Sunday, 25 August 2013

Portosin to Baiona

Portosin is a fishing village. The previous night all the fishing boats were dressed with flags and there had been massive fireworks. When we arrived the town was suffering from a collective hangover. Nevertheless fish at the local restaurant was very good. The proprietor brings the uncooked fish out for you to inspect before deciding. We sat next to a load of crabs and lobsters on death row in their tank. They did not look very happy about the situation.
Portosin, nothing like it's name!

We visited Santiago del Compostela for the day. The cathedral is a fantastic medieval shrine to St James the disciple who spent some time in Galicia. He had his head chopped off by King Herod in the holy land and the legend has it that his remains were transported to Santiago. The church never blind to a good business opportunity declared it proven and opened up Santiago as one of their sites of pilgrimage. Pilgrims who may not necessarily be Catholics were all over the town. They could be spotted because they were either chilling out lying on concrete or limping about with multiple bandages for blisters.  The interior of the cathedral has an impressive amount of gold and you could go below the alter into the crypt and light an electric bulb (European health and safety regs) . 2 Euros for one hour and  3 Euros for 4 hours - a bargain!  There were a number of priests in confessional boxes for different languages. Sadly James and Colin, both good Catholic lads, did not want to go to confession as they felt it would have entailed an overnight sitting for the poor priest.
Pilgrims with painted feet to hide the blisters! 
Peacefulness and gold, historically incompatible

We managed to switch our gas supply to Spanish camping gas with the aid of a new adaptor, a bit of a struggle linguistically in the hardware shop and sailed across the Bay to Muros where we anchored in black mud and deployed our new SwissTec tripping line as there were rumoured to be underground cables. Going ashore in the dinghy we developed a leak and glued another patch on which worked -Hurrah ! Sending our malfunctioning chart plotter back to Plymouth was the event of the week in the sleepy post office with three different forms. One hour later we emerged. No wonder the economy is in trouble. We will hopefully pick up the replacement from Lagos marina where they will kindly hold onto it.

A view from our berth in Portosin

Muros, a view whilst at anchor

From Muros we spent two days motoring and sailing down the Rias via Porto San Vicente to Baiona in its spectacular Bay. The fishing rod and trolling line was deployed and to everyone's great excitement we hooked a fish. It was a vicious looking beastie with as Colin put it a long and " very sharp beak". It didn't look very edible so we put it back. James looked it up on his i phone and we discovered it was a needle fish described as the most loathsome fish imaginable. They have killed one or two people by stabbing them as they leap out of the water. Things went quiet after that so we have started a competition to see how many original excuses we can come up with as to why the fish are not biting.

San Vincente del Mar, Mother and child await anxiously 

The strain tells on both the rod and the skipper

and after hours of playing the line.....

.Baiona has a splendid bay and there is a replica of Christopher Columbus's ship the Pinto moored up near us. He arrived here after discovering the new world - forget about the Vikings who were over there on a regular basis. The wind is gusting 30 knots offshore so we are snugly tied up until Monday when we head for Portugal.  Sephina will slip her moorings the day after.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

La Coruna to Portosin

The Tower of Hercules, the guiding light at La Coruna

La Coruna is a wonderful place. The marina staff were unfailingly helpful and courteous and the place was full of boats on passage chilling out after surviving Biscay. There were a number of boats doing the ARC and an old oyster, whose skipper George and family hailed from Aachen, who will be with us on the ARC plus to the Cape Verdes.

The observation tower at Coruna Marina.
Note the photographers nifty bike in the foreground!

Evenings in the old town were a lovely experience. Everyone goes out at about 9 pm and the old town was full of families with children and old people promenading and greeting each other. There is a street full of restaurants where a three course meal including wine could be purchased for the princely sum of 12 Euros. After dinner we proceeded to the square where on both Thursday and Friday nights there were magnificent concerts of Galacian dancing which has pace and vibrancy, and music which is Celtic and very similar to Irish reels and jigs. The Galacian pipes are very powerful and are bought in at the end of a tune to get everyone dancing and clapping. The square and  overhanging balconies were full of an appreciative and involved crowd.

Cass, don't let James tell you its all hard work!
On Friday James and I helped Clive drain his diesel tank and clean it. This involved a trip to the chandlers in town where our very limited Spanish was deployed. They were charming, took a lot of trouble to find the right containers and the boss's Dad gave us a lift back to the marina for free, refusing any offer of payment. Galicians are a proud and kindly people, however the economy is suffering with no trams because the city is unable to pay. Youth unemployment is high but there was no sign of drunken and disaffected youngsters so common in Britain.
There was a lot of fibre glass swarf and black sludge at the bottom of Clive's tank. The generator fitting had been a poor one with the fuel pipe extending only half way to the bottom of the tank. Clive and James cleaned the tank until you could eat your dinner from it and I carted off fuel which we re filtered into  Kika and a dis-masted wooden cutter called Winnifreda from Belfast. Its owner Gary is a poet and musician who was taking the boat to Haifa as part of a Bahai pilgrimage . Sadly he lost his mast in Biscay as he had the wrong bolts on his stays. In fact the whole boat needs some serious work before it is safe for sea so she will be laid up at La Coruna for the winter. Winnifreda was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1892 as a gunpowder tender for ships of the line at Cork. As a result she started life with lead decks. When she was decommissioned she was sold to republican sympathisers, who used her as the coast guard look out ship for Sir Roger Casement's ill fated attempt to land munitions from a German U Boat on Banna Strand beach. Winnifreda failed to spot the British who were lying in wait The landing party were rounded up and Sir Roger Casement was sent to the Tower of London and hanged as a traitor. Winnifreda was subsequently bought by Gary's grandfather and has remained in his family since. On our way out of La Coruna we rafted up to Winnifreda and motored her round to the marina where her new mast is to be fitted. We wished Gary luck and a safe onward passage.

