The title photo of this post shows the amazing beauty of the North Spanish Coast! The coast is mountainous, rugged and very beautiful all the way from Bilbao to A Coruña.
Initially the mountains seem to rise up out of the sea but as we sailed further and further west they began to retreat from the coast, softening a little but still very imposing! The mountains at lower levels are very green and covered with forest providing the natural habitat for the Cantabrian Brown Bear which is now a protected species as numbers dwindled significantly.
Our passage to A Coruña has taken us a month! Well we’re not in a hurry, obviously!! After leaving leaving Bilbao our journey has taken us across the north coast of Spain and has taken in several autonomous regions, beginning with The BASQUE Country!
This is where we arrived in Spain (See my previous post!) and after a few days in Bilbao we were off to CANTABRIA! Here is the official flag, it is white above red, hard to detect in this photo but the block of white is the same size as the block of red?!
17th ~ 20th July ~ Laredo, CANTABRIA
We had a lovely sail to this small port. The photo was taken by the crew of a Dutch boat who followed us out of Bilbao and to Laredo. They then came and shared the photo with us which was so kind of them. Laredo has the largest beach of the entire Cantabrian coast at more than four kilometres long, we know that’s true, we walked the whole length of it and back again!!
The marina was incredible! It was only a few years old and shared it’s space with the small fishing fleet. It was officially opened in 2011. The most remarkable thing about it was that it was more than half empty!! The pontoons were wide and the “fingers” were long and wide too with no tapering and lots of cleats, some of the cleats were stainless steel!! The marineros (marina staff) were friendly and helpful and gave us a very warm welcome. The marina office is situated on the 3rd floor of this otherwise totally empty building!??
Quite close to the marina we came across the Atalaya tunnel which we naturally had to explore! It was built under the Atalaya mountain which we sailed past on our way into the Loredo inlet. The tunnel was built to allow the construction of another port on the other side of the mountain. For various reasons, one of which was that it proved too difficult to construct a port on a site which was pounded by the Atlantic Ocean, it was never finished. The tunnel remains though and we walked along it’s length, 221 metres, which opens at the end onto a viewing area where it is possible to look along the coastline of Laredo and understand why the other port was never built.
The rocky coast and the viewing area at the end of the tunnel!
Laredo is quite small and we wandered up and down the cobbled streets of the old quarter taking in the old buildings and the ancient church of Santa María de la Asunción.
The old Town Hall Laredo and the pretty cobbled streets in the old quarter!
The church is only open at certain times of the day but here is a view of the exterior and the interior of the church.
The Church of Santa María de la Asunción!
We had met some interesting people here in Loredo and enjoyed their company aboard Musetta and on their boat too, swapping stories and information! The next day dawned particularly wet and miserable! Our neighbours were going to hunker down below with a good book but we had to move on and so we said our goodbyes and departed for our next port….
20th ~ 25th July Santander, CANTABRIA
Santander is the capital city of Cantabria and a is large commercial and ferry port. It is well known for its long, curving El Sardinero Beach, the Cabo Mayor lighthouse and the beautiful Palace of the Magdalena which was given to the King of Spain by the people of Santander.
The passage was only 25 miles long and so we thought we would grin and bear the conditions, after all we couldn’t expect to have beautiful blue skies all the time! Well we had a pretty nasty sail, with thundery squalls which churned up the sea and made for an uncomfortable time. We were very happy to arrive in the bay at Santander!
I had always imagined arriving in Santander with Musetta under blue skies in perfect sailing conditions! (As above) Haha, it just shows one shouldn’t build ones hopes up too much!! Look at this (below?)…. so disappointing but hardly surprising after such a torrid journey!
The marina in Santander is absolutely fine except that it is nowhere near the beautiful city or any point of interest (ie. supermarket) for visiting yachtsmen! For us it didn’t matter as were scooped up by our Spanish friends and their wonderful family as soon as we arrived! They looked after us, took us shopping, allowed me to do our laundry at their house and much, much more besides!
We spent four days with them all and had a wonderful time!
Santander Marina – Lunch on the Terrace at Puente Arce – Grandchildren playing on Musetta’s fore deck!
Onwards into the next region….
