used to store food. Certainly interesting place to visit.

After best part of a week at sedate anchorages and quiet villages I was in need of some civilisation so have spent the last couple of days at Sanxenxo where there are many bars and quite a bit going on. It also gives me a chance to catch the England football game this evening and do some laundry and fill up the water tanks. The marina is ridiculously expensive so I will leave tomorrow. Current plan is to spend about a month in Ria de Vigo and Baiona and visit the national park Island of Islas Cies when there is some settled weather. The forecast is a bit more unsettled for this coming week.

Posted on 11 Jun in: Logs 2016, Spain

Ria de Arousa & Santiago de Compostela

The next destination after Ria de Muros was Ria de Arousa which at 8 nautical miles wide and 15 nautical miles long is the largest of the Galcian rias and apparently one of the most interesting.  As the weather was so settled I decided on taking the shorter route into the ria though the narrow Canal de Sagres and weave my way through the rocks and shallows. No dramas and decided on anchoring for the night in a pretty bay to the north west of Isla Arousa. It was so nice in fact that I had the first swim of the trip.

I’d read a lot about Santiago de Compostela and how a trip to the old city and one of the greatest shrines of Christianity couldn’t be missed when in this area of Spain. So on Friday morning I motored over to the marina at Vilagarcia and caught the train to the city. 8 Euro for a return trip and it only took 20 minutes each way. Since the discovery of the tomb of Saint James at the beginning of the 9th century, the city has been the focus of thousands of pilgrims. On entering the hugely impressive cathedral I joined a queue which I assumed was to get into the centre of the building. We slowly shuffled through a doorway and up some stairs. It was only then that I realised I was in a queue of pilgrims who were passing through the ornate baldachin and taking turns to hug the statue of Saint James the great behind the altar. We were in such a narrow space that I couldn’t pass by or go back and not being religious I was feeling increasing uncomfortable as I got closer. When it was my turn the best I could do was give him a quick nod of respect and dart off. I’m sure I heard a couple of murmurings from behind. Anyway the cathedral is a magnificent building (see photos) and the old town built of local granite with its narrow alleyways is definitely worth seeing and i’m glad I made the trip.

I was keen to go back to anchor and on Saturday morning motored over to A Pobra do Caramiñal and put the hook down off the beach. I had been reading up on the best anchorages in the ria and one in particular, to the east of Isla Toxa, stood out. The pilot book described it as ‘a chance to stray off the beaten track, however the approach has numerous shallows, rocks and fields of viveros and the area is prone to silting’. In view of the calm settled weather I decided to give it a go and early afternoon on Sunday approached the shallows on a rising tide just to be safe. A few interesting moments when the water depth suddenly went from 15m to 2m but Fathom weaved her way past the shallows and we made it to the anchorage. Slight drama yesterday afternoon when I realised I had run out of bread. There are no shops around these parts so I resorted to baking a loaf onboard which turned out surprisingly well. The only trouble is i’ve eaten it already.

Decided to go ashore and stretch my legs yesterday evening so pumped up the dinghy and fired up the outboard for the first time since last August. The Island of Toxa is very well groomed and contains a golf course, couple of hotels and a health retreat. As I walked around I couldn’t help feeling it was all very artificial and aimed at the smart set. Got chatting to a couple and their daughter from the only other boat in the anchorage who set off from France a few weeks ago in their large catamaran and are aiming to arrive in Greece in September. Their widescreen TV is so large that after it got dark yesterday I could see that they were watching an episode of Game of Thrones.

As I type this Fathom is surrounded by a flotilla of small workboats who have anchored with divers down searching for shell fish on the seabed. I am waiting for a permit to come through giving me permission to visit Isla Ons and Islas Cies which are protected national parks. The weather has been extremely settled for the last week with the wind never rising above 5 knots from the SW. I hope this continues for another week so I can visit the national parks which have exposed anchorages. After Isla Ons I intend to enter Ria de Pontevedra and visit Combarro and the historic town of Horreos which come highly recommended.

