Along the Death Coast to the End of the World

Okay, I admit: The title sounds rather sensational. Especially because the last week was marked by sunshine and lack of wind. But in fact the coast here is called “Costa da morte” (Death Coast) and Ahora is currently moored in the harbour behind Cabo Fisterra (Fisterra = End of the World). The name is a bit of a lie, because the westernmost point of continental Europe is actually in Portugal. But the Romans thought at that time that this was the end of the (then known) world.

But let’s go back to A Coruña where I ended my last post: I spent four nights in the harbour, although I had initially planned to anchor out in the bay to save on mooring fees. But the cheaper prices for the low season (from October) and the comfort of being able to ride the bicycle instead of the Dinghy into the city lured me into the marina.

Sunset over A Coruña from the harbour

In addition, the social factor of a port is not negligible: I got to know a Dutc couple, who is also on the road as digital nomads, and met a very nice Swede who is also traveling with a Laurin Koster 32. He has had the boat for 30 years and wouldn’t want to trade it for anything in the world. I can understand this: Although I have only owned Ahora for three years, I am absolutely fond of this stable and safe little boat.

Octopi waiting for the cooking pot in a tapas bar

I also met with a few “locals” I had met through the local couchsurfing group on Facebook. I am always excited about this opportunity to get in touch with friendly, open people everywhere in the world. Even if I wasn’t looking for a couch in this case. But also for getting to know people in a new city, couchsurfing is simply great! Traveling is so much nicer when local people show you their favorite bar.

On the way on a pub tour with friends of Couchsurfing

In general, that’s what drives me when I travel: getting to know people and their history. I find this much more interesting than visiting tourist sights. Nevertheless, I still visited the Torre de Hercules (at least from below), combining it with a run along the coast.

The Tower of Hercules

On Friday morning I got a visitor from Germany: Maline had a few days off and was happy to escape the autumn weather in Hamburg. After a month alone it was very nice to have a visitor on board again… 🙂

Visitor from Germany: We still have to practice the correct application of the life jacket 😉
And a new gadget from back home: a waterproof Ulefone, which hopefully lasts longer than its predecessors…

Together we cast off the lines, heading westwards. Unfortunately, unlike the previous weeks, we now had less wind than predicted. Basically none at all. That’s why the engine had to do its duty.

Before I left for my trip, I had planned to use the engine as little as possible. Unfortunately, the old Volvo had to run much more often than I would have thought. The wind just too often came from the wrong direction. Or it was too weak. And if you are always just waiting for the “good” wind, it can happen that you stay in one place for a very long time, only to sail past many other beautiful places “just” because you have good winds. But let’s see if I can do it better in the future. On the plus side, the engine is quite economical: it happily runs on 1.5 liters of diesel per hour.

Although no wind was blowing, a quite significant swell of up to 3 meters came towards us on the way. For Maline, who was not used to this rocking, it was quite impressive. But she kept herself bold and, apart from a fluffy feeling in her stomach, showed no symptoms of seasickness.

Luckily, Maline quickly got used to the swell

Our plan was to try to anchor at the Sisargas Islands, about 20 miles west of A Coruña, and explore these uninhabited islands. However, as we had already anticipated, the swell turned out to be too strong. It would have been a very uncomfortable night with the waves rolling from the west into the bay, which is actually only well protected from the north. Too bad, but fortunately no problem: Two hours southwest, the Corme y Laxe Rìa waited for us with a more sheltered anchorage.

First we tried to anchor directly behind the pier in the port of Corme. However, the anchor did not hold there at all, probably due to rocky ground. A friendly fisherman watched our efforts and offered us to moore along the pier next to the fishing boats. But this meant being prepared for the 2-metre tidal differnce and thus setting long mooring-lines forward and aft.

Anything but ideal: berth on the pier of the fishing port

After twenty minutes at the quay I decided not to stay here: In the harbour you could not feel the up and down of the swell, but the pull of the waves regularly pulled the boat back and forward by about two meters. This gave me a feeling of pity for the fenders, who got completely scratched and greasy from the rough, dirty harbour wall even after this short period. I certainly wouldn’t be able to close an eye during the night out of concern for my boat.

So we took of again. Just in time for the sunset we then anchored further out in the bay in front of a sandy beach. Here the boat rolled back and forth quite violently (since there was no wind it lay reliably across the wave), but at least I had to have no worries about the fenders and my freshly painted board wall.

We pumped up the dinghy while there was still light and then drove ashore to enjoy some fish in the local restaurant. Here, too, the season was obviously over, because apart from a few locals, the village was completely dead. Most of the shutters were closed, which meant that many of the houses consisted exclusively of holiday apartments.

