Western Spain and Portugal
Santiago de Compostela
We leave La Coruña and via Camariñas we sail along Cape Finisterre to the west coast of Spain. One of the places we call at is Portosin, from where we visit Santiago de Compostela. Sailing to Spain and using public transport to get to Santiago is very special because you really should go there on foot. But we put on our walking shoes for the day so we do more or less fit in. In the big cathedral there is a long queue of tourists. Since we have plenty of time to spare and we want to let the environment sink in, we join the queue. We have no idea where it will lead us. After more than half an hour a small staircase behind the altar leads us up to where we are allowed to hug the apostle James. So is this the high point for every pilgrim, after days, weeks or months of walking? We are a bit amused by this.
We spend a few days anchored at Porto Novo before we leave for Islas Cies. This is a group of three exotic-looking islands off the Spanish coast. We drop anchor off the biggest island in clear blue water. We cross the white sandy beach and climb up to the lighthouse. The view is fabulous. From there, we see another anchorage place near a smaller island and on Friday we drop our anchor there. There are a few Spanish ships which all leave in the evening. The next morning we are the only ship on this romantic spot. We row to shore in our mini monster and walk straight across the island and wonder what it would be like to have to survive here without help from the modern world. On the other side of the island we come across an old Roman water reservoir. At least we would have had plenty of water. In the afternoon, when we have returned to Happy Monster, everyone in Spain has finished their Saturday shopping because we are now surrounded by Spanish motorboats and sailing yachts. It gets so busy that at the end of the day we zigzag out of this place to go to Bayona.
Mini en Mickey
We are anchored in Bayona and we treat ourselves to a new outboard motor for Mini. We call it Mickey. With Mini and Mickey we often career around the bay of Bayona. We visit other ships there. A number of them have been sailing the same route as we have for a while and we have become friends along the way. Everyone who has sailed this far away from home in their sailing boat is in the same situation. They have all said goodbye to friends and acquaintances for a long period of time and they are ready to meet new people. This way, we became friends with Angus and Ruth from the 'Do It' from England. They have rented out their house and, like us, they have an open plan. Angus is very skilful with electrical equipment and helps us with a new circuit for our solar panels. In return, Hans helps them improve their website. And when the opportunity arises, Dory and Ruth go shopping together. Low-budget though, so they don't really buy anything, but it's fun to look around in the shops.
Without a motor
We also have frequent contact with Jurgen and Christiane from the 'April'. They are a German couple who have come sailing down from Northern Germany on a self-built ship, without a motor. They don't have a thru hull connection in their ship, which means they don't have a toilet or a sink. It is very special that people have the courage to start an adventure like this in such a primitive way and we get along very well. They explain that they keep an oar at the back of the ship with which they can row at approximately two kilometres an hour when there is no wind, so they can still get somewhere.
During this time we meet a lot of Dutch ships which can all be found on the departures pages of "Zeilen" magazine. It is really nice to get a whole new circle of acquaintances. Everyone is travelling in their own way. Some of them are making day trips to the Mediterranean while others choose the big adventure of the ocean.
From Bayona we sail to Povoa de Varzim in Portugal. It's nearly sixty miles so we leave early in the morning while it is still dark. After a beautiful day of sailing we receive a very warm welcome in Povoa harbour and find that Portugal has a completely different culture from Spain. English is spoken much more widely and sometimes you can use French. The people are much calmer and much more polite and sophisticated. The harbour master is extremely helpful. He even takes us to the hypermercado in his car to exchange our butane gas.
From Povoa we take the bus to Porto. Porto is of course famous for its port-wine, but it also turns out to be a very beautiful city. We enjoy walking along the narrow streets. In Portugal it is customary to use the type of tiles that we would use in our bathroom on the outside of the house. This makes for a colourful sight. You can see many different brightly coloured patterns and sometimes it looks like Delft blue.
We follow narrow streets with a lot of steps down to the river Douro. Once down there, you have a fantastic view of a bridge that is clearly designed by Mr Eiffel. It is like the Eiffel Tower put sideways.
On the other side of the river you can find the port-wine houses, where we had a wonderful and very interesting tour. We ended up taking a bottle of eight-year old white port home with us. We are very sure we are both going to like it.
Still too hot
From Povoa we sail for two nights and arrive in Cascais. Since our engine is still getting too hot, we order a new thermostat, hoping to finally solve the problem. We put both the old and the new thermostat in a pan of water and bring it to the boil. It turns out that our old thermostat is still working fine.
Our last chance is to replace the heat exchanger. We have a spare one on board. We dismantle both alternators to reach the heat exchanger. It then turns out that it is so rotten because of electrolysis that it is stuck. There is nothing for it but to puncture the old heat exchanger and with a great effort we manage to get everything leakproof again. It takes a few days of DIY, but that seems to be part of the game. From other sailors we also mainly hear stories about problems, DIY and things they want to improve on their ship.
In between DIY there is still time for a day trip to Lisbon. A big and busy city, with enough places of interests for a longer visit. We only visit the highlights. A castle that offers a wonderful view of the city and a few monuments on the waterfront. It was a great day out with Ruth and Angus.
After we have spent nearly two weeks in Cascais we leave for the Canary Island of Isla Graciosa. The crossing went well, but more about that in our next story.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)