After our trip across Biscay which, to be quite honest, has taken to being discussed in hallowed tones as if we’d walked away from a near-death experience, rather than had a bit of a rough crossing in some pretty notorious waters, we had a few days of chilling out in La Coruña.
The marina was lovely, and really well situated (except for being exposed to some fairly snatchy swell at certain times). We were an easy walk away from the coastal path and park, as well as the Torre de Hercules – the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world (originally built by the Romans), so Bella could finally run those 4 days at sea off.
The main town, centring around the Plaza Maria Pita, is really picturesque, and many of the buildings have ‘feature’ enclosed balconies, so you could enjoy the sun and views year-round. There are plenty of little streets to explore, and the Old Town has a more laid-back and local feel to it – nice tree-lined cobbled streets and cafés with outdoor seating in picturesque squares.
We did some food shopping in local shops. I took a trip to the fish market and got chatting to a lady who gave me a free sample of percebes (goose barnacle). These are little things that, to me, look like a dead witch’s finger, but our Spanish friend Anabel had recommended them as a local speciality, and I had spent ages looking at them in awe (‘people *eat* those?!’). So, regarding this lady proffering a free percebes, I figure that either Anabel and most of Galicia were having a massive laugh at my expense, or they really should be tried! Those of you who know me well will appreciate my love of both shellfish, and eating raw stuff. I also have a fairly well-developed like of eating stuff that most people would recoil at…. So, without being completely sure that I’d understood the lady’s instructions on how to suck the flesh out of the abrasive black finger skin, off I went (I felt like Andrew Zimmern!)…. And it really was quite pleasant! Definitely shellfish, like the soft mucous-y bit of a mussel perhaps. Not at all chewy, and not slimy like an oyster. I took the remains outside for Jamie to try, but after proclaiming ‘Uh. No. It looks like snot’ (which I conceded it did), that was the end of it! I would definitely try them again (you can steam them as well, not just eat them raw), but I’d be wary of recommending them to someone who didn’t like seafood or have a sense of culinary adventure…
Aside from that, we used the local grocers a lot – fresh fruit and veg is so cheap, and mostly local. On our first trip we bought a massive bag of red grapes, leeks, peppers, oranges, and onions for just over £2! We bought two different types of local cheese (Charlie, you’d have been in heaven in the cheese shops!), one of them was even called ‘nipple’ (tetilla)… and a good dose of Serrano ham and salchichón to accompany it, as well as a bottle of (good) local wine for €2! – all a lot cheaper than you get in the UK. We make all our own bread on board (Jamie has even cracked ciabatta!), but bread was also good value, and decent – not your average flaccid loaf of Hovis. Even going out for beer and wine was a cheap affair, and the local brew (Estrella Galicia) is excellent. Beers were slightly smaller than in the UK, but they came with free tapas, therefore saving money on dinner! We did go for a tapas meal one night – 4 different tapas and 2 beers for around a tenner! We then stopped for a glass of local wine and were brought another delicious tapa of pulpo (octopus, another local delicacy), and the best we’ve tasted. 2 glasses of wine, with a free snack? £4! It’s easy to see why going out is so popular here, and it even comes without the following day’s fiscal self-loathing that accompanies so many nights out in the UK!
La Coruña is a great city – friendly, picturesque, plenty to do, cheap, excellent food and drink, plenty of places to explore by foot and by bike etc. We could quite happily have stayed longer here and we would completely recommend it for a city break; we hope we will return!
We had a few jobs to do on the boat before moving on – as usual, these were not the simple 5 minute tasks we anticipated (we haven’t learned the correct timing of jobs yet, clearly…)! We fixed the locker tops (hinges had broken), mended the rail in the galley, and sorted out the blocked pipes in the heads. What we thought was going to be the simplest job of all – changing the nav light bulb which had blown on the way down – naturally turned out to be the most complicated and time consuming… Not just the bulb, oh no, but the entire cable (for which we didn’t have a replacement), which also takes an about-face route that involves emptying all the external storage lockers and climbing into one of them (fully clothed if you like), to distinguish the correct wire from the pile of spaghetti… On the plus side, we had a reasonable few walks to the chandlers, and we now know the Spanish for 2-core cable and cable ties…
We spent the afternoon fixing the light and looking at the weather for the next leg. We had a lovely French/Swiss neighbour (coincidentally also called Rosemary), who had been cruising with her husband in their beautiful self-designed boat for 19 years – she was on hand to give us plenty of advice on anchorages and marinas all the way down to Portugal, and also kindly gave us a battery-powered mozzie repellant, as we had been plagued by them since our arrival in La Coruña!
We then moved on to Muros, our first anchorage of the trip. We passed Cape Finisterre in glorious sunshine early in the morning of 8th October. Again, we had a good weather window and had to go for it. The swell was large – 6m or so, but the frequency is such that it is more rolling seas than breaking waves. It was a night and day sail to get there (again, we left 5 hours later than planned, so our track record stands!), but we wanted to have Finisterre (another notoriously tricky sailing area) behind us. From now, the winds will (hopefully) get a bit less gnarly, and we have a good straight run down the coast of Portugal.
We anchored up near the beach in Muros, opened a beer, and set our anchor alarm just in case things weren’t quite as firm as they seemed…
The following day, we woke up to the most amazing sunrise! Complete with a little fishing boat not too far away from us to make the scene extra picturesque!
We decided to have breakfast, pump up the dinghy and go and explore the local town! We set Patrick’s lobster pot before we went (peanuts are the key to catching them, apparently), and we decided to row rather than use the outboard for a bit of exercise. I tried my hand at rowing, which – amazingly – didn’t even end up with us going round and round in circles. We tied it up on the beach and walked through the local market into the town. The town is really nice – lots of little alleyways and picturesque churches etc – a lovely little square and plenty of cafés and restaurants. We misjudged the siesta time of the supermarket, but managed to find an alternative one on the way back to the dinghy which gave us opportunity to try some more local nipples. We crossed a bridge with scores of large fish steaming up the river, but saw no lobsters and took this as a good sign – clearly, they were all heading over to our pot! Bella had a good runaround on the beach before we got in the dingy and headed back for our lobster dinner….
We approached the boat and started pulling up the pot… There’s something in it!! It’s a funny looking lobster… keep pulling!! It’s an octopus!!! An octopus that has hoofed all the peanuts! Quick – Google how to kill and cook octopus!! We left the little fella in the water while we Googled – it seemed to be quite gruesome killing it (stabbing it between the eyes and then moving the knife back and forth a bit), and also quite complicated to cook it (freezing it to tenderise it for a couple of days – we don’t have a freezer… etc), and we didn’t want to kill it unless we know we could prepare and cook it properly. There’s no point in taking its life and then throwing it away because we can’t actually eat it. So we decided to pop him back. Which lead to the next issue – how to get him out of the pot… He was really quite large, and he didn’t like being manhandled. And he had suckers. A lot of them. Which he used to suck on to the deck, the dodgers, my fingers, and anything else that came into range! Eventually, however, we got him out, took trophy photos, and sent him back to his mates. Truly one of the more amazing experiences we’ve had though. And Patrick, we will try hard to catch the right thing in the pot next time!
At the moment we plan to have another day sail and anchorage before the Portuguese border (we are aiming for Baiona when the weather suits), then we shall probably try and get two overnight sails in to clear Portugal and reach the Cadiz area, with the idea that we will explore the coast properly next season when the weather is not quite so unpredictable (by which we mean nasty).