The landing in the harbour worked reasonably well on a ramp, on which we carried the boat up a bit, so that it couldn’t be reached by the high tide. Back on board after good food, we fell into our bunks and let ourselves be rocked by to sleep by the swell.

Swell doesn’t always make it easy to land with the dinghy

The next morning we wanted to explore the beach and the rocks. Easier said than done, because although the swell had subsided a little overnight, there was still a small surf on the beach. Not particularly strong, as the bay was quite protected, but the breaking waves were at least half a meter high. So not ideal for a landing with the dinghy. Yet we managed to land between two waves in such a way that only little water came over. Lucky us… 🙂

The next day, landing on the beach was a bit more challenging

We liked the bay very much: dunes on one side, rocks on the other side and the beach in the middle. So we spent the morning here with barefoot walks through the pine forest on the dune, garbage collection on the beach (of which there was unfortunately quite a lot) and watching of crabs and other animals in the little tide pools on the rocks. Unbelievable how much life there is in a single puddle.

On a discovery tour on the beach…
… and in the little tide pools on the rocks.

Appropriately, I would like to quote the following passage of my favorite book, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck:

“Doc was collecting marine animals in the Great Tide Pool on the tip of the Peninsula. It is a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a wave-churned basin, creamy with foam, whipped by the combers that roll in from the whistling buoy on the reef. But when the tide goes out the little water world becomes quiet and lovely. The sea is very clear and the bottom becomes fantastic with hurrying, fighting, feeding, breeding animals. Crabs rush from frond to frond of the waving algae. Starfish squat over mussels and limpets, attach their million little suckers and then slowly lift with incredible power until the prey is broken from the rock. And then the starfish stomach comes out and envelops its food. Orange and speckled and fluted nudibranchs slide gracefully over the rocks, their skirts waving like the dresses of Spanish dancers. And black eels poke their heads out of crevices and wait for prey. The snapping shrimps with their trigger claws pop loudly. The lovely, colored world is glassed over. Hermit crabs like frantic children scamper on the bottom sand. And now one, finding an empty snail shell he likes better than his own, creeps out, exposing his soft body to the enemy for a moment, and then pops into the new shell. A wave breaks over the barrier, and churns the glassy water for a moment and mixes bubbles into the pool, and then it clears and is tranquil and lovely and murderous again. Here a crab tears a leg from his brother. The anemones expand like soft and brilliant flowers, inviting any tired and perplexed animal to lie for a moment in their arms, and when some small crab or little tide-pool Johnnie accepts the green and purple invitation, the petals whip in, the stinging cells shoot tiny Needles into the prey and it grows weak and perhaps sleepy while the searing caustic digestive acids melt its body down.

Then the creeping murderer, the octopus, steals out, slowly, softly, moving like a gray mist, pretending now to be a bit of weed, now a rock, now a lump of decaying meat while its evil goat eyes watch coldly. It oozes and flows towards a feeding crab, and as it comes close its yellow eyes burn and its body turns rosy with the pulsing color of anticipation and rage. Then suddenly it runs lightly on the tips of its arms, as ferociously as a charging cat. It leaps savagely on the crab, there is a puff of black fluid, and the struggling mass is obscured in the sepia cloud while the octopus murders the crab. On the exposed rocks out of water, the barnacles bubble behind their closed doors and the limpets dry out. And down to the rocks come the black flies to eat anything they can find. The sharp smell of iodine from the algae, and the lime smell of calcareous bodies and the smell of powerful protean, smell of sperm and ova fill the air. On the exposed rocks the starfish emit semen and eggs from between their rays. The smells of life and richness, of death and digestion, of decay and birth, burden the air. And salt spray blows in from the barrier where the ocean waits for its rising-tide strength to allow it back into the Great Tide Pool again. And on the reef the whistling buoy bellows like a sad and patient bull.”

John Steinbeck – Cannery Row
Another find on the beach: a dead dolphin that became a feast for the seagulls. This, too, is part of the endless cycle of life in the ocean, which Steinbeck put into words so wonderfully.

On the way back to the boat we were unfortunately less lucky with the surf. After we had initially pushed the dinghy while wading into the deeper water we jumped in between two breaking waves in order to row out of the surf zone (it was still too flat for the engine). Unfortunately we had just underestimated the speed of the next wave, which pushed us back exactly far enough towards the beach such that the next one could break exactly over our dinghy. Great!

