At Anchor and Ashore in
Ria de Camariñas

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

The first stop ashore is the Club Nautico, and in particular - the showers. As we row Alacazam's dinghy to the dock we see fish everywhere; mostly grey mullet but there are also other species. The grey mullet live a charmed life and some of them are enormous, as according to a fisherman we stop to speak to, they have no value - nobody wants to eat them.

The yacht club is excellent and I enjoy my shower; I take ages - hair washing, face cleansing - wonderful, the sheer luxury of it. You get used to washing on board but I cannot begin to describe the pleasure I get from warm water pouring over my body.

I take so long that Dick is knocking on the door to see if I am all right. His shower was backing onto mine and apparently I must have taken all the hot water because his shower had been quite cold.

He waits for me at the bar (where else) and when I join him introduces me to a young man he is talking to called Lee who is from Saltash in Cornwall and has recognised Alacazam. He's sailing a 30ft yacht and is on his way, with his girlfriend, to find work in the Canary Islands. Meanwhile, he's waiting in Camariñas for an engine part to be delivered from the UK.

We stay for a beer and then set out to explore Camariñas, which is more picturesque, if that adjective can be used to describe a Galician fishing village. They are not really pretty but are certainly interesting; each with its own character.

Walking around the end of the fishing harbour, a fishing boat has just tied up and people are crowding around and we are fascinated to see that the catch is made up purely of large eels. One lady picks up a couple of eels, chooses one, pays for it, and pops it into a carrier bag to take away.

Moving on around the corner a large area is covered with fishing nets and an old lady is sitting in the middle mending them, a laborious job, yet she is so quick at it. We watch for a while, then, hungry, we eat at a nearby bar (paella and sardines) before walking to the beach.

This is a long walk, taking us right through the town, which is much larger than we had first thought. Smells fill the air again, but this time of sewage and the local fish factory; a large concern, mainly sardines, serving all the markets of Galicia.

The beach is packed with local people swimming and sunning themselves. Dick suggests we join them but the beach is downwind of the fish factory and is also too near the sewage outlets for my liking, so we head back to the town and the supermarket.

There's a promenade along the riverside, a much prettier route back to the town and as we leave it we take another shortcut and walk straight into a brand new cyber-cafe; so unexpected here. There are a number of supermarkets in Camariñas and thank goodness we choose the nearest one to the yacht as we're laden down with fruit, vegetables, wine, beer and water.

As we start back however, Dick remembers that we need to buy a 5-gallon water carrier. He asks directions and after a couple of wrong turns we find the local hardware store (people are so kind and one lady takes us right to the shop). This small store sells everything imaginable and we buy just the container we want. Now we are really laden down and it is back to the Yacht Club for what we consider to be a well-deserved drink. We are given exceptionally good Tortilla to eat and are surprised to find that it is 2000 hours; we have walked for miles as usual;

We stop at the dock to fill the new container with water. On our way back to Alacazam to relax in the cockpit, we pass 'Sly Fox' and chat to the Australian couple that own her. Dick arranges to meet the skipper in the morning to discuss yachts (he has designed and built 'Sly Fox' himself, using a similar construction method as Alacazam, but she is radical for a cruising boat, built on similar lines to an Open 60). We keep seeing them anchored in other places, a young couple with two very small children, and made nodding acquaintance with them in Lage, so we are looking forward to meeting them properly.

Camariñas is very much a working village; fishing boats (well kept and painted in fresh bright colours) come and go all the time, day and night and a horn or siren sounds every so often; we must find out why. It is very sheltered here, but also noisy with all the comings and goings.

This is also the lace-making centre of Galicia and on our walk earlier through the village; we were impressed with the number of shops selling lace and the quality of it. Ladies were sitting outside the shops making the lace; all ages, young and old and even children. The lace is quite beautiful and they are so expert and quick at doing it, the spools of cotton just fly. Children are taught from young and in one shop we noticed a lady teaching about six children sitting around a large table. Smelly or not I like this place, it is vibrant and alive.

We are not that hungry so I surprise Dick with a sweet of stewed greengages and apples cooked with cloves and maple syrup topped with yoghurt; delicious. Dick doesn't remember having eaten greengages before but I know his Mum will have cooked them for him.

