At Anchor and Ashore in the
Ria de Arosa

from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...

Having finally escaped the clutches of the three day fiesta in Ria de Muros, the crew of the sailboat ‘Alacazam’ sail south to enjoy a few days at anchor and ashore in the Ria de Arosa. On the way, we've been lucky enough to catch a good-sized mackerel...

Dick cooks the mackerel for dinner and I prepare a pasta salad to go with it. It is not quite as successful as I would have liked, as I have used my rice and millet pasta and it has become soggy. Still it's a tasty meal, followed by fresh fruit.

We relax and listen to music; neither of us feeling inclined to go ashore. I become embroiled in trying to translate the instructions, by using the Spanish dictionary, on what I thought was a tub of cottage cheese. It is more like a cream cheese and I think used to make the cheese puddings.

I make a pot of coffee thinking Dick must be in the cockpit, but I can't find him; he's in bed fast asleep and it isn't even 8pm! I read for a couple of hours and then follow suit. It's still daylight.

Dick wakes up as I get into bed. Had I switched on the anchor light? No, I hadn't. He gets up to check and the little boat to our right has been replaced by a large fishing vessel. I can hear an outboard motor and suddenly Dick shouts "What the bloody hell was that" (or words of a similar ilk).

An inflatable dinghy with a microlight rig attached to it had taken off, just behind Alacazam, lifting 30 to 40 feet into the air, complete with passenger, before a cough and a splutter and it is back in the sea and motoring to the beach. Flying inflatables? Dick thought for a minute that he must have been dreaming but I assured him he wasn't. Why on earth wait until it was dark? The mind boggles.

Dick stays up on boat watch until the yacht has swung 180 degrees to make sure we are not too close to the moored fishing boats (the other small boat has turned into a fishing boat too). Everything seems to be OK. We are far enough away from the fishing harbour, but because the sea is so flat we can still feel the effects of the fishing boats entering and leaving the harbour all night. We soon fall asleep though and neither of us wakes up until mid-morning.

Friday 17th August 2001 

I make a big bowl of popcorn for breakfast and while eating it we check through the pilot book to see where we want to visit next. Neither of us has any inclination towards going ashore here and rather fancy anchoring off the Isla de Arosa, an island that is almost two islands joined together in the middle by an isthmus on which stands the town of St Julien. There are anchorages on either side, their tenability  dependent on wind and swell.

In La Coruña we had been told of a local weather forecast broadcasting by Finisterre Radio on VHF Channel 11 every two hours giving a fairly accurate weather report for the coastal area in both Spanish and English. They can also be contacted at any time for an English forecast. It is generally accurate and we've been relying on this forecast more and more as other forecasts seem to be unreliable. Finisterre Radio has forecast southerly changing to south-westerly F4 to F5 increasing to F6 to F7 later today.

We set sail and have a cracking 7 knot sail to the Isla de Arosa under yankee and mainsail only. I helm all the way as Dick is navigating a course for me to follow through the many rocks, islands and viveros; not to mention the many fishing boats.

The viveros are anchored rafts where mussels are reared commercially on hanging ropes. Little of them shows above the water and you really do need to be vigilant.

Most of the islands are small but very pretty with sandy beaches. As we approach the Isla de Arosa we note an attractive looking anchorage at the north of the island but with the wind in this direction decide to anchor in the safer anchorage off the isthmus.

There are literally hundreds of viveros lying off the island and when we finally reach the anchorage, after much healing - and squealing (from me) - as I am now sailing to windward through the narrow channels between the viveros (these rafts are large about 20 metres square), we see the whole anchorage is packed with moored fishing boats, all sizes, with as many empty moorings belonging to the boats already out fishing.

We motor around but cannot find a single space to anchor, nor can we see any other yachts at anchor, so we turn back out but to where? The other anchorages we fancied are exposed to the south-west, so we settle for Villagarcia and the Marina. The wind is freshening so we sail through the viveros under yankee only, still making 5 knots.

It is difficult to recognise the landmarks from the photograph in the Pilot Book. I leave this to Dick as I am having a fun time negotiating through the viveros. The Ria seems to be full of viveros and they are unlit, it must be a nightmare to sail here at night unless, like the fishermen you have total knowledge of the area.

At last we find the starboard buoy and we can now see the Marina; Dick calls in on the VHF; they have space and will be waiting for us. They are, and lead us onto a berth, a Mediterranean type berth where a rope is passed to you to tie on to the stern of the yacht. It is not long enough and the bow (our only way of getting off) is three to four foot from the pontoon. We extend the rope with our own and now the bow is close enough to climb down onto the pontoon using the Bruce anchor as a step.