The Flag of Asturias
We became aware very quickly of the Sidrerias, cider bars in this region! Cider is the Asturian drink and it must be taken in a very specific way! In the Sidrerias, the waiter will hold the base of the bottle of cider above his head with a straight arm, he holds a glass in his other hand and starts to pour the cider. He pours just enough to drink with one gulp which is called a “culete”. Any remaining cider is thrown away!
25th ~ 27th July Llanes, ASTURIAS
We left Santander early in the morning had a very pleasant sail to Llanes. The winds were favourable and so we put up the cruising chute and made very good time for the 51.5 miles arriving on the visitor pontoon at 3.15pm. We were holding our breath and hoping that the pontoon would be empty so that we could be accommodated, There is only one pontoon which is 20 metres long and we took up 14 metres of it and so space is at a premium! We were very grateful to find the pontoon completely empty for us!
The harbour here is very small, only catering for small boats as there is absolutely no room to manoeuvre!! Ideally we like to face into the weather which in this case was out of port and so we turned Musetta round on ropes when the tide was up!
Llannes is a traditional fishing port and the harbour entrance is very distinctive with piles of concrete cubes all painted with various colours and designs. They are the work of a well known Basque artist Augustin Ibarrola and are called “The Cubes of Memory” which the artist described as his most powerful work! Once again I struggled to associate a mass of randomly sited concrete cubes with art?! Anyway…..!!
The town is small with the harbour nestling in it’s midst. There are restaurants a plenty and not much else of note! The streets leading off the harbour are quaint and narrow and the town still has much of the defensive stone wall, parts of it dating back to the 13th century, around it including the Defense Tower of Llanes.
The defense tower of Llanes and the ancient castelated defense walls
In it’s own elegant square and very close to the harbour is the Gothic style church, Iglesia de Santa Maria. The facade is beautifully Romanesque in style and has four large bougainvillea bushes growing up against it providing an amazing splash of vibrant purple. The inside of the church is very plain until you reach the altar which has a very ornate altar-piece and is absolutely stunning!
Also inside this church there is a plaque commemorating the lives of 65 sailors who sailed out of LLanes on three ships which were fitted out in the shipyard there for the Spanish Armada in 1588! Sadly I couldn’t get good photos.
We eventually had some mooring companions, a small German yacht rafted up against us with the most delightful family on board who had come to join Grandpa (80 years old with two circumnavigations under his belt!) for three weeks sailing! The other yacht which then rafted to the Germans was Irish with two women on board, the owner and a friend of hers, they were hugely entertaining, taking their bread maker onto the pontoon to plug into the power supply and making bread and butter pudding!!
27th ~ 30th July Ribadesella, ASTURIAS
Musetta alongside the visitor pontoon with the Ermita de Guía on the cliff top
A picturesque stopover which we really enjoyed!
William and Carmen (Jnr) had taken us on a tour of the area while we were staying with them including to Ribadesella where we had lunch. We decided then that this was going to be a great place to stay!
In and around Ribadesella
Ribadesella is famous for the amazing wall paintings in the Tito Bustillo Cave, which has been designated a World Heritage Site. While we were unable to go into the cave with the paintings because the bookings were full until the end of August, we did go into the museum to see all the exhibits and the incredible happenings in 1968 when a group of adventurous cavers discovered this magnificent underground world! We were able to go into the adjoining cave – no paintings here but it was still awe-inspiring!
Illicit photography but I couldn’t help myself!
There are all kinds of walks and bike rides to be done and we chose the former and made it to the top of the cliff and the Ermita de Guía a very pretty chapel/refuge which was unfortunately closed when we were there!
Some of the views from the top of our cliff top walk, stunning!
The beach too is quite beautiful with lots of big rollers coming in from the Atlantic, it was a surfers paradise!
We found a lovely little Tapas bar which was a ‘must to go to’ and so we enjoyed a meal there on our last night in this delightful spot! Every course was delicious especially these huge prawns in garlic!
Delicious tapas, always a must have in Spain!!
We really enjoyed Ribadesella but Alan and I love the peace of anchoring and so we left reluctantly – for new waters….
30th July ~ Ria de Villaviciosa, ASTURIAS and my Birthday!!
After a very short passage, luckily as we couldn’t leave Ribadesella until nearly 4pm because of the tide and the tricky exit, we arrived in this little piece of paradise!
