Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

13th September – PORTUGAL – POVOA de VARZIM

The coastline of Portugal is dramatically different than the coast of Spain. The rugged rocks and cliffs seem to disappear and in their place miles upon miles of beaches appear, along with high rise buildings. It has a much more commercial feel to it. It also looks more like Southern Spain and is a bit of a shock when compared to the sleepy Rias of Spain.

We had been warned by some English people heading north, that entry to many of the Portuguese harbours is prohibited by sand bars in the entrances. Some ports actually show flags to say they are closed or the swells make it too shallow or dangerous to cross the bars. Many harbours are also fed by rivers and in times of rain the flow out to sea can run at 8 knots. It is always worth having a back up plan in case you cannot access your first choice.

On approach we could see a sand dredger so approached with caution. We had seen another large yacht leaving so we assumed we were ok. We had plenty of water, which was just as well, as the swell tossed us around as we turned beam on to enter the harbour. Once inside it all went calm and we were directed to a berth. This marina must have the shortest finger pontoons on record, which makes berthing more challenging. The marina was nice and friendly and had quite a few visiting yachts. It also had quite a few ashore that looked like they had found their final resting place. The marina is stupidly cheap at €15 a night, however the ARC discount reduced this by a further 50%, so 5 nights cost €35. If you were planning to leave a boat for a return visit to home hen this is the place o do it. It is close to Porto which has an airport.

The shops were quite a walk into town, so we got the bike out. Russell had dropped the plastic sheath for the seat post in the water in Portosin so he had to make one out of a plastic bottle. A new one had been ordered and was being sent to Povoa. We figured as a cheap place, it was best to have something posted so if we were waiting it was not costing us a fortune. I set off at 5pm on the bike, whilst Russ cooked dinner and the boys watched another A Team DVD. There are nice cycle paths and I got to the shop without incident. I strapped everything to the back and had a rucksack and headed for home. I decided to cycle along a high street that I assumed ran parallel to the sea front. I spotted the Pandorra shop and another supermarket and kept going, and the high street end and I expected to see a right turn to the beach. After some time the road got larger and more residential and I started to think I must be there by now. I saw the metro and thought, I don’t think I should be here.  I was lost. I knew I needed a right turn but everything looked residential so I kept going. I was then attacked by a banner strung on some lamp posts and distracted by a Lidl sign I swerved to miss the killer banner and fell off the bike. I was on the wide pavement so didn’t get run over but did suffer bruising to my hand and grazes to my knees and ankle. I had to rearrange the shopping and generally feel sorry for myself, but on the plus side I had found the right turn. I also knew that I had now been gone nearly 2 hours and that a search party was probably out looking for me. They wouldn’t find me because I had not come back the same way. I was likely in trouble when I got back. I wondered if I should go hide in McDonalds, but decided to best plod on. It was pretty much down hill to the beach and it wasn’t long until I was back at an empty boat. I grabbed the ice and put it on my hand that was now throbbing. It wasn’t long until I heard Ethan shout, it’s OK Dad she’s here. I apparently looked a sorry state clutching my ice and sympathy was given. I am not sure I am allowed on shopping trips alone anymore. I have now fallen off the scooter and the bike.

We had promised the boys we would go to the Yacht Club and I had somewhat delayed proceedings with my shopping trip so it was quite late when we got there. I was told I should go for medicinal purposes.

Pavoa Yacht Club has a Gin bar. Now I am new to gin and I thought that there was just a couple, Gordons, Bombay Sapphire and the supermarket imitations.  I was wrong, and a trip to the Yacht Club informed me of this. I was also told that you have different tonics with different gins, and some have lemon some lime and juniper berries and cloves. The barman took it all very seriously, adding the peel of the fruit not a slice, and rubbing the rim of the glass with lemon or lime. We first tried a London dry Gin in a fancy bottle but unexciting name. This was the gin conesure’s recommendation. It was very nice. The second one was the more exotic Mombassa which was really really nice. We planned to go back on Sunday night to try another, but it was shut.

The yacht club also had a TV and the boys settled into watch Father of the Bride 2. It was in English with subtitles and they were glued to it. This meant we could not leave until it finished. A couple (Chris and Steve) on a Moody 41 called Chewsy had arrived in Baiona as we had left and they had now come to Povoa. They came into the bar and we sat and chatted with them. They too are taking a year to do an Atlantic circuit but are not doing the ARC. It was nice to talk to people doing the same thing and learn they had the same plans and ideas as us, so we must be doing something right.

The boys wanted some crisps so we asked at the bar – there was only the 6 of us in there and it was a Friday night. The boys luck was in, as they made them chips. Oliver said they were the best he had ever had. We were not charged for the chips, possibly because the gin was €8 a go, but we had savoured 2 each over 2 and a half hours so possible not such bad value for money.

