from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...
Sailing west from La Coruña, we decided to spend a few days at anchor and ashore in Ria de Cormé y Lage, before rounding Cabo Finisterre and heading south.
Saturday 4th August 2001, and we're at anchor just to the east of the town of Cormé where five other yachts are already anchored, and close to some viveros (large rafts with ropes hanging from them where mussels grow) and close to the beach. It is so quiet and peaceful here.
We're feeling lazy today and both lie in until 1000 hours. It has been raining through the night and the air is fresh. Our surroundings are beautiful and we cannot wait to explore.
But boat chores first; we have so much washing to do that I decide to wash it all on board by hand. I'm not used to hand washing and there's so much to do that I am getting a tad irritable again. My mood doesn't improve when I ask Dick to put on some music for me and find that every CD is to his taste and none of the ones that I had asked for.
As recompense, he sets up a washing line consisting of three rows attached to the frame beneath the bimini and then helps me with wringing out and hanging up the washing.
Working together, it suddenly seems much easier and I brighten up considerably. Although the lines are in the shade of the bimini, with the wind blowing through as it does, the washing will be dry in no time. Looking aft we can see the dolphins playing in the Ria, roughly where they left us last night, and watch them for a while.
We row the dinghy to the nearby beach and carry it above the waterline. Some children come to meet us. They have been fishing on another beach and have caught an octopus and offer it to us. I think they are trying to sell it to us but Dick speaks to them again in Spanish and no - they want to give it to us. We thank them but decline their offer because I have not got a clue as to how to cook octopus.
Cormé is a strange little village. The pilot book states that a number of flats were built in the 80's but since then no changes have been made. This is right. We have a drink in a little bar on the front where we are given some monkey nuts with our drink. This bar is not as clean as we are getting used to and the floor around the bar is deep in monkey nut shells and cigarette ends.
We don't stay long and find the road winding out through the village to the lighthouse on the point. It is quite a long walk past the wind farms on the hill. It's a warm sunny day (though not too hot) and the countryside is fabulous, quite unspoilt, covered in wild flowers, gorse, ferns, thistles and heathers, with butterflies everywhere. The stillness, smells and sounds remind me of Dartmoor. Only one, possibly two cars pass us and we meet a local fisherman who says he has not had much luck today.
We reach the lighthouse and sit for a while listening to the waves crashing on the rocks below. There are a few other people around and I say to Dick "He looks like an Englishman". Dick had noticed that a car passing us sported a GB plate. As we got nearer you could see that the man was hovering and yes - he was English and he was waiting to speak to us and introduced himself as Pete.
We tell him that it was the socks that gave him away, but he tells us there's a good reason for wearing them because the midges and mosquitoes have badly bitten his ankles. He also said that there seemed to be a code of English dress and that we too had stood out as being English.
What could he mean! - baggy shorts, loose T-shirts, sunglasses and sunhats - and socks. He's from Sussex and had caught the ferry to Bilbao and was on a three-week camping holiday in Galicia with his wife Sarah and his son Sam. Sarah and Sam have joined us by now and Pete offers us a lift back to Cormé. It is a long walk back so we quickly accept and after some clearing of the back seat jump in with Sam.
We think there is a quicker way back to Cormé and Sarah (who is the driver) tries it. Fortunately for us we are in the car (we were going to try this if we were walking) because we have come to a dead end in a quarry. We turn around and retrace our original route back to town and invite them to have a drink with us. We are all hungry but the bar we have found only serves snacks and the bar staff kindly direct us to a hotel (the Miramar) just down the road.
They are so helpful that we stay and have a drink anyway before having a very good meal at the hotel complete with a bottle of wine. We are to learn that Pete quite enjoys a bottle of wine or a few beers. Sarah also likes wine, but she is the car driver doesn't take any alcohol now. Pete seems very interested in Alacazam, which we can see from the hotel window, and jumps at the chance when we ask him if he would like to go on board. We have no beer on board but find a very good supermarket opposite the hotel, where we stock up with beer, olives and cheese.
All of us (and the provisions) manage to get into the dinghy and Dick slowly rows us back to Alacazam without mishap. Back at the campsite Sam had been bitten on his ear by an insect and his ear has swollen so much that he is beginning to look like Dumbo. The pharmacist had been closed in the town but from my selection of creams Sarah chooses witch hazel to put on his ear and this does help to cool it down for him.
Sam has not been on a yacht before and is unsure of the motion but fitting him up with a child's harness we have on board, he is soon quite happy walking to the bow and back to the cockpit using the jackstays. While we are sitting in the cockpit, drinking a few beers and eating some nibbles, four teenagers come close in a small boat. They seem very friendly, just wanting to chat for a while and then they motor back to shore. They are no trouble (The pilot book had mentioned that some yachties had experienced problems with the local children so we are naturally wary).
