The infamous Cape Finisterre and on to Bayona

Cape Finisterre in October

Camarinas was a just a ‘sleep stop’ but it was here that we said our tentative goodbyes to the crew of ‘Yayou’ as they pushed on towards Porto at an unsavory hour. I state “tentative goodbyes”, because we may yet catch up with Andre further south.

Another Bonito for supper

The rest of us rugged up for a 9am departure and set off in a chilly Force 5. As luck would have it, upon reaching the infamous Cape Finisterre, Aeolus let up on his puffing. The sea rapidly calmed, and we were able to motor to within a cable of the headland. What followed was a once in a life-time ‘hey mum, look at me’ photo-shoot, sailing between the mainland and Finisterre’s little island. The local fishermen must have thought we’d gone completely loco.

Fish feast (German family centre)

On route I managed to catch another whopper of a bonito, so after anchoring off a lovely beach in Muros, I set about preparing the catch of the day. Much too much fish for one person, so the usual crowd gathered on ‘Avel Vat’ and we invited everyone else at the anchorage (just one German registered vessel) to join us for a fish feast.

Force 6 with gusts of Force 7 the following morning had me scrambling to put in one reef after another. It took quite a while to find a sail combination Eileen appreciated, but when we’d reached three reefs for the mainsail and set a whisker pole on the stay-sail she settled down. Eileen of Avoca managed to glide effortlessly at 6 knots under this sail arrangement! Not too shabby for a little 23ft boat.

Life vest inflates!

Unfortunately the wind did not last, and now that we have reached Bayona the forecast is for more dead calms. Looks like I will be using the motor generously over the next few days.

Despite the novel easy-going conditions I’ve still managed to get into all sorts of trouble. The latest incident involved getting the inflation cord of my life vest stuck while lowering the mainsail.

Now that it has been unexpectedly inflated, the vest is almost useless until I can find a replacement CO2 cartridge and have the zippers reset. Naturally the type of cartridge I need is about as common as 23ft boats crossing the Atlantic!

Seven boats race for Camarinas


It was a mad dash to reach Camarinas while the wind blew from the northeast. Considerably stronger that I would have liked, but at least everyone made great time. Joining our small flotilla was Rowland in an English registered yacht called Voya (first spotted anchored off Vivero), and an assorted collection of route copy-cats.

In a steady 20 knots, Eileen of Avoca maintained an excellent pace, but liberal use of the iron top sail was required in the occasional lulls to keep up with the larger vessels.

Boats unaware of my motor sailing strategy are always surprised by how agile a Yarmouth 23 can be!

Especially because I never tell them that I cheat.

Oh Canada!

Now if you are wondering about Rowland’s Canadian connection (see his sail in the photo above), it’s a tale of true romance. He couldn’t leave the woman he loves, so he is sailing his boat alone across an ocean to be with her.

I could understand sailing across an ocean to get away… err… I better leave that train of thought there…. Lets just say I’m not the romantic type! 😉

But wait, what’s this? I stand corrected…. apparently he couldn’t bear to leave the boat he loves so he’s sailing it across an ocean to keep her.

Now that I can understand!!!

The one that got away!

La Coruna, Spain

On my way to La Coruna from Vivero I hooked the monster of all fish… It was all terribly exciting! But despite a prayer to the effect that I would be ever so obliged to land this catch, and a promise to put the kill to good use feeding ‘one and all’ at the marina, my pious appeal had no obvious effect (perhaps it lacked sincerity, as I was more concerned about feeding myself than the nebulous ‘one and all’).

Anyway, after almost half an hour of determined struggle with this Spanish leviathan, the scaly beast won free. Grrr!

In my defense it was the fishing hook rather than the line that gave way, but I shall not hide behind such feeble excuses. It’s now just my minor footnote in the dusty annals devoted to fisherman’s tales of ‘the one that got away’.

Since I’ve already had my say on La Coruna when traveling north earlier this year, I’ll only mention that I stayed at another marina this time (the one under the fancy habour tower) and that it gets my thumbs up. No more rolling about all night while berthed.

The showers are also notable, but so popular you have to wade through them in a perpetual sultry haze. Frankly, taking showers in the company of strangers at marinas, wondering what exotic mold might be lurking underfoot, isn’t really my idea of a good time. Yes, I’m both shy and paranoid, but Turkish baths, the Jacuzzi or saunas are simply not my thing! I’d rather go swimming in the sea, but preferably when it’s warm.

