Fisterra to Porto

On Tuesday evening, the Ahora crew (i.e. me) got reinforcements once more: Nienke, who I met two months ago in Friesland in the Netherlands, came to join me on board for a week. We wouldn’t have thought that we would see each other again so early and were looking forward to a few nice days of sailing in the Rías Bajas.

After using the luxury of the floating jetty in Fisterra to bunker food, we headed south. First, as in the past few days, the wind left us hanging and after some attempts to sail, which resulted in ultra fast speeds of about 0.2-0.4 knots, we cranked up the engine again to cover the first miles.

Barely any wind, but sunshine…
… but luckily, later some wind joined the sun

In the afternoon the wind picked up and we were able to sail the second half of the track. As an anchorage we had chosen the Ensenada de San Francisco at the entrance of the Ría de Muros e Noia. After sailing a perfect anchor manoeuvre without the use of the engine, we put the Dinghy in the water and set off to hike around Monte Louro at the nearby Cape.

Landing with the Dinghy on a stone mole. A good way to keep dry feet (and butt) while going ashore

One more example of the beauty and diversity of nature in Galicia. The rocky hill at the Cape was sparsely wooded and rather reminiscent of a mountain vegetation just below the timberline.

Monte Louro: Hiking in the Alps? …
… not quite: the view of the beach on the other side.

However, only if you did not let the view wander over to the beautiful sandy beach with rushing surf and the lagoon behind it.

Galicia is really a great sailing area, and I would actually like to spend more time here. Especially because you can apparently have the most beautiful bays and anchorages for yourself in the low season. But it is slowly getting noticeably cooler and the winter is supposed to be very rainy here, so it’s also time to move on. But I’ve decided to come back with more time at some point.

Morning mood at the anchorage

The next day we had good northerly winds and took the opportunity to cover a little distance. Although unfortunately we had to pass by the next two Rías and also the Isla Ons. But it was also nice to feel the wind in the sails again. The wind was so favorable that we could sail from anchorage to anchorage without the engine, which was thus allowed to take a well-deserved day off.

Relaxed sailing on a southerly course

Underway, we were accompanied by dolphins, who playfully swam around the boat and surfed our bow wave. As always a great experience, I just can’t stop watching these animals whenever they are around.

Dolphins played at the bow…
… so close that I could have easily touched them

Later that afternoon, the anchor fell at the northern entrance of the Rìa de Vigo, and for the first time in a long period, we were not alone at anchor, but shared the extensive bay with two other boats. And a few nudists who enjoyed the last rays of the Autumn sun at the beach.

Anchored in the Ría de Vigo

We made a small walk on the beach and collected some nice shells.

Part of the “prey” of our collective action. This time we found shells instead of plastic 🙂

The next day greeted us with a wet morning fog and it didn’t clear up until about noon. Once again there was absolutely no wind, so we motored the three miles from our anchorage to the Islas Cies.

Slack and hazy weather

I already knew the islands from a visit with the Bark Europa during the Tall Ship Races 2012 and was happy to visit this great place again.

Shortly after our anchor had dropped in the beautiful bay, the Thula arrived, whose crew I had already met in A Coruña and with whom we had arranged to meet here. The two had another couple on board as guests, so we were looking forward to a barbecue together in the evening.

Off we go to explore the island

But first Nienke and I explored the lovely North Island. In addition to the beach, that – with fine sand and crystal clear, turquoise water – could be easily mistaken for beeing in the Caribbean. There are also beautiful eucalyptus and pine forests as well as impressive cliffs on the west side of the island. The perfect scenery for a pirate movie.

Rough rocks on the west side, dream beach on the east side: the Islas Cies. The only thing we didn’t find was the pirate’s chest
Fine sand, almost like in the Caribbean

The islands are part of the National Park “Islas Atlanticas“, and you can only anchor there after prior reservation. Although the islands are within sight of the big city of Vigo and ferries with tourists arrive several times a day, this place did not feel overcrowded at all. But that may also be due to the off-season.