                  Towing Winnifreda across the harbour, La Coruna

We also met another Rival 38, " Haji", skippered by David Nixon whose father, a retired jet pilot, self built the interior. The joinery is first class with a really comfortable pilot berth amidships and some original Mike Peyton cartoons of David's mother spotting a whale, which turned out to be a submarine, decorating the saloon. Haji is going back to Plymouth.

layers of low lying cloud over the rocks on the journey to Cape Finisterre

The sun rises in the Ria de Muros
On Sunday afternoon we left Clive and Judith chilling out in Corunya and set sail on an overnight passage for Porto Sin in the Ria de Muros. The tide took us round Cape Finnistaire and after some initial mist and fog the night cleared, the wind went North and increased to give us a magnificent run into the Ria. On James' watch some dolphins started nudging the paddle of the Aries wind vane to set us off course - cheeky buggers. The sun has come out, the boat is 6 miles off Porto Sin, we are surrounded by magnificent scenery and Colin is singing so all is well on Kika.
The Marina Portosin

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Crossing The Bay of Biscay

Waiting for a weather window in Kinsale has been fun. Vincent is a genius for finding sessions. After one night at the Silent Banjo we joined another session at Kitty O'Sheas where there was a superb fiddler who was very welcoming. Our American friends Rocky and Molly Dunn who we had met at lunch in a lovely pub called the Spaniard turned up and joined us.  Rocky was of Irish descent and had turned up for a wedding in Killarney

On  Friday 9 August I managed to keep the crew busy by drying out against the harbour wall, then pressure hosing the hull and recoating her with anti fouling . Colin donated a large tin of Joton to the boat which apparently the fishermen use and is powerful stuff. The boat slowly settled on her keel and with Clive's help we were able to get just the right angle of heel by cranking on the mainsail halliard to allow the boat to lie against the harbour wall.
On the slipway, Kinsale.
The Skipper gives a brief demonstration of how it's done

...and rapidly retreats to leave the crew to their toil!

Saturday the 10August dawned and after a final look at the Grib files I decided to leave in the afternoon. Clive who has the faster boat will leave on Sunday morning. In the morning we went with Dermot Ryan on a walking tour of the town.  Kinsale was the site of a terrible battle where the Irish and the earls of Ireland tried to rebel against the English by ganging up with the Spanish who planned to land in the North . Unfortunately due to bad weather they arrived in Kinsale where the local population and the Spanish were reduced to eating Cats and Dogs to survive while besieged by English artillery. When Chief O'Neiill finally marched down from Ulster to relieve the town a terrible battle ensued in which the English lost 9 men and the Irish 1500.  The subsequent flight of the Earls to Spain deprived Ireland of its Leadership and marked the beginning of settling the North with Lowland Scots
The battles result still resonates today throughout Ireland.

a lingering look back to Kinsale as we head for Spain

We left Kinsale at 15:00 hours and after initial troubles with the malfunctioning Raymarine Chart plotter and AIS things settled down. I cooked up a curry on starboard tack, the new galley strap worked OK and prevented me from falling all over the place. The wind gradually came round to the west to put us on a comfortable beam reach for Cape Finnistaire as we settle into night watches. At present Vin and James are doubling up with Colin and I on 4 hour watches to give them a bit more confidence, the wind is moderate,the temperature warm, schools of dolphins have been chasing us and the night stars are brilliantly clear, even the boat is going faster after its bottom scrub and the Aries wind vane is doing a sterling job.  We're a happy ship.
(Note by Colin.... It is now 11.30 on Sunday morning, Jon,Vin and James are testing the patience of Colin by practicing fiddle, flute and saxophone in the cockpit. Thought I saw a dolphin or two just then but me thinks the music is playing havoc with their sonar! Jon encourages the crew with "the music is coming along lads, I'm improving", and I'm thinking " only one year and fifty weeks to go! "

Jon is all smiles

Vince is a happy man

James on the saxophone

Colin with ear plugs firmly in place

We have seen a number of very large whales, one surfaced just behind the boat with a great spout of water from its blowhole which gave Vin who was on watch quite a shock.  It is wonderful that these mysterious leviathans of whom we know so little are here in such large numbers.