Andre takes a swim beside his pride and joy!

Speaking of which, I had my first swim (in a wet suit) of the season while moored at La Coruna today. Our friends in “Yayou” had caught on some rope on route and I reluctantly volunteered to play clear the propeller for them.

Andre was a real gentleman. Ill at ease with sending me to do his dirty work, he insisted on accompanying me for a dip as official photographer. I’m always happy to be of help and expect little or nothing for my efforts, so when given a collection of fine wines as a token of appreciation, I was simply flabbergasted.

Dear Andre, I will enthusiastically toast your health when I open them in Brazil.

Collecting more travel companions along the way!

The crew of Yayou

Meet André and Jean-Noel in “Yayo”, on their way to the south of France in a brand new Bi-Loup 36.

Frederic and I met them in Ribadeo while waiting on yet another monster low pressure cell to pass and now our southbound flotilla has acquired new members. Give us a few more weeks of bad weather and we’ll build an armada!

I imagine we’re holding back our new found friends, especially when considering that their vessel motors along comfortably at 7 knots (compared with my sluggish 4.5 and Frederic’s 4), but I guess it’s always reassuring to be at sea with other yachts.

Monster low pressure system approches Biscay

I like to think they have joined the party because we’re exceptional company, but I’d better not get too carried away into the realms of fantasy. It probably has more to do with their not having a laptop on board. Anyone who relies solely on dated notices posted at the marina office for weather forecasts is a braver man than I am…..

Mind you, there are certain advantages to remaining blissfully ignorant of what’s brewing out in the Atlantic of late (see picture). If you don’t see it, you certainly don’t worry about it. Maybe there is a market out there for anti-panic blindfolds. Seems to work well enough with a firing squad. 😉

Vivero, Spain

But enough of this weather obsession, I’m probably boring my audience of 3 to death by now. Sailors can be worse than farmers once they warm to the topic. Let me tell you about Vivero instead.

Apart from the breaking 4 meter swell threatening to swamp us leaving Ribadeo, the 30 mile trip motoring to Vivero was a trifle dull. However, we’ve now caught up with a whole gaggle of stranded southbound yachtsmen and it couldn’t be more social. Music and celebration continues well into the night much to the distress of the only German flagged vessel (not that I have anything against Germans). Funny how there always has to be at least one party pooper in the group. 🙂

Locals in Ribadeo have advised against rounding Cabo Ortegal when a 6 meter swell is running, and it seems the fleet of transients sheltering here have been similarly advised. Never mind, we’re certinly making the most of our extended stay.

Staff at Fragata Cafe

It’s not such a bad place to be stranded. Facilities at the marina aren’t the greatest but at least there is a little more life in town.

Word is the best place to hang out is a cafe called Fragata, and with free WiFi and tapas with your drinks, what more could an avid blogger want?

Besides, just look at the friendly staff!

Wind gusts reach 40kts on route to Ribadeo

No I'm not sinking

It should have been an easy 40 miles to Ribadeo from Cudillero. It certainly started out as an effortless motor-sail, but I should have known better than to completely trust weather forecasts.

With just 9 miles to go the wind made a surprise shift to the southwest and brought gusts averaging between 30 and 40 knots!

Luckily I had just finished tying a third reef in the mainsail to facilitate hauling in my catch of the day (a rather large bonito).

My friends in Avel Vat (which I’m told means fair winds in the Breton language) had motored ahead while I was busy playing psychotic killer with my fish.

Fish soup anyone?

Seeing that I was no longer making significant headway, they turned back to check if I was in some kind of trouble. Admittedly I was up to my elbows in blood and intestines at the time but other than that I was doing just fine. So long as none of the blood is mine I’m happy enough.

I feel much obliged by Frederic’s obvious concern, but he needn’t have been worried. I was having the time of my life! I held up my trophy to show why I’d fallen behind before plowing dutifully onward through an increasingly agitated sea.

Frederic took the following video of Eileen (or Eilen as he calls her) as we motored on into the wind at a pitiful 2 knots.

Eileen of Avoca in Biscay

Bedraggled and cold, we finally reached our destination. It certainly wasn’t easy. Who would have thought it could take nearly 5 hours to travel just 9 miles.

Safely moored, I quickly set about cooking my prize catch and before long an impromptu ‘bonito’ feast was prepared to celebrate our arrival.

Real sailors sew!