The next day we went to the Pandora shop and purchased the bead for Portugal. We have gone down the colour theme of blue and green. Oliver wanted a red bead, but I pointed out this was not going to work. The lady helpfully gave us a brochure so we could chose at leisure, probably because it took ages in the shop and she got bored with us. If we do not get any joy from Pandora with outlets in the Caribbean, we will buy the beads in Portugal and then have our own little Pandorra shop. There is one concession on the red being that my birth stone is Garnet (stone for January) which is granada in Portuguese and we will be in Greneda in January.

The boys found the beach was good for surfing and enjoyed playing in the big breaking waves. They kept everyone amused on the beach watching them do some spectacular wipe outs. They were tumbled a few times and I dragged them out spluttering, but they shook me off and ran straight back in for more. The first day when we got back from the beach when they took off their wetsuits all the little stones from the beach fell out. Russell paddled the canoe round on the second day and enjoyed surfing down the waves, the beach was too busy for me to try and with my track record I would probably have fallen out of it and got some new bruises. The next day there was thick fog and it was unsafe for Russ to canoe out of the harbour to the beach. It was a shame as there was apparently a festival in town and there was supposed to be processions and the fog was so thick you could not see the other pontoon. It cleared for a few hours so I did some washing but it came in thick and fast after lunch and we had to resort to the driers. Some funny parachutes with engines flew over head when the fog had cleared, only to be engulfed by the fog as it came in quickly. It must have been scary for them as they obviously needed to land and they had flown over the masts so the risk of going low and hitting one was high.

I am sure that in Portugal they do not sell swimming costumes, only bikinis. They are obviously not body conscious in Portugal either and whatever shape you are you wear a bikini. I think perhaps it costs more depending on size and with the recession people are opting for what they can afford, not what they need to fit the size of their bottom. Don’t you just love people watching…..

The part for the bike arrived on Friday having been posted from the UK on Tuesday, which was impressive. The bike and scooters were very useful during our stay. We used them to go to Lidl in the hope we might get some syrup for pancakes. We bribed the kids with McDonalds. No pancake syrup though.

After being in Pavoa for 5 days we decided it was time to move on. We planned to visit the new marina in Porto. It surprised us that until a few months ago there was nowhere to moor in Porto. We went to pay for our stay and were told to return at 2pm. It was 1.50 so we thought that was ok and went off to stow away. Ethan and I walked up at 2.40 and the office was shut. We waited ten mins but no one showed up. We tried calling up the marina on the VHF, but nothing. Russ walked up to see if he could find anyone and at 3pm the office opened. He asked why they were an hour late opening. They looked confused and then asked if we had come from Spain. It was then we were told that Portugal is on the same time as the UK which is an hour behind Spain. We never thought that it would be different. We have now changed our watches.

VIGO and BAIONA – 9th to 12th September

We had hoped to have a decent sail down to VIGO, but it was not to be. We were not sure about visiting VIGO because it was more of a city, but we really enjoyed it. We arrived on the Sunday afternoon so there was not much open. We stayed at the Marina in town and for €28 we also got free entry to the sports club which had a pool and Gym. We went off to the pool, but it was not quite as expected. It was a competition size pool which was all divided into lanes. We were the only ones in there so we did a few lengths and then the boys practiced diving. They really came on well. We also had to giggle at the swimming hats they made us wear.

We had decided to go for a drink at the Yacht Club and it looked like everyone was dressed in trousers rather than shorts, so we dusted off our more formal clothes and headed on up. We sat outside and had a few drinks. It was only after the second round and wondering why we could not get wifi, we realised the yacht club was upstairs and we were sat at a bar. The boys were happy running around and it seems that on Sunday nights the Spanish come out and take a stroll so there was a real buzz to the place. We stayed put and I enjoyed a rather nice, but large G&T.

The next day we went in search of the Pandora bead shop that I had found on the internet. I had brought the bracelet before leaving the UK and decided to collect beads from the places I go to act as a reminder. So far I had not found any shops, but the internet came up trumps. I purchased 3 beads with the help of Ethan. We had the Dolphin for crossing Biscay and a blue bead with hearts for Spain. The enamel one Ethan is keeping for either Maderia or The Canary Islands as we are not sure if they have shops there. I have now emailed Pandora asking them if my plan is going to work and I am awaiting a response back.

Oliver had been eaten by mosquitos so we went in search of a pharmacy that sold a cream to help the itching. It seemed to work well, which was a good job as it cost €10. I was sure I had brought witch hazel in the UK but couldn’t find it. Having bought the posh cream which contained anti histamine, I found the witch hazel in the cupboard the next day. We bought some fumigation spray but since leaving VIGO we have not suffered.