Wow! it's much larger than Kika!

Dolphins often play about the boat . Three of them lolled around the bow of the boat making comments on the foredeck crews attempts to hoist the parasail. At night they create little stars of phosphorescence .
We have adjusted to life at sea. Seasickness has receded and when we come off watch we are able to sleep at a moments notice despite the rolling of the boat and engine noise and we eat well.

When we reached the centre of the high pressure zone on Tuesday the wind eased to 5 knots not even the parasail could keep us going and we motored most of the day at 1800 Revs and 4.2knots which was very comfortable and the engine felt good.  Sephina overtook us at great speed 6.7knots and we had a whole orchestra assembled on deck to greet them with Sax( James), Flute(Vin),Colin (singing) and me on the fiddle playing the beach boys on the sloop John B.

all together now!

The wind has picked up to 15 knots . We are comfortable with one reef in the main and a slightly furled Genoa . We pan to arrive at daybreak on Thursday and wonder if Sephina will make it before nightfall tonight. If we are early we plan to heave to and wait for dawn.
 We are 100 Nautical miles North of La Coruna where we plan landfall as the wind off Cabo Finnistaire remains strong on the Grib files we downloaded on the SSB radio.
We finally arrived at La Coruna at 5am on Thursday after four and a half days at sea.. During the night the wind blew up to 25 knots.
Colin and James had to go to windward to avoid a large fishing vessel and at the same time the chart plotter and AI S went off. I got up to find them bumping about trying to identify lighthouses.  We got sorted found our position and turned downwind for La Coruna .The approach was well lit, we tied up had a glass of Laphroig to celebrate and slept like babies till 11am.  We are surrounded by long distance boats many of whom are off to the ARC across the Atlantic.
Sephina approaches at a rate of knots and we have music at the ready
Early landfall, Spain

Sunset at sea
ready for night watch

Clive in Sephina had a tough time with engine failure due to Fibreglass scarf from a faulty fuel line instillation for the generator. He had to sail into La Coruna anchored in the bay and motored gingerly over to the marina on Thursday morning.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Kinsale Yacht Club August 6

Crosshaven in the sunshine
pilotage is a tricky business
no 1 says its all a  breeze
Tall ship on the rocks 
A motley looking crew
Vincent the master baker with a soda loaf
Liam, Sam and Jude our visitors in Kinsale
Session in the Silent Banjo
Vin is getting the hang of the ropes
The weather at Kilmore Quay didn't look good, with a new low coming in and force 7-8s predicted. Looking at the Grib files we detected a small window where the wind came round to the South and moderated allowing a passage west to Cork. So we sampled the magnificent fish restaurant, spent more money at a very well stocked chandlery and asked the harbour master for his advice. "You won't be going out tomorrow lads and I won't be goin fishing" was the verdict. Thursday dawned the wind had eased so I woke up Clive and Judith who were berthed outside us and told them we were off. On the way out we spotted the harbourmaster in his fishing boat! It was quite rough following the storm the night before and during the day the wind progressively strengthened with a small craft warning of Force 7 in the late afternoon. Both Colin and I messed about in the cabin before coming up which resulted in us both redelivering breakfast over the Taff rail. We reduced to two reefs in the main and Kika reached across to Cork at 6 knots(8 over the ground with the tide). Colin got the seaman of the day award for cooking up soup despite seasickness and Vin cheered us up with Irish Jigs on the whistle in driving rain. We reached Cork at 21.30 and had a lovely sail up the estuary to a berth at the Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven where Clive was waiting for us to guide us in and take our lines. He had had a fairly rough passage on Sephina and at one point was taking my name in vain for forcing him out of Kilmore Quay. The delights of Cork which we sampled the next day soon restored him. A shopping trip to Cork city on the bus produced golf shoes for 10 Euros, I nearly got throttled for asking for a discount. The city was a delight. Cheerful friendly people and specialist shops for everything you could think of. There was a wonderful English Market with a real buzz selling fresh produce. We slit up arranging to meet at the cathedral. There were 5! We left Cork for Kinsale and had a gentle sail over in light winds. Aired the parasail which didn't really get going in 7 knots of wind and saw the wreck of a three masted tall ship recently driven onto the rocks when her engine failed. Presumably the crew did not have time to hoist the sails to get her off the Lee shore. Kinsale was abuzz with Irish Bank holiday fever. We sampled the delights of the fish and chips shop which was doing a roaring trade . Vincent managed to create a perfect Soda bread loaf after an initial attempt at which the bottom burned off a supposedly oven proof plastic tin from Lakeland plastics. We were joined for afternoon tea by Louise Cook's sister Sam, her husband Liam and young Jude who enjoyed exploring the boat. They had driven all the way out from Youghall to find us. James patiently fixed the AIS which was faulty due to a loose connection and we went out to the Silent Banjo where we joined in a session at which a lot of Guinness was consumed and new friends made. We even knew a few of their tunes We are are now looking at Friday morning for the Biscay crossing to catch the high and our Spanish is gradually improving under Vincent's enthusiastic tutelage