In port it was time to relax and catch up on some odd jobs. Frederic and I set about playing harbour haberdasher, while Vivien busied himself with conquering the world on his Nintendo DS.

Vivien is in there somewhere

There wasn’t much time to play tourist, but I did manage to take a few photos of my stay in Ribadeo. Enjoy!

Ribadeo marina

The marina is not as sheltered as it looks. Eileen has been violently tugging at her warps for days as the surge works its way around the breakwater.

The eyesore of Ribadeo

Not only is it ugly but it smells too! I’d have expected to see dozens of would be rock climbers doing their thing all over this elevator. Instead it seems to be used by local drunks emptying their thing all over it. phew!

Ribadeo town center

But it’s pretty enough in town though surprisingly uninhabited. Only one in three houses seems to have anyone living in it. See for yourself!

Empty houses in Ribadeo

I should have sailed to La Coruna when I had the chance!

Leaving Gijon and following Avel Vat

After a one night stopover in Gijon, refueled and resupplied, Eileen and Avel Vat were getting along so well that we decided to tackle the next westward leg together and set our sights on reaching Ribadeo.

Unfortunately we didn’t make it.

By 2am the wind made a 180 degree about face and forced us into the small fishing village of Cudillero. With the weather deteriorating rapidly it now looks as though we will be taking up permanent residency status here.

The main square in Cudillero

On the plus side, it’s a free port! Stay as long as you like, no mooring fees in this picturesque and perfectly sheltered fishing village. Sailors heaven!

Mind you, there was some initial confusion when a port official came to chase us off the private pontoons. Apparently we were supposed to use the visitors buoys.

How you distinguish between a private or visitors buoy still remains a closely guarded local secret, but once we had moved to our designated moorings the officials demeanor markedly improved. Without an exaggerated stretch of the imagination, he might even qualify as friendly.

We are now off to savor the towns delights…

Crossing the Bay of Biscay in a small boat

General weather situation for Bay of Biscay crossing

Crossing Biscay wasn’t something I was willing to take on without careful preparation. I spent hours sifting through my pilot books studying approaches to suitable bolt-holes and checking the tides for destinations as varied as Audierne to the north and La Rochelle to the northeast.

The prevailing weather conditions (winds with a northerly aspect and corresponding swell), would not make the passage trivial, and given the frequency of storms, it is not surprising that it took a week of sheltering in Gijon before a suitable three day weather window presented itself.

Gijon was my chosen jump-off point because it shortened my crossing by at least 24hrs (compared with La Coruna), and maximized options for changing my destination on route.

As a large high pressure system approached Biscay offering north westerly winds and settled conditions (see weather-fax) I committed Eileen of Avoca to the crossing.

The idea was to head north as quickly as possible and try to stay ahead of the high pressure system’s center. I was only partly successful.

After a marvelous 24hr run in steady Force 4 winds, covering more than 100NM under sail alone, I stalled in light variable winds. Apparently it was not fast or far enough to outrun the high. The next two days were spent motor sailing, maintaining 4 to 4.5kts, a speed necessary to avoid being caught by the cold front strengthening in the Atlantic.

That’s the official line. I’d like to embellish it further and add volumes on the discomforts endured and how only fine seamanship and the luck of the Irish (I’m figuring that Eileen of Avoca qualifies for this), saved us from a certain doom as we fought a savage sea against a lee shore. But I’ll save that version for my retirement.

The unofficial version (for your eyes only) goes something like this:

I spent hours pouring over my pilot books because there is nothing else in the way of reading material on Eileen, and I stayed in Gijon a week because I didn’t want to be rained upon on route.

The approaching high pressure system equated to an inconsequential swell,which suits me fine because I can keep my food down better when I’m not being violently shaken about.

Swallow visiting Eileen for the night

My marvelous run was spent deciding what to eat next (at sardine sandwich o’clock or half past cold roast chicken), and dozing, because heading directly north from Gijon allows you to miss most of the shipping traffic (my radar detector bleeped only once).

All I had to do was stay on the boat and amuse myself while Eileen did the rest. Hardly an epic journey.

Apart from a surreal “Hitchcock birds” moment or two as increasing numbers of exhausted swallows noisily settled both on and in Eileen each night (in the most unlikely of places), it was delightfully uneventful. Dull is always good when sailing.

As soon as I see the first item in NAVTEXT transmissions taken on route stating “No Warning”, I know I can relax into my semi-catatonic solo passage making stupor. Here is one that almost threatens to be moderately interesting with its mention of fog and rain, but upon closer examination doesn’t quite manage it:


181200 UTC MAY 10



TUE 18 MAY 2010 AT 09 UTC.




