Well, as much as we would be quite happy spending an entire sailing season here in Galicia, the time has come to move on and cross the border to Portugal. We plan to leave tomorrow morning, bright and early, and reach Viana do Castelo by mid-afternoon.
But first! The last time we spoke, we were waving goodbye to Nick’s parents in Combarro. Dragging ourselves away from Combarro wasn’t easy, it’s the type of place that pulls you in and refuses to let go. However, we knew we had to move on, and off we went to Islas Cíes, a nearby island group which is also a national park. We had to apply for permission to enter the park, and once that was approved, had to register our intention to anchor in the park. We only had two nights, because the weekend was fully allocated already.
We motored our way across calm, flat seas to the islands, enjoying the gorgeous scenery and sunshine. One of the islands is a bird sanctuary and you can’t land there (although anchoring off the beach is fine) so we chose the other island which had a stream of ferries going to and fro the mainland, carrying hoards of spanish tourists. The island was obviously a popular camping spot also, as we saw many tents dotted around the place as we approached.
By mid afternoon we were one of about fifteen yachts and motor boats anchored off a beach absolutely teeming with people. The island was craggy and wooded, with only a few run down buildings off the beach, and that’s it. Nick and I sat around all afternoon, sun baking on deck or napping in the shady cockpit. We made a few noises about going ashore, but characteristically stayed put.
Evening arrived and, after a lazy afternoon, we made a reluctant decision to go ashore, born more out of guilt than any desire for an excursion. I stood to go ready the dinghy, and Nick stood to take off his t-shirt and retrieve his snorkel and mask from the locker. We looked at each other, confused.
‘Aren’t we going by dinghy?’
‘What’s the point in that? Let’s just swim.’
‘Er, no. I dipped my toe in before and my entire leg went numb with cold.’
‘Are you exaggerating by any chance?’
‘Me? Exaggerate? How very dare you.’
‘Well, if you want to go by dinghy, you’ll have to get it in the water yourself, because I’m swimming.’
‘Fine! I’ll row alongside you and point and laugh.’
‘Come on, girl! You’re Australian! Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little cold water.’
‘I spent my entire childhood swimming in cold water! The next landmass after Adelaide is Antarctica. Believe me, the water is chilly.’
‘That’s settled then.’ (Jumps in. Teeth are chattering, pretty sure his skin is turning blue…)
‘Is it cold?’
‘But… it’s okay once you’re in, right?’
‘Nope! S-st-still freezing.’
Fast-forward two minutes, and I’m standing on the bow, dry bag stuffed with a towel, a shandy, our sunglasses and our shoes slung over my shoulder, watching Nick swim towards the beach. Having no choice, I jumped in. And yes, it was bloody freezing.
Now, I’m not sure how far the boat was from the beach. Probably a few hundred metres. But gone are the days where I can swim forever and ever without getting out of breath. Not to mention the fact that somehow I ended up towing along the bloody dry-bag, AND I forgot to grab my goggles, so my head was lifted out of the water the whole time- which makes swimming far more tiring than it ought to be. Needless to say, we dragged ourselves onto the beach (and I could only touch the bottom when I was, like, a metre away from the sand) panting and wheezing, and knowing we had to swim back.
However, I’m tempted to say it was worth it. The evening light across the mouth of the ria, all the Spanish families running around, the bay full of boats at anchor, all contrived to create a very relaxing atmosphere. We drank our shandy, went for a walk up the beach and back, then swam back to the boat.
At this point, we were finally able to make use of our stern shower. The water from the shower head was far warmer than the sea, so it felt quite nice to sit on the back of the boat and give ourselves a rinse. In fact, I decided to take it one step further. I collected my various lotions and potions and, sitting on the steps on the stern, washed my hair and my face. Then I started to wash my body, but thought, ‘Hold up. All these other sailors wander around stark bollock naked on their boats. [Indeed, we’d spotted several men and women on neighbouring boats in various states of undress throughout the day.] Why can’t I?’ So, to prove to myself that I’m most certainly NOT a prude, and I can embrace the hippy live-aboard lifestyle as wholeheartedly as the next person, I stripped off and got scrubbing. After all, no-one could really see me. There were only two other boats in my line of sight, and I couldn’t see anyone on deck looking my way. And we were facing away from the beach, hidden from view, so really it was pretty low-risk.
Needless to say, like something out of a predictable sit-com, that was the moment a dinghy full- FULL- of 30- something men decided to zip past, not two metres away from the back of our boat, my naked ass- and more- in full view. I thought furiously. What to do? Do I appear all nonchalant, like, ‘Hey, nothing to see here, move right along, I’m naked and totally fine with that!’ No, clearly not. I did what we all do when caught in an embarrassing situation: avert one’s eyes and take a sudden and keen interest in something totally banal. In this case, rinsing my hair. Definitely no conditioner left in my hair that day. Ohhh, no.
That night the wind picked up and the anchorage became really quite rolly. Neither Nick nor I got much sleep and the next day dawned to drizzle and cloud. We had to leave the next morning anyway, not being able to secure anchoring permission for the weekend, so we decided to get going and head to Baiona, only 7 miles away.
Baiona has two marinas, and we have a discounted rate for one of them (the MRYC), which is, of course, the more expensive of the two. I’m not sure why this marina is so pricey. The facilities are nothing special, although the wifi speed is pretty good. The restaurant and bar are too fancy for us- we try and avoid table cloths and waiters in crisp white shirts wherever possible, unless, of course, we’re in London and Nick’s paying- so we headed into town.
Baiona is charming. It’s a bigger town than anywhere we’ve stayed apart from La Coruña, and has plenty of hustle and bustle. The old town is quaint, with a narrow pedestrianised street packed with tiny bars, occasionally opening onto a square with restaurants. We love it. Prices are cheaper than Combarro, the food is just as good, and the atmosphere is buzzing, especially at night (well, it doesn’t become ‘night’ here until 11pm, which is when I go to bed, but you know what I mean).
However, as I said, we must move on to Portugal if we intend to cross the Atlantic this November. To be honest, we’re so taken with Galicia that, if we weren’t already booked onto the ARC and had our crew lined up, we’d be tempted to spend the rest of the season here, picking up where we leave off next year. But no, the Caribbean also beckons, and we’re sure we’ll enjoy sailing other parts of the world as much as we have the Atlantic coast of Europe. Besides, we gotta come back this way at some point! And when we do, Galicia will definitely be on our list of places to return to.