It's 1500 hours and we can see the weather changing - grey and cold. Within thirty minutes it is pouring with rain and the visibility is almost zero. It was a good decision to tuck in here for the night. This Ria is lovely and should not be missed but it is more the Spanish peoples' holiday playground. We have preferred the smaller Rias and cannot wait to move further south.

The rain eases off and we are off to explore. The Marina Office is a new attractive wooden structure that has the offices, toilets and showers on the ground floor and a restaurant and bar above. We are hungry and try to order some tapas but the Spanish girl we ask disappears to send someone who can speak English.

She is Irish, young and very pretty, and has lived here for eight years. Villagarcía de Arosa was a small fishing village when she arrived but it has grown and there are still new buildings being constructed. Many of the old buildings are being pulled down to make way for the new and it will soon be a very modern town. In Cambados, a small town further along the coast, modern buildings are not being built; the old buildings being maintained to retain its history and she considers more tourists visit there because of it. She explains the various dishes on the menu but when we try to place an order tells us she is sorry but the restaurant has closed for food until 8pm. Her Irish accent is so strong and lilting that Dick has more trouble understanding her than if she had spoken in Spanish. 

Hungry now, we walk out to a restaurant that we can see at the end of the promenade but it is very noisy here; full of children and teenagers all talking loudly each trying to outdo the other. Another restaurant is closed but we stop to admire a wonderful display of hydrangeas growing outside it before making our way into town. The main part of the town still has old buildings but the insides of the shops are modern. Walking in and out of the various streets, as normal, we arrive at a river running through the town. Ducks and geese live on the river and wooden houses have been built for them on small islands in the middle of the river.

It has a very English look here, as the trees lining the river are horse chestnut trees; there are hydrangeas growing in the flower beds and the daisy plants growing out of the walls are exactly the same as those growing outside our Plymouth home. There is a park and fountains beside the river leading into the entrance of an old fortification. The modern apartment blocks already constructed have kept the style of the old buildings and are not unattractive.

A new cinema complex is under construction and a new shopping mall has just been completed. These have no character, but are very modern; we could have been anywhere in the world. We spend five minutes in the shopping mall and Dick cannot get out of there quickly enough. 

We walk back to the river and find a small bar where we order wine and tapas. The wine, which we are told is organic containing no chemicals or additives, is served in white porcelain bowls (at first we did not know what to do with them and had to ask). The wine is very young but tastes extremely fruity and makes a pleasant lunchtime drink. Although the cook has not started work, the simple tapas prepared for us by the young man serving behind the bar are surprisingly good and we are replete.

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I want to buy fruit and vegetables but Dick cannot face the large supermarket we saw in the new shopping mall, so we re-trace our steps to a fruit and vegetable shop that we had passed earlier. It has the best selection that I have seen so far and I buy a lot, fruit, vegetables including celery, a kohlrabi and shitake mushrooms, as well as the normal salad vegetables and broccoli; also dried figs and pistachio nuts, all for £8 (when I work it out later I would have paid over £20 in the UK).

It has been drizzling with rain all the time we have been walking but now it starts to pour and we are getting very wet and cold. Walking back to the Marina by what we think is a shortcut we pass a large indoor market, closed for the day, but interesting enough to warrant a visit tomorrow.

The pilot book states that Villagarcía de Arosa is a very unappealing town; it is much larger than we thought, and the new complexes may not be appealing to everyone (including us) but it has its own character and we like the place. There is no doubt though, that it will be a very modern town in a few years time; the young people will love it. Sadly, modern is not always beautiful, but times change and the world does not stand still.

Back aboard Alacazam, the weather is foul, the rain is pouring cats and dogs; I cannot believe it, Dick wants to watch a DVD. We settle down to watch 'Entrapment' starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones, whilst enjoying a mushroom risotto and a bottle of red wine.

Saturday 18 August 2001 

We are up at 0830 hours ready to go to the market. I find another insect bite, a large one, on my wrist and it is beginning to itch like crazy. The weather is still cloudy and grey but it isn't raining and the sun is trying to break through the cloud.

As we leave our dock we meet an American couple, introducing themselves as Mike and Kay. They are sailing on 'Summer Lady' a Crealock 34, which Mike had sailed from Bermuda to the Azores, where Kay had joined him before sailing to this Marina.

They are both from North Carolina and although Mike has the 'standard' American accent, Kay has just the most amazing Southern drawl. They kindly invite us aboard Summer Lady later for a drink. Having been here a week, they are surprised when I mention the market as they haven't yet found it, and ask if they can accompany us. Of course they can!

Next: At Anchor and Ashore in Ria de Arosa - Part 2

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