Beautiful Galicia

Galicia is the so friendly place where we unlearned sailing. Distances were lazy short and winds weren’t really there, so almost no sailing in three weeks with few but great exceptions. On the other side, Galicia is where we learned anchoring. This is again good news for a most relaxed life.

A Coruña was our landfall and first harbor in Spain, on an early morning back in first half of August. It took less than one hour until me and my son found ourselves sitting in an old town Café. The hidden plan was actually to go for some fresh bread for the entire crew. But when we saw the many Cafés with chairs and tables out in the ped zone, we understood that this was the chance to improve our plans. Sitting over the sweet breakfast with the best coffee in days and one or two Spanish croissants gave me some great yet distant memories about business trips to my friends in Barcelona.

Same evening the restaurant satisfied more culinary desires that we could think of. Up to my (limited) knowledge, only one other country in the world produces such a wide range of delicious meals and wines (the one in the med of course). Not only tongues and bellies were rewarded after 40 hours of motoring across calm Bay of Biscay. Coruña also enriched our mariner hearts: To our surprise the city hosts the oldest operating lighthouse on the planet. It is more than incredibly 1’900 years old, built by the Romans. It is another place which deserves special recommendation for Coruña visitors:

Costa da Morte was kind to us and soon after we passed Cabo Finisterre, the former end of the world. The general conditions seemed to be quite easy on that day, peaceful and fast downwind sailing. I was just typing a life-around-Finisterre message to a friend when I realized that the boom is going over. This was definitely an unwanted situation.

What did happen? The tectonic circumstances of the cape area caused sudden changes of water currents. We ran straight into a whirlpool. The autopilot couldn’t keep course and our traveling direction changed. The wind still came from behind, but now from the other side. This made the main sail flipping over, known as an accidental gybe. A main sail which goes over all in a sudden can badly damage the rig. Sailors install a so called preventer system which either keeps the boom where it was or makes the shift smooth. Our preventer was set and active for that route and nothing bad happened. Just a few question marks in the eyes of my crew and some smiling faces up on Cape Finisterre rock, I guess.

More relaxing were Galicia’s rias. Rias are fjord-like sea arms going many miles inlands. Weather is sometimes fresh and wet there, as the Atlantic itself is. And so was the sea water: 16-18 Celsius, depending on the bay. The hilly and green area sometimes reminded us of our home country. We learned to anchor in the nicest bays, played on the beaches, and some even went swimming. We went hiking, caught fish, enjoyed sunsets and scenic night views of the villages ashore.

Some of the rias are well protected by dozens of smaller and larger islands, generally rocky, with sandy beaches an patches here and there. The pictures within this blog tell about the beauty of the place.

Also the fast train which brought us to monumental Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela reminded us to Switzerland: fast, punctual, clean, and with a voice message ahead of the next city stop. Each message closed with a very logical and therefore strange reminder: “We remind the passengers who want to continue their journey that they should not exit at the stop!” Sure, what else would you do ;-)?!

Seeing the fantastic new city buildings, museums, harbor control towers, fast train stations and art pieces every here and there, it becomes quite obvious how much fluent the money was in the years ahead of 2008. Now, some Cafés sell a morning coffee plus a large croissant for 2 Euros or even less. Was it ever like that? We don’t know, but we have the feeling that this is not enough to pay the rent and make a decent living. It would be a tragedy, which hopefully will change to the better soon.

Our last days in Galicia brought a lot of morning and evening fog. Vision was sometimes poor and the fog horns were operated. A fog horn replaces the lighthouse in the case of poor visibility. They make Mooou-mooou-mooou-mooooooooou. Fog horns sound like monster cows with some calming patience in their voices. They reminded us that we should move further south.

Galicia’s final statement for us before heading down to Portugal was the Monte Real Club Nautico of Baiona, a jewel of a marina (but same as the other ones with a weak Wifi backbone). Baiona has some most pittoreske narrow lanes, which come to real life late evening when the locals go for dinner. An old fortress and now hotel sets a beautiful counter point. And the Club Nautico sits in between, with a small beach on each side. Look at the picture…

Also if we intend more than ever to cross the Atlantic, Spain will perhaps be the country where we spend most of our one-year traveling time. This is almost sure as we will be back in Spain for another two or three weeks, when entering the Canary Islands. More Queso, more Serrano, more Rioja, more Siesta ;-)!

