from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...
It's Monday 13th August 2001,and after a second night's revelry at the three day fiesta we both wake up late. We need to leave Portosin by 1100 hours at the latest as the next Ria is more challenging with regards to navigation and Dick is extremely keen to arrive in daylight.
While Dick makes Alacazam ready ready for sea, I visit the bank and the supermarket.
We have time for a shower before the Marina Office opens at 1000 hours and we can settle our bill. Dick's Switch card refuses to register on the office machine and he can't remember the pin number for his Visa card (necessary at this Marina).
I go back to Alacazam to fetch my card, which fortunately works. Dick is grumbling about more time having been lost.
In comparison to most of the Marinas in this part of Spain, this one is expensive at 10,500 pesetas for three nights but the facilities here are excellent.
The delay though, has been fortuitous; as during the time we were in the Marina Office a thick fog has rolled in covering the Ria. We order coffee and from the Yacht Club balcony watch the fog rolling in.
Another English couple, Daphne and Brian from London, who own a Hunter Legend 40.5, joins us. He has retired but they only sail in the summer months, wintering the yacht in France. The fog looks as if it is lifting but within minutes is so much worse that we can hardly see the Marina. We won't be leaving here today...
Instead we walk into the village to see if we can find a cyber-café or a phone shop. The beach, which is on the other side of the main square, is fabulous and we walk the length of the promenade beside it before turning back into the one main shopping street. There are very few shops in Portosin, mostly food and hardware shops, so on the spur of the moment, as it was passing, we jumped on the bus to Noya. The road to Noya is high and we are above the fog and can see it rolling in towards Noya, which we can see clearly, but not for much longer.
We set out to explore Noya and before too far, pass an interesting little bar offering Tapas - too good to miss! We order a glass of wine each (a very good rioja called El Coto, which, when we bought some at a Supermarket later, we discovered was quite an expensive wine) and are given a pastry full of sardines. While Dick eats the pastry I pinch most of the sardines.
This is a small family concern and Dick soon gets into a conversation with the owner, quite a character. A few more red wines and a dish of octopus later we bid farewell. Dick says that if he had been on his own, this was just the sort of bar where he would have carried on talking and drinking until he probably fell off the bar stool.
A young lady (Dick's eyes are popping out of his head, she is just drop dead gorgeous) directs us to the phone shop. There we discover that the reason the phone had just stopped (conversation with Rosie) was because we had bought a 'Pay as you go' tariff and we needed to buy some more phone time. We are delighted as this will help with the budgeting, exactly what Eric was trying to achieve in La Coruña, and we had managed it unwittingly.
Pleased with ourselves we turn right at the end of the street and find ourselves in the old part of Noya. We enter a square just as a funeral procession is approaching a beautiful church there. People in the square are standing still, so we do the same as a sign of respect until the procession has entered the church. We continue our walk winding in and out of the old streets and along the river back to the main shopping street. In a 'ferret' shop we buy a plastic bowl, which we think will just fit the sink in the heads. Noya is an interesting town and we are glad that we came.
When we reach the bus station, there is thirty minutes to wait for the bus and I suggest walking down to the river (actually the silted estuary of the Ria) to kill time. Women are digging in the mud and we ask a man, sitting with his son, what they are digging for. He tells us worms for bait and Dick jokingly remarks that he is glad Spain has got it right by giving this job to the women. I treat this remark with the disdain it deserves but the Spaniard enjoys the joke and we are soon having quite a conversation with him and his son.
It is nearly time for the bus and when we tell him why we have to leave, he insists on driving us back to Portosin as it is on his way home. The traffic heading towards us is nose to tail and moving very slowly, José (father, the son is also José), explains that this is not usual and is caused by everyone leaving the beaches at the same time because of the fog. They take us right into the Marina and we invite them into the Yacht Club for a drink and also on board Alacazam. We could see that they were thrilled and would have stayed longer if they were not expected home for dinner at 8pm, but they did leave a message in the Yacht Guest Log. Clearly one of the random events that Dick says this wonderful lifestyle generates! Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
We stay on board for the remainder of the evening. The fog is a real 'pea-souper'. Looking out through the hatchway, I cannot see the shore at all. There is barely enough visibility to see two small fishing boats moored directly behind us and there is not a breath of wind. Quite ethereal and magical! Brigadoon comes to mind. It is just the sort of night for sitting in and watching a good film. I quickly cook a snack of mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans.
It's rather chilly so we relax in our 'snuggie-puggies' (fleece tracksuits) and after we have eaten settle down to watch Amistad (on DVD), directed by Steven Spielberg. It is an excellent film but very long and we don't get to bed until 0200 hours.
Tuesday 14 August 2001
We both wake up late again - easily getting into the Spanish way of life. It's still very foggy and Dick is aghast when he reads in the pilot book that they can sometimes last as long as a week. We have breakfast and shower but we are told there is not much chance of the fog lifting today. I take advantage of shore power and work on the journal for the rest of the day. Dick sorts through all his paperwork, filing what he needs to keep and throwing away the rest. He is getting restless and I tactfully suggest he starts writing one of his articles for the Practical Boat Owner magazine. He is non-committal at first, choosing to read instead, but I notice after a while that he is typing away.
We are both so absorbed in what we are doing it is 2030 hours before we realise the time. We are starving hungry, not having eaten since, albeit late, breakfast. We need to stretch our legs and head into town for a bite to eat - but where? The restaurant up on the hill looks good but is probably too expensive. The nearest one to the Marina looks OK but is not right for Dick. He has a fancy for the bar near to where the stage had been for the fiesta. We walk in and cannot see a menu and here, too, the ambience is just not right.