The Ria Villaviciosa is beautiful and we were the only boat to anchor in the very limited space available, so we were doubly lucky! We had a simple supper on board and just enjoyed the view, a lovely way to spend my birthday!
We left again in the morning for Gijon but this is the last memory of the Ria Villaviciosa….
31st July ~ 2nd August Gijon, ASTURIAS
It was only a short trip to Gijon but we needed to leave the Ria at high water and so we left fairly early and arrived in Gijon at midday!
Gijon, the giant? Perhaps it is! It is the largest city in Asturias and is approximately 20 kilometres north of Oviedo, the capital! Or perhaps it refers to the large Roman wall which surrounded the city! Much of the wall remains today!
After the decline of the coal, steel and ship building industries, much of Gijon’s commerce is now bound up with the fishing and tourism.
Talking of which, this modern piece of art is a very popular attraction, with visitors climbing all over it (not us!) to have their photo taken peering through the letters which make up the name of the town. We didn’t really appreciate it thinking that it looked totally out of place in an otherwise pleasant part of the port!
I guess you could argue that this creation isn’t very attractive either but we found it fascinating if only in the achievement of building it!! Below is the Revillagigedo Palace which is now a museum and for us much more pleasing on the eye
Our stay in Gijon was fairly short, just two nights but it did give us time to meet up with a German couple who we had met in Ribadesella and to enjoy an evening out with them and some other folk from the marina.
An evening out with fellow sailors!
2nd ~ 5th August The Ria de Navia, ASTURIAS
We had a fairly longish sail (50nm) to Navia and so we left promptly at 07.45am!!! It was a good trip with the cruising chute up and then as the wind built we had to swap it for the heavy weight genoa! Musetta ate up the miles and our maximum speed recorded was 11.3 kts but our average was 6.4kts!! We were soon tied up on the visitor pontoon and greeted by the harbour master who was also, it appeared, the captain of the yacht club. He was charming and in his non-existent English and our non-existent Spanish, we understood each other perfectly!!
We strolled round the town and discovered more houses built by the Indianos which has been a recurring theme along the north coast of Spain. Indiano was the name given to the Spanish émigrés who returned from the American colonies and who had made their fortunes in the New World. On their return many became benefactors and philanthropists to their fellow countryman in order to help in different ways such as building schools, hospitals and universities.
These grand houses in many different styles have long since been converted for other uses such as flats and hotels as the costs for their upkeep became higher and higher.
The very imposing church of Saint Maria de Barca and a riverside park!
The harbour master arrived the next day with his granddaughter who was visiting from the US with her parents and sisters for the summer! She has lived in Connecticut, USA all her life and so obviously speaks English. Her grandfather wanted to invite us to the annual party for the yacht club that evening! How kind of the club to invite us! We ate typicaly Spanish tapas and cider to be drunk in the traditional way too!
The harbour master in the turquoise shorts, the tradional pouring of a “Culete” of cider which seemed to go on continuously throughout the evening!!
Musetta’s mast can be seen in the background!
Our German friends arrived the following day just for a brief visit here before we both set off the next day for Ribadeo in Galicia the next region along the coast of northern Spain!
The flag of Galicia!
Galicia, the end of the known world according to the Romans!! Galicia is the last province on the Biscay coast of Spain as we travelled west. The coastline is both treacherous and magnificent at the same time and we know that, as sailors we must treat it with the greatest respect! The regional capital is Santiago de Compostela and is a place that we are very much looking forward to visiting, it is the final destination for the pilgrims who walk the Carmio de Santiago a walk which is over 700kms long!.
5th ~7th August Ribadeo, GALICIA
Unfortunately because of the lack of wind we motored the 17nm here from the Ria de Navia! It was murky and rolly and so not the most pleasant of journeys but at least it was short!
The entrance to this harbour is wide and safe to enter at all states of the tide and weather conditions, well perhaps I should say not so easy in fog! It is again dominated by an enormous bridge which spans the narrowest part of the inlet! With a 30 metre clearance though it wasn’t a problem to go under it and into the marina! We did still look up as we passed under it to check!!
After we were safely moored we climbed up to the town. I was surprised to find a selection of shops that you would expect in any big town, Ribadeo with it’s narrow, winding and very steep climb from the marina didn’t feel like it was going to be a big town! So as I say, surprising! The next day proved to be much clearer and brighter which is always good for lifting one’s spirits!
