Luarca to Viveiro

After the large swells entering the harbour during the night, we decided to take a look at the conditions outside before we ventured on our way again. Jac and I took the tender across to the harbour wall and clambered up the rusty and crab infested ladder to see what was happening. Whilst still a bit rough, the conditions looked easier than the previous day we decided to give it a try and set off planning to head for Ribadeo. Unlike the previous 2 days the conditions improved as we progressed so we once again altered our plan to bypass Ribadeo and carry on to Viveiro, a distance of 55 miles. We stayed close to a headland which gave us some protection from the Atlantic swell, but steady force 5 wind was forecast to increase to 7 or so later. And indeed it did. As we approached the entrance to the Ria de Viveiro, out of the protection of the land the wind rapidly increased to Force 7 gusting 8 with an accompanying rough sea. Fortunately we didn’t have to endure this for long as we altered our westerly course to southerly as we made our way into the Ria and the shelter of Viveiro Marina. The staff there were outstanding with helpers on the pontoon to assist us in the quite blustery conditions.

We had had a good run with quite a lot of sailing and we even managed to turn off the engine a maintain 6 knots (ish) under sail for a while. However we had to mourn the loss of Jac’s baseball cap, known as the Virgin hat as that was its logo. Jac was relly quite upset at losing her virginity!

29th July 15            Viveiro

One look out of the boat in the morning revealed a grey, drizzly day with very poor visibility, so we weren’t going anywhere. Our next stopping point was A Coruña, round the northwest tip of Spain where we hoped the weather would improve, but it was nearly 60 miles away so the trip would take all day. We needed much better weather than was on offer so we had to wait a bit. Bert had some shopping to do, so Jac and I went to explore the old town which turned out to be a very pretty place with stacks of history. We found a good restaurant, ” The Meson Imperial” in the main pedestrian street which had great octopus, friendly staff and good internet. Wonderful!

30th July 15             Viveiro Again

Woke up to the same weather. We were wondering if we were ever going to see the sun again. The rain in Spain was mainly down our necks! However, everyone we spoke to said that the weather would improve once we reached A Coruña. (Oh yeah!) Bert was planning to stay with us until A Coruña, but the delays meant he had to leave us at Viveiro, which was easier said than done. Viveiro is a little remote and none of the public transport options met our needs. The only solution was to hire a car, but the only car rental company, Multi-Rent, was 15 km out of town. A quick phone call and all was arranged, with the car being delivered to the marina that evening.

Time to relax and another trip into town sightseeing in pouring rain. In the back streets, among other things, we found a little corner where, presumably, a natural spring emerged connected to running taps where the locals were filling plastic water bottles. It seemed to be a substitute for bottled water from the shops. You wouldn’t find that in Milton Keynes.

In the evening we went to collect the car only to be told by the harbour master that the car rental company could not deliver and we would have to go and collect it from their office. Once again the marina staff were superb and the handyman, who turned out to be a qualified molecular biologist, gave me a lift to the office, refusing to take anything for his trouble.  At the car rental office I was met by the most miserable, uncooperative bastard that you could hope to encounter and I took possession of a very battered Kia something. Having taken the car back to the marina, we walked into town and had a farewell meal with Bert at the Meson Imperial.

31st July 15             Viveiro Yet Again

Still raining. We set off for A Coruña airport in our rent-a-wreck, a pleasant hour and half drive. After a coffee in the airport café with Bert he caught the flight to Bristol and Jac and I drove to Santiago de Compostela to do some sightseeing. Santiago is a place of Christian pilgrimage and has been for hundreds of years. The old town is crowned by the magnificent cathedral of St James (Saint Iago) who is supposed to be buried there.

 After a couple of hours exploring we drove back to Señor Misery  at Multi-Rent, who came outside and tried to indicate that a slightly deflated tyre was my fault. He finally said that there would be no charge, but I was so suspicious of him that I phoned the credit card company to ensure that no further bills from Multi-rent would be processed. Took a taxi back to Synergy for a meal of canned sausages and lentils!