We walk along the beach promenade, but the bars are loud, more for the younger set. We are at the end of the village and turn to walk back along the main street; there are no restaurants or bars here only the shops and a bank. Open patches of land that we pass, here and there, are covered with bindweed. In England the trumpet shaped flowers are white, but here they are a vibrant purple colour. We notice that a lot of the building work is unfinished at ground level.
The flats above are all occupied but the ground floor level is for shops or garages or other commercial premises and the front is completed to suit the buyer. Not much happens in Portosin but we cannot understand why they have not been snapped up. The beaches here are superb and with proper marketing the area could be something of a goldmine. As it is, the living accommodation far exceeds the number of shops (although the bus ride into Noya is only ten minutes) and we wonder why so many buildings are being constructed.
We have not yet explored the other end of the village and as we round the bend in the road see a small church, with its bell ringing, framed by a huge granite hill covered in ferns and trees. There is a restaurant close by with tables and chairs outside but it is on the main road and the noise of cars and the smell of car fumes spoils it. We carry on walking and end up back where we started. The only place left is the restaurant on the hill and we walk up to it. It's perfect; although part of a hotel, this is a normal bar, frequented by the locals and it has character. The main restaurant for the visitors staying at the hotel is on the floor above.
We order fish, but we are not sure exactly what we've ordered and leave it to the ladies behind the bar (one of which is the cook) to surprise us. We are presented with a large platter of hake and cod with new potatoes, salad and a basket of bread followed by cream cheese puddings and coffee; water, a glass of rioja each and a full bottle of rioja accompany the meal and the total cost is less than £20. As soon as you see older, local ladies you know the meal is going to be good.
We watch the sun setting as we eat our meal; the fog is lifting at last. Hake has brought back strong memories of my childhood and I relate them to Dick while we are eating. I used to visit my Gran and Granddad (Dad's side of the family), on a Wednesday night, from school (Devonport High) and Granddad always cooked me hake or ray that he had bought especially for me from the fresh fish stall in Plymouth market.
I learnt to play cards from my Grandparents; Newmarket, Gin Rummy, Put and Take among others, always playing for matches or halfpennies and pennies, nothing more. On my way home I used to call in at the 'Top Twenty' Coffee Bar for an hour, still in my school uniform, to jive with my friends. My Grandparents knew I did this and I never abused their trust in me, staying only for the hour so as not to miss the bus home, because they always covered for me and never told my parents. They both died over 30 years ago and yet it seems just like yesterday.
Daphne and Brian were going to visit Santiago today and we called into the Yacht Club on our way back to Alacazam to see if they were there, They weren't, so we did not stop. A light is on, on board their yacht, so they must have retired for the night; visiting Santiago is a tiring day out.
An insect has bitten Dick on his hand - five bites. I panic because I had forgotten to apply insect repellent before I went out, but I haven't got one bite, the insect having obviously found a tastier morsel. Luckily for Dick he does not react badly and the marks will have gone by tomorrow. He reads a couple more chapters of his book while I continue the journal, but not for long, we are suddenly very tired.
Wednesday 15 August 2001
It is pouring with rain and the cloud is low over the Ria covering the hills. I stay in bed until 0900 and Dick an hour later; he is enjoying reading his book. I spend the morning working on the journal and Dick continues writing his article. About 1400 hours we take a break and have a light lunch at the Yacht Club (tortilla and pimientos followed by ice-cream). It is another holiday today and the office is closed so we cannot pay our fees by credit card. The Marineros will take cash however, so we need to go to the bank.
Music has been blaring out of the cockpit speakers on the motor yacht next to us for hours; the same CD, Madonna's Greatest Hits. Someone must have complained because suddenly two Marineros rush past us and jump on board. They find the boat full of youngsters all quite drunk and fast asleep. The music is stopped and it is quiet again - I have to say that I was actually enjoying the music.
The sun has come out and we are thinking of moving to another anchorage. There's a knock on the hullside. Popping my head out of the hatch, two people introduce themselves as Malc and Jean from the Tamar River Sailing Club (our sailing club back home in Plymouth). They had recognised Alacazam and come over to introduce themselves. I invite them on board for a beer and a chat. We know their yacht 'Valkyrie', moored on the river Tamar, but we had never met them before. They too need to go to the bank so we all go together.
Most of the shops are closed but we manage to buy some provisions in readiness for leaving tomorrow. I check my bill and it seems quite high, then I notice it is the price of the wine that is high.
Dick had mistaken the price on the bottle for 250 pesetas when it was actually 950 pesetas. It had better be good wine...
Malc and Jean have gone on ahead of us and we join them for a few drinks at a bar in the main square. We cannot believe that we have not met them before.
They live at Tavistock, and Malc was a prison warden at Princetown jail on Dartmoor before he gave it up to go sailing with Jean. Their Biscay crossing had been quite dreadful as was their passage to here, but it had not put them off sailing. They have planned to leave their yacht in Portosin for a while as both have commitments to attend to in Plymouth, but will be returning to continue sailing.
It is getting late, the time has flown again, and we go back to our separate yachts to eat. I prepare an omelette for dinner and remember too late that we had already eaten tortilla earlier; that is bad planning on my part. Dick stays working on the computer. I can tell he's not happy; he seems depressed and uneasy and says he does not know why. When I press him he tells me he is concerned at how much money we're spending. He was beginning to relax, but we have spent too long in an expensive Marina; it is time to move on and time for me to go to bed.