Both of us were wet and in the boat were at least 50 liters of water… After a bit of struggle, however, we managed to row away from the beach with the inflatable boat full of water. We then could drive back to Ahora with the outboard. Thus, we had an involuntary shower behind us. Luckily, we had packed our mobile phone and camera into a plastic bag beforehand. I finally had learned from previous mistakes… 😉 Since we were wet anyway we took the opportunity to take a swim around the boat.

In the afternoon we set off from the village to hike to the lighthouse Faro Roncudo. This time, we once more used the ramp in the village for landing and not the beach. Smart choice…

Here the landing with the dinghy is much drier than on the beach

The hike to the lighthose was really nice, even if it partly led along a road. But since the road was hardly used, we didn’t mind. Along the way, we found figs and fresh mint that grew on the side of the road and collected fennel to refine our omelet in the morning.

… and fennel for the omelet
On the way to the lighthouse
Remembering the fishermen who died here on the Costa del Muerte

On the way back we explored an abandoned building directly at the water. The seawater basins indicated a use related to the cultivation of seafood or the like. Unfortunately, this sector suffered greatly in 2002 as a result of the oil spill caused by the sinking of the Prestige. Appearantly it did not seem to have recovered to this day.

Urban Exploring…
… may also be interesting in less urban areas

After an big portion of noodles with a homemade deluxe tomato sauce, we went to sleep early. The next morning we were greeted with thick fog, which luckily quickly dispersed. That was good, because we wanted to move on to the next rìa.

Fog in Corme…
… provides atmospheric images in the backlight
And on we head south-west

Again under engine (lack of wind) we went for 3.5 hours along the coast and around the impressive Cabo Vilan. Opposite of Camariñas in the eponymous ría, we threw the anchor in front of a beautiful, secluded beach, surrounded by dense pine forest. Here we lay alone in beautiful nature, well protected and without significant swell.

Beautiful anchorage opposite Camariñas

So off we went into the dinghy, heading to the beach. What a beautiful forest! The pines, interspersed with some eucalyptus trees, provided an indescribable scent. We enjoyed the walk under the trees and then took a short tour up the neighbouring river with the Dinghy.

Hiking in the fragrant forest

In the late afternoon, I took care of my online business a little bit before we went to Camariñas for a tapas dinner in the evening. Once again we got fresh mussels and other shellfish at unbeatable prices. (And, in contrast to the mussels, the variegated scallops even tasted good to Maline 😉 )

Typical Galician tapas (Raciones)

The next morning we unfortunately had to go on already because Maline had to take a return bus to A Coruña. Public transportation is unfortunately extremely poorly developed in this area, with the exception of the places visited by pilgrims. And just one of them happened to be 20 miles south of us: the famous Cabo Finisterre. This is where the “extension” of the Way of St. James ends, and many pilgrims walk on from Santiago for another three days until they reach the “end of of the world”.

Cabo Fisterra, the “end of the world”

Behind the cape is a small town with a harbour where we moored to a brand new floating dock. The jetty is free and very convenient for walking or cycling into the village. Unfortunately, however, the fishermen pass by so fast that the swell makes the boat dance quite heavily. It’s a pity, because otherwise the berth would be perfect. Anyways, I’ve gotten used to it by now.

Colorful fishing boats in the port of Fisterra. If only they were to drive a little slower…

Unfortunately, here I had to say goodbye to Maline. Too bad, since we had a very nice time together on board. Thank you very much for that. I hope you will be back soon! 🙂

Despite the swell, I decided to stay in Fisterra for a second night. The village is really beautiful with the colorful houses and the many fishing boats in the harbour. (If only they wouldn’t drive so fast…) So I had time to work a little bit, prepare this blog post and also explore the area. I hiked the very last 2.5 kilometers of the Way of St. James and enjoyed the view from the lighthouse to the open, blue sea.

This leads to the end of the Way of St. James,…
… the lighthouse at Cabo Fisterra

I also talked to some pilgrims who hanged out here in every café. It is nice to have this community between people from all over the world, which obviously prevails among the pilgrims. Kind of makes me want to walk the Camino…

Since there are no showers in the harbour (can’t complain, as it’s free of charge), I took the bike to the nearby beach. There I went for a swim and then rinsed off the salt at one of the outdoor showers. So this task is also done.

Now I’m just waiting for the next guest on board. She is supposed to arrive tonight…

All is well


Leave a Comment:

Ted Stryker says 16. October 2019

Wonderful story. Sounds like you are enjoying.

Ted Stryker

    Jan says 17. October 2019

    great to hear you like it. And yes, I am enjoying 🙂
    Greetings from Porto to Seattle

BOURBON says 22. October 2019

Quelle aventure
Heureuse de savoir que tu n’es plus seul
Superbe expérience

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