Cudillero to Luarca

We left Cudillero aiming to get all the way to Viveiro, a sheltered marina deep inside the Ria de Viveiro close to the most westerly tip of Spain. However, the light wind rapidly grew in strength and, coupled with a 4 metre cross swell, the rough motion rapidly became tiresome. We changed the plan to head to the closer port of Ribadeo, but even this became impractical in the worsening conditions. After three hours or so of increasing discomfort we opted to dive into Luarca, a convenient fishing port en-route. A massive harbour wall protected the outer harbour where the visitor’s berths were placed, but there were only four of them and we had to wait for an Irish flagged boat to depart before we could manoeuvre into position. The mooring system was, again one that we had not previously encountered. Four substantial mooring buoys were anchored to the sea bed to tie up the bow line, but the stern had to be tied to the harbour wall by rowing a line ashore. Fortunately we had bought a 200 metre line at the 2014 Southampton boat show in anticipation of shore moorings in the Mediterranean. Bert did the honours of taking the line ashore and clambering up the 40 feet or so of ladder to tie off on the bollard. all secure, we nevertheless had a rocky night of it as the big swell came into the outer harbour.

Bert and Chris in the tender returning from Luarca to Synergy

Moored next to us was “Snorkel” a much smaller boat that had taken a longer route across Biscay and was staying in Luarca for a day or two to secure their mast which had worked loose. They had to do some serious sailing as their engine/fuel tank combination could only give them 12 hours motoring at speeds as low as 3 knots. We later watched their progress on the AIS with interest and they reached the Mediterranean long before we did.

During the afternoon, we took the tender into the town, which was much bigger than it looked with a pretty inner fishing harbour. We found a good internet connection at a bar called “La Gaviota” where we also had some great tapas. On the way back Bert managed to lose the kill chord for the outboard motor.



Aviles to Cudillero


The next morning Mike’s bike was still there, but so were the police! They had taken exception to Mike having parked his bike chained to the railings along the waterfront. After a short and friendly discussion, Mike moved the bike back across the road and we settled down to a breakfast of scrambled eggs. Mike and Julie had to be at Santander for the ferry so they left us after breakfast and we set off for Cudillero, the failed destination from the previous day. The wind was initially calm but increased rapidly to 25 kts, but with less swell than before so the entry to Cudillero proved relatively easy. That was when the fun started. We were expecting mooring buoys, as that was what the pilot book described, but not the bewildering forest of coloured globes that we encountered. It appeared (later) that they were laid in two lines buoying mooring ropes that were attached to the harbour bed, but to us it was just total confusion. To crown it all, the 25kt wind was blowing across this line of buoys, making it almost impossible to stop the boat and hold her steady so that Bert and Jac could hook us on. After a couple of attempts, and at the expense of the “Jolly Hooker” that broke at the first use, we managed to get the bow line on and picked up the stern line with a boat hook, as we drifted backwards and forwards. Having settled in, we were then able to watch other boats arriving and experiencing similar problems. It must be one of those perverse quirks of human nature as we all, from time to time, struggle with mooring a boat, but it is great fun to watch other people in similar difficulties, just as long as they don’t hit you in the process! At Santander we had managed to rig a system to hoist the inflated tender onto the gantry at the stern of the boat and we spent the afternoon refining the system while, in my case, consuming far too much beer! We then took the tender around the harbour before taking it over to look around the town. Cudillero turned out to be a very pretty fishing village with a narrow street running up the hill from the town. There were lots of eating houses and we found one in a back street that did great tapas and after a good meal we took the tender back to the boat for a good night’s sleep.

