Vigo through the rain

Pedro looked at my handwriting and asked if I was a doctor.  I thought of clever answers like “a Bursar’s writing is worse”, but Pedro was stressed and not appreciative of Willis witty repartie at that moment.


Mission Control

I seem to have a thing about pre dawn departures, for it was a very dark and very early morning when I cast off in Muros, to the sound of the last surviving remnant of last night’s party.  Those were the days!  In my case of bell bottoms, cheesecloth shirts, platform boots and acne.

Talking of the past, in July 1968 I was a very gawky 13 year old and wholly entranced by the  first Golden Globe solo round the World race, which started off Plymouth, for a prize of £5,000.  Somewhere down towards South America, Robin Knox Johnston, then somewhere at the back of the field, got fed up with a hull leak and dived over board with a fist full of nails and a hammer; he fixed the leak.  This race was the first time that the medical profession had taken  an interest in the psychological effects of long periods of solitude at sea, and RKJ was assessed before he left as “distressingly normal”.  A year later on his return the verdict was “still distressingly normal”.  Personally I think anyone doing such a race is a bottle short of a six pack, but then the verdict of a psychiatrist assessing me would probably be more like; “excitingly abnormal.”

Today, 1st July 40 years later, the second Golden Globe Race started from Les Sables d’ Lonne in boats that had to be original yachts of the day (around 1968), of similar size to RKJ’s Suhali; in other words ‘small’ (about the size of Pippin), solid and basic – no electronics.  As they crossed the startline, Pippin was plugging through the rain, motorsailing 2 miles off the entrance to Ria Vigo, the skipper wondering where the Spanish sunshine had gone.

The wind had teased during the journey, tempting me out of my snug wheelhouse to set full sail, only to hide playing peek-a-boo, as I cussed and cursed refurling the yankee for the nth time.  On the plus side, just enough wind to fill the close-hauled main sail meant a marginally better speed.  The thing about rain and it’s accompanying low cloud is that it brings  reduced visibility and this lot had stolen my view of the coastline, reducing visibility to little more than 2 miles at times, though it later improved.  Good effort, but the Spanish are minnows when it comes to rain, not like the champions, the Irish.  As an Irishman told me, you can hide behind a wall and it’ll blow straight over your head.

I had pollo de corrall rather on my mind as we chugged along, for I had been perhaps a little heavy handed with chili, onions,  garlic, yoghurt, tropical fruit pieces and Rogan Josh paste the night before.  These Spanish free range chickens must be the size of a Bernard Mathews turkey, and you probably wouldn’t want to meet one on a dark night, but they are delicious.  Not wishing to tempt fate, the portion I had carefully kept for lunch was consigned to the deep with due ceremony off Ria Pontevedra.


Norte Channel off Islas Cies – Raining & Gusting 21 Knots

You can’t miss the National Park islands (Islas Cies) that straddle the entrance to Ria Vigo, as they tower like guardsmen at the trooping of the Colour, imposing in a dark menacing way.   As the next little front arrived, the wind taboggoned down their steep slopes, swooping on Pippin at up to 21 knots, helping to push her along at a good lick through the heavy rain, though I had to furl the flogging main sail.  The  Norte channel was a little narrow for short tracking and I lacked the inclination anyway, plus  I also had to meet the marina staff before they knocked off, it being Sunday.


Pacing an Amel Yacht, Ria Vigo

As I bore off up the Ria, through frequent brief rain squalls, I unfurled the yankee and paced close alongside a big Amel yacht at 6 knots.  I discovered that Vigo itself is the biggest fishing port in Europe and it was the Vigo fishermen who inspired Ernest Hemingway to write ‘the old man and the sea’, a favourite of mine.

Vigo was also the scene of a bloody naval engagement in 1702,  during the war of Spanish Succession, between an Anglo Dutch fleet and a French Spanish fleet, the latter having taken refuge with its huge haul of treasure in the Ria.  Whilst the Anglo Dutch fleet searched for their enemy, much of the treasure was carted inland (or was it…??!), whilst defences were prepared.  Eventually a spy gave Admiral Sir George Rooke, the English naval commander, details of the enemy’s location, and battle was eventually joined up in the narrows of the Ria, resulting in 2,000 Spanish/French deaths and 800 Anglo/Dutch.  It was a resounding victory for the latter, who captured 7 warships and 6 galleons and the remaining 18 enemy  vessels were destroyed.



Viveros outside Moaña Marina

The final run in towards the marina ran down long rows of mussel viveros that looked from afar like a long, rocky shoal revealed at low tide.  9 hours from Muros, Pippin docked in a rain squall in Moaña Marina, a laid back place that doesn’t really cater for visitors but looked my kind of place.   If your boat is small – around 11 metres or less – they could fit you in and the nearby ferry crosses to Vigo.


Moaña Ferry & Vivero Boats

I have never really got fishing.  I have watched anglers young and old from pier heads and quayside, from St Peter Port to Vigo and all places between, in all weathers at all times and two things strike me.  First they always look determinedly content and second, I have almost never seen any of them catch anything but an occasional tiddler – probably the same one who does the rounds, as they always chuck him back.  Eating my corned beef sarnie in the cockpit in Ria Vigo, I watched a grandfather and grandson, fishing off the back of a tatty vivero boat 50 yards away.  Mullet were jumping all round Pippin, but the fishermen never got a bite.  But then I got it – it really didn’t matter, for the fun was in the doing and in the sharing of time together.  The rain drove me inside, but not the fishermen, young and old.


Hops (?) in Moaña

Moaña is a town of about 19,000 people perched on the peninsula of Marrazo,  and is known for it’s beaches and shell fish farming – mussels and oysters, an industry that employs 25% of the population.  Other industries here include canning (since the 17th century) and ship building which together employ 39%.  The remainder of the working population work in the services sector, which includes tourism.  Babies and weather are universal topics for ‘breaking the ice’ and Bea, the marina administrator disappointingly said the weather was the same last year – it had poured all night and is set to precipitate certainly for another 3 days.



Ancient Moaña Chicken Coop (?) and the view from Moaña towards the Narrows

Mussels have been consumed for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until 1945 that the first mussel raft was set up in a Ria.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that there are numerous mussel festivals – any excuse for a festival round here, if you ask me.  Mussels eat by filtering tiny plankton from the sea through their gills and astonishingly, can filter up to 8 litres an hour.  They reproduce by the male casting it’s contribution into the sea for females to take on board, which if the sheer number of mussels around here is anything to go by, is a pretty effective way to reproduce.  The tiny babies are then released from mum and attach themselves to fish, until ready to drop off and carry on the cycle.  If left alone, mussels could live for a century, like a lobster.

Bea told me to head uphill and turn right at the roundabout for the only nearby supermarket that opened all day, the Eroski Center.  It seemed more upmarket than Gadis, but starred for 2 reasons that appealed to me – I could buy baked beans and tinned meat, rather than just seafood/fish.

Here for a few days before family arrive plans can gestate slowly, subject to variation or cancellation as mood dictates.  Great!

Adiós amigos



By ajay290

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