LOW 983 48N45W, MOV SE, EXP 995 47N40W BY 19/00 UTC THEN 998 49N35W





3 : FCST TO WED 19 AT 12 UTC

















Keeping busy in Gijon

Service with a smile at Gijon marina

The weather is consistently atrocious all over northern Europe so there is absolutely no point in trying to sail anywhere.

Every morning (or afternoon depending on how well I sleep), I make my way with my laptop to the Hotel Esteban’s cafeteria and check the forecasts on over coffee, an enormous slice of tortilla de patatas with bread, and orange juice, for the frugal sum of 2.10 Euro (I think we have already established that I’m one of the last of the big spenders). 😉

Traditional music

According to the weather reports I’ll be visiting Gijon for at least a week. Fine with me, It will give me time to prepare for my Biscay crossing and allow me to fight the entropy threatening to spread gear and clothes homogeneously throughout the cabin.

After digesting the bad news (with regards to the weather), I usually make my way to the marina where the girls at reception cheerfully assist me to overcome my innate resistance to pay for another night (12 Euro, and all payments must be in advance).

Administrative duties complete, I’m free to play “stupid tourist” (happened to hear that phrase en passant)!

In the spirit of La Coruna’s photographic ramblings, here is my collection of gems from Gijon:

Dancing in the streets, Gijon Spain

It’s Sunday, there is music in the streets and a festival atmosphere. This young fellow is having a ball as he is too young to realize that the audience is laughing at him rather than with him. Not to worry, he is sure to have the rhythm conditioned out of him by the time he is a teenager. Evidenced by my brief visit to a nightclub yesterday. 😉

Cheese anyone?

I make my way to the markets and can’t resist stocking up on fresh bread and cheese.

What are those children up to now?

Old ladies shout at the children running amok in the streets,

Feline disdain

while feline onlookers (this time of the fur covered variety), glance disdainfully at all the noise and merry making.

Children in conversation

I stumbled across these two engrossed in some deep and meaningful conversation,

Pizza and Chinotto

and finished the day on a high with the best pizza I’ve eaten since leaving Italy (at Vesuvio). The icing on the cake is that they sold chinotto! In my inflated opinion, the ultimate beverage accompaniment for pizza.

Yes, a few extra days marooned in Gijon will not be too burdensome.

Carino, Ribadeo and on to Gijon

Overtaken by the Dutch

The forecast swell was under 1.5m for the next three days so I made good progress under power despite frequent showers and little wind. At least the fishing was good, withing 30 minutes of leaving the marina I had already hooked another Bonito!

This very patriotic racer (judging from the size of his ensign), overtook me just 15 miles out from La Coruna despite my liberal use of the iron topsail.

At just under 45 nautical miles, and traveling at 4.5kts, I reached my first stop at the anchorage in Carino well before dark and spent the night rolling about despite the relatively benign conditions.

The rolling itself doesn’t really bother me, but the washboards and the companionway steps tend to creak when Eileen sways from side to side, and this together with the thumping of the rudder as it shifts in its fastenings tends to irritate me after the first few hours of sleep deprivation.

Anchorage off Carino, Northern Spain

Carino has a pontoon with small fingers, but I couldn’t be bothered to make my way through all the moorings to get there, or dig out my fenders for that matter. A larger boat should not even consider berthing there.

In the morning mist and drizzle I made my way to what must be the northern most headland of Spain, Punta Estaca de Bares, and set my course for Ribadeo, covering approximately 45NM (motor sailing) by late afternoon.

Wet ride in a J-boat

I found myself moored next to the same Dutch racer (a J-boat) that had overtaken me leaving La Coruna, and judging from the foul weather gear hanging out to dry, they had had a very wet ride. Smugly dry, I made my traditional offering of fish pate (this time mixed with avocado), and we sat down to exchange travel adventures over drinks.

I didn’t really get to see much of Ribadeo, which is a shame because from what I’ve read it’s a picturesque town. But at the time I had more pressing concerns. I’d forgotten to return my gate/shower key before the office closed and that meant I’d have a late start (if I wanted my deposit back) for my next and longest leg to Gijon (almost 70NM away).