We are also attracting flies and now put up the sticky fly coils to try and catch them. It is less unsightly than Russell dancing around naked in the middle of the night trying to kill them with a flick of a T-towel. However, they are sticky and if you knock them with your head or throw something at it, it literally sticks to them like glue. I think we have caught more humans than flies.

I have now started to make the flyscreens to go in the opening hatches. Annoyingly you cannot buy them from lewmar anymore. We have found that the 99p store union jack sunshades fit in the saloon hatch so we feel very patriotic. I am using garden wire and material bought from the flyscreen queen to make the small hatches, and do not quite have a plan for our hatch yet.

VIGO was a big city with lots of boutique clothes shops and a C&A. The boys found a toyshop, but there was nothing that was really practical for them to buy. We found the food shop eventually and witnessed someone have their mobile phone snatched. The thief nearly ran into me and had I realised what the Spanish woman was shouting I could have stuck my leg out and tripped him up. Probably best I didn’t as I would then have had to do the whole police statement and my Spanish really is very limited.

We left VIGO later that day and had a cracking sail to Baiona. It was not very far so we accepted the beat. We chickened out from going through the narrow, rocky inshore passage. We did watch another boat go through, but felt it was not for us. Despite packing the boat for a beat, possessions still managed to wriggle free and most of the scatter cushions found new homes on the floor. It didn’t take long to tidy up once we got along side.

Baiona has 2 marinas the yacht club and the marina. Having looked at the prices reported on Noonsite we went with the marina as being cheaper. It was still €35 a night which is the most expensive yet. You were supposed to only get 1 hour internet free and then have to pay but it was broken so we had free wifi for the duration. The deposit for the meter cable was €50, but at least you got it back. I had read on Noonsite a report by someone visiting who complained at how they had had to buy the cable. They obviously didn’t realise it was a deposit. We told the marina office and they are now planning to track the person down and see if they can get back the lead and reunite him with the money.

Oliver and Ethan finally met another child who was also 8. His name was Alexandria and he was French. They managed to communicate and enjoyed a couple of days fishing. They caught a starfish and also sea urchins. They are planning to cross the Atlantic next year so are moving at a slower pace to us. They then plan to cross the pacific so will be away a lot longer than our year. It was a shame they could not have spent longer together.

We decided to have our first meal out as a celebration of leaving Spain. This was easier said than done as most restaurants did not open until 8 or 8.30. This meant we did a bit of a pub crawl for an hour filling up on free tapas and the boys had an ice cream to keep them going. Russ and I had the best mojitos I have ever tasted. The bar was doing them at 2 for €5 so you couldn’t say no. We then had a lovely dinner of paella and other seafood, washed down with a lovely bottle of white wine. The boys had spotted another ice cream shop which they wanted to have pudding from. The ice cream tasted like Ferrero Roche chocolates. It was a lovely evening.

The next day we left Baiona as the sun rose at 8.30am. We started with no wind but half way into the journey we got 8 knots of breeze from behind so the kite was hoisted and soon we were doing 6 to 7 knots towards Povoa de Varzim in Portugal. We had more Dolphins come and play and arrived at 4pm.

Monday, 17 September 2012

4th September – Cabo La Cruz – A scene out of Cars Movie

We arrived in Cabo La Cruz yesterday. This was a surprise to the marina staff as they did not seem to get visitors. We have now found that it has only been open for 2 months. The marina is lovely and small and as so new – you guessed it – pretty empty. The marina office, toilets, laundry and bar are in wooden sheds, in the style of chalets. I guess they ran out of money, but it is quite rustic. We enjoyed a nice couple of cold beers at the bar. We were brought some complimentary tortilla and also some mussels. Despite the Ria being full of viveros (platforms like pontoons with ropes hanging off them which mussels grow on) we do not seem to be able to buy them fresh, but you can buy them canned. I am very surprised at the amount of food that is sold in tins. We found the supermarket today and also a nice looking butchers, but having stocked up a few days ago in Cariminal we did not need anything.

We are still suffering with the strong winds at night but the forecast is for there to be no wind for the next few days so we might get a better nights sleep.

There is a beach close by, which we have been visiting by dinghy. It seems to be more stoney and crushed shells than sand, so not so nice on the feet. It is also bitterly cold, so much so it is painful to swim. The canoe has been a worthwhile investment and is being used to go and explore rocks. We have managed to fit 1 adult and 2 children on the canoe, only a matter of time before we all try to get on it. The boys have found that spades work very successfully as paddles and the 3 of us went for a long paddle to the rocks. We then went exploring in the rock pools and found little fish and shrimps. The water was very warm in the pools and the rocks were quite hot to walk on too.

