from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...
Having spent some time at anchor in the Rias Altos, and sailed around Cape Finisterre, we're now at anchor in Ria de Muros in the Rias Bajas.
It's Thursday 9th August 2001, and morning brings sunshine and a beautiful day. Two yachts have left and we are too close to the next yacht at low tide so we move and anchor in a prime spot nearer the harbour wall.
The bananas I had bought in Camariñas are more like plantains so I griddle them for breakfast and we eat them warm with maple syrup and natural yoghurt; delicious. My griddles (like rectangular frying pans with crinkly bases) are brilliant; I can cook such a variety of foods on them.
It is time to explore and we find Muros is quite pretty. We climb steeply up steps to a very old church, the steps following a stream that is trickling downhill to the Ria over granite rocks. We look inside the church, which is quite beautiful, but do not go in as we are wearing shorts and an old lady has just entered the church to pray and it seems irreverent somehow, so we leave her in peace to pray.
We walk through the back streets, where the houses are very close together and the narrow streets are paved. Further up the hill there are grape vines and maize growing and some of the houses here, and also higher up, are large. The shops are nestled among the houses and old ladies are selling fish and vegetables on street corners, carrying their wares in baskets on their heads as they move from place to place.
We head further out to the north end of town and stop for a beer in a bar that we pass. It is lunchtime and we are thinking about ordering food when we are given a dish of chorizo sausage and chips. It's normal to be offered free tapas in this part of Spain; A great tradition, but I don't think it would catch on in the pubs back home. We don't need any more food so just have another beer (the beer is always served in small glasses, just less than half a pint, and tastes good) and continue our walk.
We pass two or three hardware shops, as usual selling everything including the kitchen sink, and Dick buys a lure for catching squid (or possibly for his collection; he just can't resist buying fishing lures). The shops back onto cliffs and the area is becoming more industrial, garages and the like.
There's too much traffic using this road and the walk is becoming unpleasant so we head back to town and explore the main street along the front. This is a more touristy area with shops selling clothes, shoes and beach items, and many restaurants and bars. These are set back under arches making them cool, but unfortunately, Muros is spoilt by the large car-park taking up most of the area along its front promenade, packed with cars. We walk a little further and find an internet café but it is closed until 1700 hours.
So it's back to Alacazam for a snooze in the cockpit. We are both startled awake by the sound of gunshots, six of them, really loud and close by. We have heard this before in Lage and Camariñas and have noticed the little puffs of smoke they leave, but we have no idea what it means (yet).
The forecast is a north-west wind F6 and some of the yachts are heading to the other side of Muros to anchor. We also up-anchor and motor across to take a look at the anchorage but decide to move further around the bay and anchor off two small beaches. It is very attractive here, only a few houses and fewer people on the beaches. There are tree-lined hills to the left of us and only two other yachts are at anchor.
Dick reads his book in the cockpit, and I prepare a chicken jambalaya for dinner. It is quite windy and it is increasing, the forecast was correct, but we are protected from the swell and there is no fetch. Mr Noisy, our wind charger, is living up to his name. We are unsettled and make many checks during the night. One yacht (local) had left in the late afternoon but the other yacht is astern of us and we are both holding fast.
It's a very clear starry night and we can see a number of fishing boats laying their pots. Dick stays up in the cockpit, snoozing occasionally, wrapped in a sleeping bag but eventually comes to bed.
Friday 10 August 2001
Looking out of the hatchway, when I wake up in the morning, I see twelve small fishing boats to the left of me and one larger one to the right, which is fishing using a net; a man and his young son. I watch them as they motor to the smaller beach and sort their catch. It is still very windy but the sea is flat calm. Dick sleeps patchily until 1000 hours and I work on the computer using the inverter as Mr Noisy is working well and soon, so will the solar panels. It is a wonderful day, the breeze is warmer and I do lots of washing and Alacazam soon looks like a Chinese laundry.
We spend most of the day just lazing, sunbathing and reading. Other yachts have anchored but we have privacy and I am able to expose all my white parts to the sun. I am tempted to go swimming but can't yet pluck up the courage to swim off the back of the yacht (and the deep water is freezing cold). It is getting late. We want to visit Santiago at some time so rather than spend another fractious night at anchorage we decide to head for Portosin and the marina there.
As we motor away from our anchorage into the Ria we realise just how well we had been protected. The wind is really strong and although the waves are small they are all white topped. We note other alternative anchorages along the way in case the Marina is full but none really appear tenable so we phone the Marina (not having raised them on VHF) and there is space.
The sea is still rough as we approach but inside the harbour wall it's much calmer although the wind is blowing strongly. According to the Pilot book, entering yachts have to berth on the hammerhead pontoon, but there is a small boat already berthed alongside it and we are unsure where to go.
We phone the Marina again; we see no-one to help and are just about to leave the Marina when we hear a whistle and see a Marinero who is directing us to a large motor vessel. As Dick motors forward the Marinero changes his mind and directs us around the corner through a small gap leading to a finger berth. It is very windy and Dick is having a real problem maneuvering Alacazam in this small space but fortunately it is head to wind when entering the berth and with help from another Yachtie who has just berthed ahead of us, we are in, next to a large power-boat.
We have been bothered by lots of flies today. I have managed to kill six but more arrive in their place. We have not had this before, sheltering from the wind perhaps.
When I join Dick on the pontoon he is talking to two Irish men on a large converted fishing boat. Another yacht is having difficulty berthing alongside them (the wind is behind it) and we all rush to help. It is an old heavy 50 footer and the owner is sailing single-handed except for his two cats. The black cat cannot wait to get ashore as apparently she suffers from sea-sickness. The other little grey cat is recovering from an operation for a broken leg and takes her time leaving the yacht. They are both very friendly cats. I, of course, am delighted to see them (so too is Dick).
It is 2000 hours and we are hungry and head for the Yacht Club where we have the Menu of the Casa (House), three tasty courses for 1,000 pesetas (£4) each. The Yacht Club is quite new and very tastefully decorated. After our meal we sit on the balcony, overlooking the Marina and the Ria beyond, and drink our coffee and chat to the two Irishmen, Dave and Nick, while they are waiting for their table to eat. They tell us that it is fiesta time and that there will be live music in the town tonight.
As we leave the bar we meet up with Paul, his wife Roz and their friend Jenny. Paul was the Yachtie who helped us tie up to our berth. They all live in Falmouth (although originally from Essex and the Midlands) and Paul and Roz are taking a year out to sail to the Mediterranean but Jenny is flying home from Gibraltar.
We all decide to head into town for fiesta. It is a tidy walk from the Marina to the town and a Fair has been set up along the road. We manage to run the gauntlet of the various rides and stalls and have a drink at one of the bars in the town centre square to wait for the music to start. Two large stages have been erected and the music starts at 2200 hours. This is the normal starting time in Spain and the music will continue until 0300 hours in the morning.
There are two groups, one for each stage and they are both excellent, playing and singing modern Tijuana, Salsa type music. Gradually the square starts to fill up with all the local people; they are pouring out of their houses, children, teenagers, the whole family. People of all ages are dancing a kind of 'Meringue'; a very simple dance.
The atmosphere is so happy that even Dick and I join in a couple of the dances. I cannot believe Dick is dancing with me, but he is and enjoying it too. Before we know it, it is nearly 0200 hours; we are all tired and walk back to the Marina, stopping to watch the youngsters riding on one of those dare devil rides, that leaves your stomach in the air when you have reached the ground. They seem to love it though.
The fiesta is still in full swing when we hit the sack on Alacazam, but nothing disturbs us as we get a good night's unbroken sleep.