Gijon to Aviles

There was some kind of festival happening in Gijon with the revellers still making a huge racket when we were waking in the morning. Bert tried to find a shop selling fresh bread but nothing was opening until 10am so we decided to get going and make our way to Cudillero. This was a small, and allegedly very pretty, old fishing port less than 40 miles along the coast from Gijon, but on leaving the port we found a fairly hefty 3 metre swell had developed from the strong winds of the previous day. Apart from being quite uncomfortable, we anticipated difficulties getting into Cudillero as the entrance was narrow, relatively shallow and would require a 90 degree turn across the swell to enter. Having dodged around a tanker taking on its pilot as we left Gijon, we quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we re-planned to go to Aviles.

This was a disappointment as we had arranged to meet 2 old friends, Mike and Julie Moody who had been on a motorcycle tour of Portugal and Spain and were returning to Santander along the coast. A quick phone call changed the rendezvous and we made our way to Aviles. Reeds Almanac, the bible of all the coastal stuff had very little information about Aviles. The pilotage book was a little more forthcoming but quite depressing as it described a bleak industrial town with little to recommend it. Making our way into the river, that is exactly what we found. Mercifully we were sheltered from the swell, but the river was lined with big ship moorings, piles of coal and was a total contrast to most of the attractive harbours that we had visited.

We found the visitors berths near the town and moored up waiting for Mike and Julie to arrive. They found us with no difficulty and we decided to walk into town for dinner. “Quel surprise!” as they say in France. The town of Aviles was a very pretty old place with lots of life, teeming with people and a great selection of bars and restaurants (no mention of that in the books).

After a good wander around we found a great restaurant with some space and had a very good meal. After stopping for an ice cream on the way back to the boat we helped out some people who were struggling to get their launching trailer up a ramp. Mike and Julie had not been able to find an hotel so they stayed with us on the boat, although Mike was so nervous that someone might pinch his bike that he slept in the cockpit. It must have been uncomfortable as he is 6 feet plus and the benches are barely 5 feet long!

Santander to Gijon-Attempt 2

In fine weather and light winds we dragged up the anchor at 0730 and, with a suitable salute to the yacht club, once again motored down the river on the same route as we had attempted the previous day. We were able to raise the sails for 2 or 3 hours which gave us a bit of help but otherwise we had to rely on the engine to do all the work. The coast was almost entirely devoid of any other marine traffic, which seemed very strange after the constant stream of fishing boats and sailing yachts around the French coast. After 83 miles and over 13 hours of motoring we arrived at Gijon. The marina was very close to the old town, a great bonus after the distance of the Santander marina and the staff were both welcoming and accommodating. We went ashore to a local bar where the local custom seemed to be to pour drinks from a bottle held high above the head into a glass held down by the ankles. This baffled us and still does! It turned out that the bottles contained Asturias cider, but why this strange long range pouring technique was required we didn’t determine. One theory was that it put an automatic brake on the amount anyone could drink as when the alcohol took effect, it would be impossible to hit the glass. However, there must be another reason. We saw this cider pouring technique all along the Asturias coast.


The weather forecast for the day was for increasing winds to Force 7 so we decided to stay put. Another customs official arrived but he was content when he saw the copy of the form from the Santander customs visit. There must have been some important event on as, commencing mid-morning, a series of aircraft came over and treated us to an air display. The first was a Eurofighter, Typhoon whose tight manoeuvring and powerful engines made an impression on both aural and visual senses. We were then treated to a formation display by Casa Jet Trainers from the military flying school at Salamanca. The finale came from a low flying transport aircraft. Bert, who had gone back to bed, slept through the lot. In the afternoon the promised strong winds arrived with heavy rain. We went looking for a yacht chandlers but only found a small shop selling some useful items. I managed to find a mooring warp shock absorber, as the swell coming into the harbour was causing the boat to buck around alarmingly and putting great strain on the lines. We then found a nice little restaurant in the back streets where we had a lovely meal sheltered under an awning from the rain, which had returned, and we even had a decent internet connection!