Pete, Sarah and Sam stay until sunset by which time Sam has become tired and fidgety. They sign the Guest Log before Dick rows them ashore. It has been an interesting and fun evening.
Dick and I sit in the cockpit and reflect on the day. The beaches are so quiet here, although there are more people on them after 1600 hours (siesta time), I cannot believe that it's the height of the season. Pete had told us that it gets much busier further south. He also said that there is a lot of building work going on all over the Rias; many houses and blocks of flats and all the villages seem to be building promenades.
I am looking forward to my first swim although it has not been quite warm enough yet, or is it because I have just not taken the plunge. The Galician people are so friendly especially with Dick being able to speak to them in Spanish; they speak very little English here.
Sunday 5th August 2001
Some of the yachts are moving off and we decide to motor across the bay to Lage, towing the dinghy and taking the long route to have a look around the Ria.
Fish are jumping all around us; something is disturbing them. We can see dolphins leaping high out of the water; they're probably feeding on sardines, explains Dick. Two come and play fairly close to us and I prime my camera ready to take a photo, but they don't come close enough. A few more high leaps out of the water and then they are gone.
As we leave the shelter of Cormé we notice the swell again. The coastline is wonderful, very green with granite Tors and trees growing almost down to the waterline. There are a number of caves just above the waterline and we notice two tents on a small beach with fresh footsteps leading from them down to the sea - idyllic.
As we anchor off quite a large beach at Lage, a local boat approaches us and an official says that we are quite welcome to anchor, but he wanted to let us know that there is a pontoon in the harbour should we wish to use it. It's a new pontoon but berthing is in the Mediterranean style, which we have not experienced yet and after rowing across to take a look, decide we would prefer to remain at anchor.
As we pull the dinghy up above the waterline, we notice how white and fine the sand is here (the sand at Cormé was yellow) and also there are sand dunes.
Lage is a more attractive village than Cormé, but gearing up to tourism, and there is a lot of new building work going on. The bars on the front are quite busy; we have a drink in one but do not stay long. Walking through the village we see a sign post to 'La Rosa' a 14th century church, and following its direction find we have to climb steeply uphill along a dirt track to reach the church.
The church is very tiny and locked but looking through the window we can see it is quite delightful. Local people use it and just outside there is a glass fronted box containing lighted candles (and also other candles ready to be lit). The view across the bay is stunning but we carry on climbing up and over the hill and we can see the Atlantic Ocean. This area is riddled with old stone walls and sitting quietly we can hear the sea in the distance, birds calling to each other, insects buzzing and the wind gently blowing through the long grass. It is very still and there are no cars here to spoil the quietness. Walking back over the hill to the church, we can see a road to its left and walk back to Lage the easy way.
We're hungry and finding a bar away from the tourist area, on the advice of the owner, order 'Calamares en Salsa' (squid), 'Pulpo' (octopus) and salad. I don't like squid in England, always finding it too rubbery, so I'm slightly taken aback when we are presented with whole baby squid complete with tentacles in a strange purple sauce, which I later discovered was the squid's ink.
I try them and they just melt in my mouth; so tender, as was the octopus too. The owner tells us that she had worked in England, as a cook at a hotel in Kensington, from 1975 to 1986. She has made the sauce herself and only uses natural ingredients. The meal is accompanied by a very tasty Rioja, which is recommended by her husband.
When we've finished our meal he offers Dick a clear drink (not unlike the Yugoslavian Plum Brandy), which he has to knock back in one (I'm told that it is not a drink for women). Dick says he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. We pay the bill and think we may have been overcharged, but say nothing as the food and ambiance has been good - and if we have been overcharged we like to think it was just a mistake.
It is now about 1630 hours and we row back to Alacazam to read and relax. Dick is asleep within five minutes of returning and I soon follow suit. I wake up about two hours later and the sky is very cloudy and overcast. To the left over the hills the clouds are black and it looks as if it is raining there. It is warm though and although overcast there are still a lot of people on the beach. I think that we have probably been seeing Galicia at its best weather.
This is a very green area of Spain, not unlike Ireland and Scotland, and has a lot of rain. The weather is reputed to be similar to that on the South West coast of England. Dick doesn't wake up until 2040 hours and he isn't feeling, or looking, at all well (that last drink has knocked him for six).
I have prepared a light snack of ham, cheese and salad but he cannot face it until later and is in bed by 2215 hours. I work on the journal until just after midnight.
Tomorrow we'll move on to the Ria de Camariñas...