Here there are several examples of the Indiano grand houses, indeed there is a route to check them all out! The first one on the route, which is also the ‘gateway’ to the old quarter of town, is the most grand but also the one which is most in need of restoration. We were informed that this is currently taking place but even the scaffolding and safety netting around it looked as if it was falling into decay too!
Like many of the places we have visited on our way Ribadeo was once a considerable trading port but it is now more about fishing and of course the new marina brings visiting yachtsmen who in turn stimulate tourism in the town.
The sailing club at the marina has it’s own class of sail boat, completely open and so just for day sailing and as it turned out for racing too. We thought it looked very much like an Arabian dhow. We watched some racing on our second night in the marina and there was quite a fleet of them out on the water!
A racer on it’s way home and the fleet moored up!
Westward ho! On to Viveiro which was 31 nm away…..
7th ~ 10th August Viveiro, GALICIA
We really liked Viveiro! As soon as we arrived we just liked the ‘feel’ of it! The marina staff were very friendly and helpful too. The showers were good and there were two supermarkets within easy walking distance of the marina! All pluses for yachtsmen!
Some of our discoveries on our walk!
Of course the weather helps and after the greyness of Ribadeo here we were bathed in sunshine and so we were able to explore in lovely conditions. We found the old part of town and spent a few hours strolling up and down the streets!
Within the walls of the old part of Viveiro there are six gates which remain in tact. The Carlos V gate is particularly beautiful!
8th August ~ A Climb of Monte San Roque, 353 metres!
The girl in the tourist office was so enthusiastic about this that we almost felt obliged to climb it!! Actually it was quite a climb and we were very pleased to reach the top. There were spectacular views of the harbour even though the sun was disappearing and the cloud descending?!
A row of barbecue pits, the chapel overlooking the harbour and a water feature!
….these were all at the top of Monte San Roque! I tried hard to imagine what a sight it would have been if there had been a line of dads all barbecueing at the same time?!! The chapel is at the very tip of Monte San Roque and difficult to photograph as it was behind a locked grille.
9th August – Boat jobs!
A busy day spent making sure everything was ready on Musetta for our departure in the morning. We really enjoyed Viveiro….
10th ~ August, Ria de Ferrol, Galicia
Our penultimate stop before the Marina Nautico in A Coruña!
We had a good sail to the Ria de Ferrol, again with the cruising chute mostly until it got a bit lively and then we ‘snuffed’ it and put out the genoa, it was 58 miles in total and so we were quite glad to arrive at this truly beautiful spot on the Ria.
The inlet we anchored in was called San Felipe with the Castillo de Felipe at the entrance. It was a sandy bay with several little local fishing boats on moorings just off the shore. Once we had settled on the anchor we felt obliged to open a bottle of Rioja and sit in the cockpit on a very balmy evening, drinking in the view as well as the wine. It was heaven!!
The next day we dinghied ashore and walked to the castle, Castillo de San Felipe, which is a 16th century fortress built of stone and earth and a great example of the military architecture of the time and had amazing views of the Ferrol estuary.
Views from the castle and the Castillo de la Palma at Mugardos
It was built on a promontary at the narrowest part of the Ria and opposite the Castillo de La Palma at Mugardos, which is only about 100 metres away. These two fortresses were built to protect the port further up river by means of a chain susended between the two! There are still the remains of the chain today! The castle was much larger than we thought! The more we walked the more new parts of it we found. When the restoration is complete the castle will be truly magnificent!
We walked on further up river and very steeply uphill followed by a steep descent into Graña, through some pretty narrow little roads and enjoyed lunch at a very typical Spanish restaurant, sitting outside. It was very relaxing!
Of course all these energetic climbs had to be made again on our return journey to Musetta, but fortified by our lunch we found it surprisingly easy!
Dropping back into San Felipe was a sheer joy to see this gorgeous little place and Musetta still swinging gently on her anchor!
12th August ~ A Coruña!
The end of this part of our passage across the North coast of Spain!
We made the short trip across to A Coruña, only 9nm in very calm conditions, calm that is if you discount the Atlantic swell! Thus we have completed our passage from Bilbao to A Coruña where I will remain while Alan returns to UK for work commitments!
We have arrived into this very beautiful city which I will describe in my next post!