Resigned to arriving well after dark, I set a relaxed pace (still motor sailing), and passed the time solving complex algebraic equations…

If you believe that last remark, I have some fine real estate for sale in Nigeria… 🙂 The only algebra I do while cruising is something along the lines of: If x=relaxing, and z=sleep find y… hmmm y bother about it…

I spend most of my time just watching the world go by and daydreaming. 🙂

Rope caught on the propeller

Obviously not much happened on this leg. Apart from a 30 second skinny dip to remove another propeller entanglement, which I don’t really mind doing provided the sea is relatively tranquil. Mind you, I do dread the day it happens at night and in boisterous seas.

The toughest part of this passage was rounding Cabo Penas at sunset. I had to battle a west flowing current in freshening Force 5 north easterlies. At just 1.5kts SOG, it took quite a while. It even prompted a looking over by the Aduanas (customs) boat. I gave them a wave and they left me to continue my game of hobby horse around the cape.

My approach to Gijon was also somewhat noteworthy. My hand-held GPS plotter didn’t show a newly built breakwater which obscured half the lights off Banco las Amosucas and the inner breakwater. Adding to the confusion were a series of green lights that would flash and then turn red. What kind of sectored lights do that when I’m simply maintaining my course? The answer? Pedestrian traffic lights that just happen to be on the recommended track to the marina.

Never mind… I still made it to the visitors pontoon (by 1:30am), which was just in time to have a celebratory drink at one of the numerous waterfront nightclubs. My 30 minutes of nightlife at the Habana club left my ears ringing and did much to renew my latent agoraphobic tendencies.

Sheltering in La Coruna

Leche Frita at Noray cafe, La Coruna

I’ve had a walk around town, found the Gadis supermarket for stocking up on provisions, and visited the only two premises opposite the marina offering Wi-Fi (one a gelato bar where the owner only grudgingly let me have the password, and the other, a cafeteria called Noray.

The later is the friendlier by far.

Oh, and if you happen to be in the neighborhood, be sure to try their ‘leche frita’ with your coffee!

The market above Gadis turned out to be an especially fortunate find, because I was finally able to identify my latest haul of free seafood with an expert, i.e. the local fishmonger.


Market, La Coruna

The literal translation of ‘pretty’ or ‘nice’ wasn’t much help, but after a little investigation, I was able to arrive at ‘striped tunny’ which, not surprisingly, is just a small type of tuna.

After handing out more fresh fish pate to the other cruisers at port and gorging myself on new provisions of fruit and vegetables (ah, things that go crunch when you eat them, such a luxury), I wandered off again to explore my new stomping ground.

What follows are a few photos taken while rambling in La Coruna  (click on them for a larger version):

La Voz de Galicia

The quaint little news stand pictured here briefly caught my attention. I wonder why? 😉

Galician fisherwoman

I had a brief conversation (mostly about the weather, though boat engines also featured prominently), with a female fisherman (fisherwoman?), as she mended the nets of her family’s thirty year old wooden boat.

Fishermans pots, La Coruna

Here is a boatload of trouble, and why I can’t easily do night passages.

Roman Lighthouse, La Coruna

The compulsory snapshot of the Roman lighthouse minus the throngs of tourists which normally congregate about its base.

HMS Kent leaving La Coruna

Approximately every second day a new cruise ship would berth against the outer wall of the marina and disgorge a swarm of German tourists. This morning I woke to find a war ship instead. The HMS Kent to be precise. For those wanting to know more about this vessel, I’ve dug up the following link:

Later that evening I bumped into some of her crew at a local “watering hole” (synonym for Irish Pub), and was able to establish that the ships last port of call was Gibraltar and that (with a cruising speed of 30kts) it had taken just two days to reach La Coruna. Apparently it was quite a rough ride, deck hatches were closed and my informant confessed to having been violently seasick on route. At least my month of indolent travel to cover the same distance was vomitus free. 😛

Lupin stealing my corona in La Coruna

This demonic fur-less feline belongs to the English crew (or perhaps it is the other way around?) of Riviera Magic A.K.A “the fat yellow boat”. They spent the week berthed opposite Eileen wallowing in counterpoint as wash and surge rolled our vessels.

On occasion I had the opportunity to borrow their fridge (and heater for that matter, but that’s another story…) to cool my beer, so that our frequent commiserating over weather had suitable alcoholic accompaniment.

The "Fat Yellow Boat" leaves port

Nine days after arriving we took advantage of a small improvement in the weather to go our separate ways.

I wish them good winds, flat seas and lots of Bonito!