Santander to Gijon-Attempt One

With Synergy now stocked with food we anticipated a run down the north Spanish coast to Gijon. This stretch of coastline differs dramatically from France in that there are few marinas so some of the passages we expected to make would require relatively large distances and long days. This first leg would be over 80 miles so we wanted an early start. The day dawned to low cloud and poor visibility but we considered it suitable for our needs so we slipped out of the marina in the growing light and motored down the almost deserted river past the awaking city. Once out in the open water things looked much worse. The weather was as we had seen it in the marina, but it started to drizzle and we found ourselves smashing into 3 metre swells which reduced the boat speed down to 4 knots. At that rate Gijon would be a round 20 hours away and a very uncomfortable day was in prospect. It took little time to make the decision to turn back and we again motored past Santander and attempted to find a berth in the town marina, hoping to avoid a long drag up the river to our previous berth. However, there was “no room at the inn” but a helpful chap in a rib said that we could anchor off the town promenade near the yacht club. In now heavy rain we did just that and, soaked to the skin, we successfully anchored, erected the conservatory including the sides to keep the rain out and settled down to a day of waiting for the weather to clear. The rain stopped and the weather cleared in the afternoon so Bert and I inflated the tender and motored over to the yacht club to see if we could use the showers. The pilot book reads, “Dinghy can be left at the yacht club in great security where guests are welcome.” This isn’t what we found. The yacht club reception was polished wood with cabinets stacked with illuminated silver trophies, obviously a club with great provenance. The receptionist was adamant, “Transito si; servicios no!” Meaning, “You can walk through the building but you can’t use the toilets.” I don’t know if it was just us, but that wasn’t what I would call a welcome! We took the tender back to Synergy and spent the afternoon quietly muttering abuse in the direction of the yacht club and, still smelly, fell into bed for a good night’s sleep.

Biscay Crossing-La Rochelle to Santander

This was the big day and the weather looked good for the next few days so it was time to go. Jac had been particularly nervous about this leg of the trip as the other members of the crew on her Day Skipper course had been ribbing her about the Biscay crossing so we were particularly happy to have Bert and his vast sailing experience on board.

We refuelled the boat, filled the jerry cans and left La Rochelle at 10am anticipating a crossing of between 35 and 40 hours. The plan was simple: clear La Rochelle then follow a straight line to Santander. Leaving the shelter of the Ile D’Oleron we hit a confused Atlantic swell that left us bucking and rocking for some time until we cleared the land and settled into the routine of looking out for fishing buoys and other traffic. The rough ride made Jac a little seasick but she recovered when the sea settled. We lost sight of France at 1320 and then took an hourly fix which we plotted on the chart in case the electronic kit failed. The crossing was then almost entirely uneventful. We encountered several pods of dolphins one of which stayed with us for a while but very little other sea life was to be seen. We had hoped to see whales as this was a known area for them and we crossed an area that was 3000 metres deep, but saw nothing whaley!

When we worked out that we were in Spanish waters I swapped the French courtesy flag for the Basque flag, knowing that in the Basque country they are very sensitive about boats flying their flag. We then determined that Santander is not in the Basque country so I swapped the Basque flag for the Spanish one. Much bucking around on the foredeck to achieve the final aim. Jac took the customary photographs of the “changing flags ceremony!”

In the night we encountered several groups of fishing boats and the AIS proved invaluable as we could see their heading and speed and avoid them. Other than these small diversions there was little to see but lots of water! The wind stayed almost calm and we motored almost all the way. Dark lasted from around 2300 until 0630 on 20 July and the sea became so calm in the morning that we could have been crossing a lake. During the early morning a pod of dolphins started chasing tuna and some very large fish were leaping from the water in an attempt to escape. At around 1200 we spotted the mountains behind Santander and finally moored up in the Marina de Deportivo up the river from the town at 1630. I think we must have had one of the easiest Biscay crossings ever but we burned a lot of fuel doing it.