Sailing the Atlantic, Cruising the Caribbean - Avalon of Arne

By Phaon Reid

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Rios, Rias and Rioja - Laxe to Bayona

Map Laxe to BayonaTravelling south from Laxe the first port worth visiting is Muros. We didn't know this, so we made overnight stops in Camarinas and Finisterre - both unremarkable (in fact rather depressing) fishing villages, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Laxe. For some reason we had expected more of Finisterre - as the westernmost point of mainland Europe we thought it should be a Significant Place. It wasn't. We were disappointed.

On the other hand, the coast itself is quite dramatic with rugged cliffs and fjord-like valleys, known as rios (if they are at the mouth of a river) or rias (if they are not).

The weather had remained true to form with light, variable winds and a large swell. The swell was particularly bad coming out of Camarinas. We set out at the same time as Idefix and Cheyenne. Grand'Mich on Cheyenne doesn't like using his engine, so he set out early in his little 22' bilge-keeled Westerly and tacked into the light wind and heavy swell. And tacked, and tacked, and tacked. He made it eventually.

After breaking the GPS aerial on the way to Laxe, we had to revert to traditional methods of navigation for this part of the journey. This was no problem as we had both started our sailing without any of these clever gadgets. So we did our DR plots, and made some use of the sextant, mainly for finding "distance off" from various lighthouses using the vertical sextant angle.

South of Finisterre the swell grew less and we actually had a half-decent sailing breeze on occasions. On the way into Muros, the genoa suddenly fell down, due to a broken shackle at the top swivel of the roller furling gear. So, once we were at anchor I hauled Sarah up the mast, whereupon we discovered that the genoa halyard was badly chafed, and would probably have broken soon if the shackle hadn't gone first. We cut off the frayed part, and sleeved the vulnerable part with reinforced water hose. Since then we have had no more problems, but we now make regular checks of the halyard condition.

Muros is quite a large town set on a sheltered inlet. It is a pleasant and attractive place, with good shops and facilities, and well worth a stop. We stayed an extra day there and explored the town with the crew of Idefix. Chris and Carole in Wild Rose, who had "done" this coast the year before, had intended to sail directly to Muros from England. This makes a lot of sense and would only add another day to the trip if done non-stop.

Leaving Muros, we headed on south towards Bayona, about 40 nm down the coast. Initially there was no wind, so we chugged along under motor until a gentle breeze sprung up in the afternoon. We got the cruising chute up and had a reasonable sail, with the wind increasing all the time - so much so that when the time came to get the chute down, it was quite an interesting performance. Initially we anchored in the lee of the Islas Cies, which are about the nearest you'll come to "desert islands" in Western Europe. They are well worth a stop, and a good place for a picnic or barbecue on the beach. By the time we hauled up the anchor and headed down to Bayona the wind had got up to maybe force 6 and the seas outside the entrance to the harbour were large and awkward.

Once in the harbour we initially anchored, but we soon learned that there was a pontoon where we could moor free of charge. This had no water or electricity, but at least it saved having to use the tender to go ashore. We were joined on the pontoon by Idefix, Wild Rose and Cheyenne (who we knew) and the Norwegian boat White Bread (who we got to know). We had seen White Bread in la Coruna and had thought "what a silly name for a boat". They had seen Avalon and thought much the same thing - Arne is a common name in Norway (in England it's a place). It turned out that the name "White Bread" derived from some Norwegian Proverb, the details of which I forget. It was also intended as a reference to a certain round the world race, as they had T-shirts proclaiming "White Bread around the world".

Our main task while in Bayona was to obtain a new aerial for the GPS. We decided to get a proper external aerial to mount on the pushpit, rather than just replacing the standard one. Obtaining the aerial necessitated numerous bus trips into Vigo, as the thing had to be specially ordered and then didn't arrive on time. It was also a good deal more expensive than it would have been in England.

In the meantime we were having a good social life with the other boats. Some evenings we would all go into town and drink wine at the local hostelries. The "standard" local wine was served from a vat into a sort of white ceramic saucer, and was a bright red colour like blood. It didn't taste much better, either. It turned out though, that for slightly more money you could get an excellent Rioja - so good in fact that we bought several bottles to take with us.

On other evenings we would all congregate on one of the boats - usually Idefix or Avalon as they were the largest. One day we returned from Vigo at sunset, and then remembered that we had invited about a dozen people over to Avalon for pizza. Some were already there, happily drinking and chatting away in the cockpit. The pizzas did get made, albeit pretty late, by which time a great deal of wine had been consumed.

Usually the wine we drank on board was stuff called "Don Simon", sold in the supermarkets in the sort of cardboard containers usually used for UHT milk or fruit juice. It was very cheap and you could get used to it. Don Simon had an even poorer cousin called "Don Garcia" who made an appearance on occasions. An impudent little wine, as the saying goes. Impudent to call itself wine.

It was in Bayona that Sarah threw most of my clothes away. I had packed up all my clothes that needed washing in two carrier bags, for a trip to the launderette. Sarah, getting up before me, had assumed that they were bags of rubbish and had taken them and dumped them in the rubbish skip. By the time we went back to retrieve them, the skip had been emptied and my clothes were gone. I had a few choice words to say but, in the circumstances, I think I was quite restrained.

We stayed in Bayona about five days - it is a pleasant place with a well sheltered harbour and is well worth a visit. Vigo, its larger cousin inland is large, urban and generally unexciting, but useful for stocking up on things you can't get in the smaller coastal ports.

During most of the time we were in Bayona, waiting for our aerial to arrive, it had been blowing quite hard. However, by the time we were ready to go the winds had dropped and we were back to calms again. In sailing terms, our trip down the Spanish coast had been a dead loss. Next stop Portugal. Maybe the "Portuguese Trades" would start blowing? Maybe pigs would fly, too.