It is a warm night and we eat in the cockpit and share another bottle of Rioja before it clouds over again and it starts to very lightly drizzle. Soon it's midnight, and time for bed.

Thursday 07 August 2001

The fishing boats woke me up a few times during the night. At about 0430 hours I got up and watched two boats leaving the harbour. They are not large boats; only one man in one of them and three men in the other. They are dressed in foul weather gear as it is pouring with rain.

It is a very wet grey morning; Dick was going to watch the catch coming in but changes his mind and reads instead while I work on the computer. Never the best of writers, always having found it difficult, I cannot believe how much I am enjoying keeping this journal.

Dick puts purifier tablets in the new water container and empties the water into the tank so that we can take it ashore to refill it. It is pouring with rain so we have coffee at the Yacht club and read the messages written in the Visitor's Book hoping we might recognise some names. The only one we recognise is Anne Hammick, written in 1999 when she was revising the Pilot Book.

It's still pouring with rain so we order a beer and water and sit quietly in the lounge of the Yacht Club and read; they have English books here. It is still raining so it seems silly not to sit at the bar and drink a few glasses of wine and more coffee.

There's no need to buy lunch as we are given two dishes of fried green pimientos and also octopus. We chat to the locals and a one-legged German (who I had mistaken for a Scot) and his dog. He is quite a character and we noticed later was not without a sense of humour when we saw the name of his yacht was 'Long John Silver'.

It has stopped raining and we wander around the houses in and out of the little streets. It is strange how you suddenly come across a bar or a shop selling watches and jewellery or shoes; they are not next to each other as you might expect, just dotted here and there.

We find another bar full of local men playing cards and we are each served two glasses of wine (after much discussion from the locals as to what is the best rioja) and a coffee by a young lady who is sitting knitting a cardigan for her baby in between serving.

Dick smokes a cigar, he is usually very sorry later when he does that, but so enjoys it at the time. This is a super bar; Dick is good at finding the bars and I am becoming an expert on the loos. Most, but not all, are spotlessly clean and work well, although Dick tells me that some of the men's toilets have been in the Eastern style (a foot to be placed each side of a hole). The ones in this bar are so tiny you have to bend your head to enter and squeeze past the sink to reach the toilet; they are like after-thoughts added on, and stick out into the middle of the room. There is no way you can disguise where you are going or for what.

We go back to the cyber-café to send some emails. On our way back, as we pass the fishing quay we see a crowd of people waiting, so we wait too. We do not know what we are waiting for so Dick asks a fisherman in Spanish who tells him, also in Spanish, that the fishing boats are waiting to go out and the families are waiting to see them off.

Another fisherman, listening in, asks "Are you English?" "Yes", we answer. "Well I was born in England". Although his family are from this area and he is married to a Galician girl (it is his Father-in-Law's very large fishing boat), he was born in Holloway (the place, not the prison) and he speaks perfect English. He is able to tell us that the siren sounds to let buyers know that a catch has landed and there are fish to be bought; mostly sardines.

We remark that the fishing boats are immaculate and so brightly coloured and ask if they are subsidised here. He says that here in Galicia they are not subsidised, although the fishing industry further south is. His boat is immaculate because the owner, his Father-in-Law insists on it. The fishing in this area is good but the weather has been bad this summer and was particularly bad in July. We chuckle away to ourselves as we go back to Alacazam for dinner.

About 2115 hours, Dick finishes reading his book and wants to go for a walk along the harbour wall. It is a long high wall and offers good protection to the harbour. On our way to it we pass two large fishing boats unloading their catch of sardines onto large container trucks. The sardines are quickly sorted and put into crates where they are covered in ice. The crates are piled on top of each other and then craned off the boat onto the container trucks. This is quite an industry and we are fascinated, watching for a while.

We walk to the end of the harbour wall and pass groups of people, sitting on the rocks that form the harbour wall, fishing for squid. They do not seem to be successful but one of the fishermen tells Dick that they are and shows him the lures that they use to catch squid (three inch imitation shrimps with grapnel-like barbless hooks on the end).

We have a last drink in the Yacht Club before retiring for the night. The same girls serve us; they work 16 to 17 hours a day, every day and they work very hard, doing everything.

Back on board and I notice I have two more insect bites, both on the right hand, one on the back and one on the palm (and yes, I had remembered the insect repellent).

Next: Sailing to the Rias Bajas

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