Our berth looks out over the fishing harbour and the boats used to harvest the mussels. The wheelhouse is very far forward and they have a high splayed bow. They would not look out of place as characters from the Cars Movie. We think they look like the tractors that Mater plays tractor tipping with. But this time a dinghy would be zipping around sounding its horns and making them all tip backwards. Ethan also thought that the new road down to the marina from town with its twists and turns looked like route 66.

We spent 2 nights at Cabo de cruz. The marina was cheap at €20 per night.


Villagarcia is the biggest city in the Ria and the boys were pleased to see a McDonalds. In return for doing the shopping they got to go. Russell had to have a beer with his meal, because he could. He decided that it was wrong, it just didn’t work. There was also an indoor play area that the boys went and played in.

Russell is still trying to find a bulb for the deck light, and he and Oli went for a long walk to a number of shops in search, but with no luck. Ethan and I did the shopping in Gadis and got some more of their favourite crisps which are onion and tomato flavour. We can only buy big packets so we have the routine argument of he had more than me, so crisps are now a treat rather than a daily occurrence.

Villagarcia was a big marina and we were as far away from the exit as possible. It was much nosier than other stops as it was very close to a commercial port. It was strange to hear the propeller vibration sounds as a ship left in the morning. We had not heard these since leaving Marchwood. There was also the sound of the lorries used for unloading and a jack hammer. All in all at €27 per night we decided to just stay the one night and moved on to Villanova the next day.

Villanova was nicer, but the same price. This had the disadvantage of a very noisy vhf in the harbour office blaring out until 10pm at night. The beach was nothing to write home about, but the market in town (once I eventually found it) was worth the effort. I was able to get fresh mussels at €2 of 1.5kg , calamari €6 for 1 kg and monkfish for €12. We enjoyed lunch of mussels, fresh bread, and half the calamari dusted in flour. Ethan watched as I cut off the baby squids heads leaving just the tentacles. I then cut the body into rings. The boys devoured them very quickly and I could have done the whole lot. The other half I did on the bbq with the monk fish. We managed to get the boys to eat some salad, they are at least happy to try new things once.

We decided to move to San Vincente on the edge of the Ria. This is a tourist place which is frequented by city dwellers at weekends. The marina is very small but nice. This was the first time we had used a bow anchor as we were a bit big for the small finger pontoon. The beach was massive, but we woke the next morning to thick fog and the mist failed to really clear all day. It did lift a little in the afternoon so we went to the beach. There was decent surf for the boys to play on the body board. The sand was very fine and the boys were pleased that they had got rid of the stoney beaches inside the ria.

Both Oli and Russell got stung by something in the sand, so we had a shorter visit. Some Piriton and hot water seemed to ease the pain and there have been no ill effects. Russell has learnt to be more sympathetic in future as he just thought Oli had stepped on a sharp stone. I may be taking piriton to the beach in future.

We stayed for 2 nights which cost €61. We hope that our recent experience of prices increasing does not last. On the plus side we have 2 stops left before our bargain nights in Portugal with the Arc discount begin.

We also took the opportunity to fill up with fuel. We fitted 108 litres in at a cost of €162. We then left for VIGO which is a big port and city. We had not planned to stop but with a couple of cloudy days forecast we thought that stocking up with provisions may be a good idea. There is also a sea museum which might be of interest and give an opportunity to do a school excursion. A number of cruise ships visit so hopefully it will have an English translation. There are 4 marinas to choose from, we are aiming for the one closest to town.

1st September – A Pobra do Cariminal

The Ria de Arousa is the biggest of the Rias on this coast.

A ria is a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley. It is a drowned river valley that remains open to the sea.

There are lots of marinas and bays to anchor in. Think Poole harbour but bigger. From the entrance to the Ria to A Pobra de Cariminal is about 8 miles. You are still in very deep water and it feels very odd when you get ships passing you on their way up to the large town called Vilagarcia.

The marina at Caraminal was large and fairly empty, but did show signs that there were other visitors. It was also very cheap at €17 per night. The town was a decent size and had two large supermarkets next to each other. Spotting it was a long walk from them it was decided that Oli and I would shop and Ethan and Russell would return to the beach opposite the shops with the dinghy. This was met with much amusement from the people on the beach. It was obviously not a common occurrence. The quick pick up was foiled by the shop wanting to see my passport or drivers licence before accepting my cash card. This meant Russ had to go back to the boat. He returned and the manager then apologised on realising it was a prepaid cash card and not a credit card. I didn’t need the ID after all. I now keep my drivers licence with me just in case.

We also needed to get gas which was a decent walk to a petrol station where we purchased ice cream but no gas. We had asked the police for directions and they had told us if the petrol station did not have it a hardware store on our return would. Luckily it opened again at 4pm and we only had to wait ten minutes. The gas cost €15 compared to the £25 we were charged in Falmouth.

We stayed a couple of days in Cariminal. The beach was quite stoney but the water was warmer.