At sunset, the Thula crew and us had the island all for ourselves again and we grilled our dinner under a few pine trees near the lagoon. From there we could overlook the open sea and the sunset on one side and our boats anchored in the bay on the other. Hard to beat a place like that…

Dinner is served…
… overlooking the sunset…
… and the anchor bay

The next day the wind was blowing from the south, but since we were only about 10 miles away from our day destination, Baiona, we used it anyway and tacked our way up. We had chosen the marina to seek shelter from the cold front that was supposed to pass through on the night of Sunday. It was also nice to be able to take a shower again, buy fresh vegetables and rinse dinghy and outboard with fresh water. Since the Portuguese coast has only very few protected bays, I will probably not use the anchor in the coming weeks.

Tacking up our way to Baiona
We took the opportunity to free dinghy and outbord from salt.

The marina was not bad idea, because it blowed quite hard with gusts up to 8 Beaufort at night. At anchor, this would have been quite uncomfortable.

As it is often the case after the passing of a cold front, on Sunday, the following day, there was an absolute slack. But since strong winds from the south were announced from Tuesday on and we had to be in Porto at latest on Thursday, we decided to move on anyways, even though it meant 7 hours of motoring. The port for the night was Viana do Castelo, which is halfway between Baiona and Porto.

Unfortunately, a rather unpleasant wave awaited us at sea, which seemed to come from all directions at the same time, so that we were shaken around quite badly. In addition, it began to rain cats and dogs along the way, so that we arrived in Viana do Castelo completely soaked and frozen.

Unpleasent weather: Rain and slack…
… in combination with an unpleasant wave can be quite annoying

We were looking forward to a hot shower in the marina. Unfortunately, there was no hot water, as the gas cylinders for the boiler were empty. Great! Then rather no shower at all… Luckily, I have a diesel heater on board, so it quickly got nice and warm under deck, and the soaked clothes could dry at least a little bit.

Rain also in the harbour. We were thus hiding out below deck

The rain kept pouring throughout the night while another small (occlusion) front passed through. It’s definitely time for me to get into warmer areas. Autumn seems to finally have arrived on the Iberian Peninsula.

Luckily the sun came out the next morning, raising our mood. Before we set off for the last leg to Porto, we briefly explored the little town and had breakfast with the typical Portugese Pastel de Nata. Delicious 🙂

Pastel de Nata: Just for them, Portugal is worth a visit!
A small square in Viana do Castelo. Despite its proximity to Galicia, there are significant differences in architecture

For this day, westerly winds were forecast with 3-4 Beaufort, but with gusts up to 7 and showers. With attentive sailing, that should be no problem for Ahora, and so we headed out, southbound. In this weather, I could greatly benefit from Nienke’s sailing experience. She has an incredible talent for predicting, whether a cloud will bring gusts or not.

With high accuracy, she said phrases such as: “The cloud there looks like strong wind, let’s drop the main.” And boom, two minutes later it started blowing with 6-7 Beaufort and Ahora started to heel. The Genoa, whose sheets we took of the cleats, ready to ease off as a precaution, made us plow through the water with up to 7.5 knots. Great sailing, if you are focused and watch out for those clouds!

Interesting cloud formations…
… provide quite some gusts
The crew enjoys tearing along through the waves

While underway, we got paid a visit by a huge school of dolphins. We estimated that at least 30-40 animals circled our boat at times and jumped from one wave to the next. This is how I like sailing, and we were thus adequately compensated for yesterday’s bad weather.

Flying Dolphins

We were obviously lucky, because apart from a few small rain showers, we remained largely dry. The crew of Thula, who was one day behind us and thus about thirty miles further to the north, reported gusts up to 9 Beaufort and hail. I’m glad that we were spared by that.

In the evening we arrived in Porto (more precisely in Leixoes, the industrial port of the city). I am glad that we set off on Sunday despite the slack and rain, because on Wednesday and Thursday we had very stormy weather in Porto with southerly winds up to 8 Beaufort and heavy rain.

Storm and rain in the harbour. Luckily, the marina is quite well protected.

It’s nice to be in a safe harbour! In addition, the marina here is very cheap, so I will probably stay here for a while to work a little on the boat and explore Porto. I also want to take the opportunity of a good flight connection for a short visit home with my family.

All is well


P.S.: Here are two impressions of Porto:

Porto from above: A fascinating city!
In the market hall of Matosinhos: Maybe I should buy a chicken as a pet on board?

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