Posted on 06 Jun in: Logs 2016, Spain

Laxe, Camariñas and on to Ria de Muros

Towards the end of last week I was trying to decide whether it was time to exchange the busy city of A Coruña for some dramatic scenery and quiet anchorages. I woke on Saturday morning to the sound of heavy rain pelting down on the cabin top so didn’t rush. The forecast was for a brighter afternoon but with the potential for headwinds towards evening. I made the decision to head 35 miles west to the small fishing village and port of Laxe. After departing Coruña just before noon we flew along (for Fathom that is) at 5 knots for a couple of hours and I took the opportunity to rig the trolling line and try and catch some late lunch. By mid afternoon the sky’s had darkened again and one particularly menacing cloud delivered a squall of 25 knots and torrential rain forcing a couple of reefs and reduced headsail. The south east wind then veered to the south west forcing a change of course away from the coast. Another yacht crossed our path and clearly had a similar destination and we tacked back and forth in close proximity for several hours. The anchor went down just off a great looking sandy beach at 21.30,  a whole 15 minutes ahead of the other boat (i’m clearly not fully into cruising mode yet). As I was flaking the main sail onto the boom I grabbed a handfull of sail only for an 8 inch tear to appear down the leech (see photo). Very surprising and slightly worrying as I had the sail checked over before leaving the U.K.

Sunday was spent stitching the tear back together and patching it. As the weather was showery and the sail needed to be dry for the patch I took the sail off and brought it into the cabin which was a right palava when single-handed as all the reefing lines had to be untied and the sail slid out from the groove on the boom. The repair took most of the day and by early evening the sail was back in position and packed away. The repair should be a good temporary fix and I will get a sailmaker to check it over when I get to Vigo/Baiona. Laxe looked very pretty but I didn’t have the motivation to pump the dinghy up and go ashore. The church bells seemed to ring most the afternoon in conjunction with near continuous rockets being fired into the air producing huge bangs. I couldn’t work out if this was because a fishing boat was approaching with full catch or if it was the norm for a Sunday. Sunday also marked two weeks since the start of the Jester Azores Challenge in Plymouth. Seems an age ago.

Fathom had been the only boat in the anchorage Sunday night so decided to leave Laxe on Monday morning and head 23 miles south west to Ria de Camariñas. The wind was very light so forced to do a fair amount of motoring. I put the fishing line out again only to notice after an hour the line had gone limp. After pulling it in there was no lure on the end. Either I had caught a big mumma who bit through the line or my knot came undone. I think the later is more likely. After entering the Ria at 15.00 decided on mooring at Camariñas over Muxia. Went ashore for a shower and couple of beers. Camariñas is a very attractive harbour and took advantage of the local supermarket to stock up on some fresh grub.

Yesterday was by far the best day of sailing since leaving the U.K. The sun was shining and the wind was from behind meaning a run and then broad reach down the rugged coast to Ria de Muros. It piped up to 24 knots for a short time and whilst surfing down a wave I noted a speed over the ground of 7.6 knots very briefly which must be a record for Fathom. This coastline and in particular Cabo Finisterre have a rather fearsome reputation but the sail along the coast past Cabo Toriñana, the most western point of mainland Europe, was great. If the wind had been from the west a lot of sea room would have been needed but as the wind was from the NE we set a course fairly close in. Despite changing lure still no luck catching fish…

Entered Ria de Muros just after 17.00 and was greeted by a pod of dolphins who dived around Fathom for a good 20 minutes. They are very entertaining to watch. Muros itself is a fantastic little fishing village and i’ve decided to stay here a couple of nights. 8 or 9 visiting boats are in town including some Irish who sailed non stop from Cork.

A huge congratulations to Julien on ‘Bula’ who was the first to arrive in the Azores couple of days ago. Amazing effort and from what I have read from email updates he is on cloud 9. Another two have arrived in the last 24 hours so well done all!

Posted on 01 Jun in: Logs 2016, Spain

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