She made my day!

It seemed to become a nice day yesterday. Our trip from the Spanish village Portosin to an anchorage bay around Cabo de Cruz offered some wildlife experience which was new to us. Motoring down beautiful Galician coast lines we spotted an area with hundreds of seagulls quietly resting on the sea surface, kind of unusual. We changed course right into the seagull’s place to find the cause for that gathering. It didn’t take long to find the reason: Thousands over thousands of crabs were floating there, just below water surface and the birds apparently enjoyed a big eating party.

Somewhat later and after steering around stunning rock formations into Ria Arousa, our traveling direction had changed so that the little bit of half wind just seemed to be enough to sail for the last hour of the day. Out came the furling mainsail. A furling main sail is a main that rolls into the mast for stowing it away. Due to the easy conditions I was a bit too relaxed with controlling the tension of the outhaul line. In short words, the upper part of the sail got jammed inside the mast. From below we couldn’t see what exactly was wrong. The sail just wouldn’t roll neither in nor out, at least not much. A jammed main can easily become a serious problem, for example in a storm or on a gusty day with the shore on the ‘wrong’ side.

As low winds were forecasted for the next 48 hours, we proceeded to our anchorage bay under engine again. Bumping into a heard of eating dolphins was a pleasure but it didn’t solve the problem with our main. Having the anchor dropped, we decided to cook our dinner and wait for ‘manjana’ to fix the sail. The night was calm, with the main sail up.

Now comes the new day, and what made this day. Fixing the jammed sail is another job which requires one person to be hoisted up the mast. Manuela volunteered, in fact that was the better solution because hoisting myself up would require a body builder. So up she went, armed with our two biggest screw drivers and a Swiss Army knife for the case of further emergencies, for example if one finger would got jammed as well. That wasn’t going to be an easy job, that was for sure. Manuela is anyway better with undoing crazy tough knots and the like, and an extra portion of patience would certainly also be helpful. I’m better with pressing the buttons which would turn the motor to drive the main a bit in and then two mills out again. In fact, I got dozens of in-and-out commands and executed each one without any comment. Down came some funny noises, like on a women tennis court, quite an appealing sail problem.

Sitting in the cockpit next to my buttons I was already thinking who to call in case we couldn’t solve the issue by ourselves. Perhaps Carmela, Office Manager in the Club Nautic Portosin could recommend someone around Cabo Cruz who was good in fixing jammed sails. Just yesterday when checking out, she offered that we could call her, should we run into troubles. That was the friendliest of the friendly marina staff I have ever seen.

At my next glimpse up the mast I realized the the main now looked considerably better. Apparently, Manuela managed the worst part of it, and soon the command came to fully roll in and then haul out the sail for checking the full functionality. It worked, and my heart was – once more – jumping with joy.

My estimation was that it could take beyond three hours and a couple of new words for the kids to get this item solved. Instead, Manuela made it within one hour only and in silence (apart from the tennis, you know…). Moreover it should be mentioned here that she had fear of heights for the last decades, and working 18 meters above sea level, held and secured by two steel wires is definitely something which is well included in such fears. That even elevates her achievement of the day.

So Manuela received warm congratulations from the entire crew and enjoyed the second half of the day without any further house keeping or cooking or any other duties ;-). I gladly noted that my relaxed sail setting didn’t end up in one or two days of trouble, perhaps with many bucks gone.

Here I have to state that I would never trade in our fully electric driven furling main sail, also not after this nasty experience which, yes, left a couple of red drops on our main, nothing bad. Too many are the advantages. A yet unsolved issue however is that the bimini (cockpit shadow cloth) prevents direct sight to the main. That means that the one operating the main cannot really see what he is doing. This remains an open point for the time being.