A Coruña to Porto – more Spanish rías

I had already gained a sense of the Spanish rías when Neil, Clare and myself looked into several on the north coast, east of A Coruña. Some of the best known, though, are on the north west tip of Galicia, and they became the focus of the final part of this summer’s cruise.

Having been back in UK for a couple of weeks generally catching up, Jonty and I returned to Sada marina near A Coruña to find Spellbinder sitting waiting for us, unharmed by the quite swelly conditions to which the marina is prone. Having done a big shop, we headed out to anchor for the night off Ares – a small town with a beach, which gave us a swell-free night and a stroll along the beach and into town.

We bought a large leg of Serrano ham, and carved meat off it for the next 10 days
Grapefruit tree, Ares

The next morning we headed into A Coruña itself, berthing in the Real Club Nautico. From there it was a short walk across into town. We wanted to visit the grave of Sir John Moore, a British general who had died while commanding British troops retreating from there in 1809. Sadly the gardens where he lies were shut.

Central square, A Coruña

Alastair and Caspar arrived that evening, and we enjoyed some fine tapas in the back streets of A Coruña, before setting off westwards the next morning, into an increasing wind which allowed us to sail at first. We anchored for a brief lunch at the Sisargas islands.

Sailing past the Tower of Hercules, the large lighthouse outside A Coruña. It is the oldest known extant lighthouse
Anchored in the Sisargas islands, which are almost Hebridean in nature

The wind turned on our nose and increased, heralding some expected poor weather, and after a few hours of bumpy motor sailing we came into the Ría de Camiñaras, finding a delightful anchorage just near Muxia marina, where we hunkered down for the night. The following morning we strolled into town in the drizzle, meeting some young people who had walked from France on the Camino de Santiago, arriving at Santiago de Compostela but wanting to finish their walk by the ocean, visiting the chapel which dominates the entrance to the ría.

The fine anchorage at Muxia. Spellbinder in the background
Overlooking Muxia marina

In the afternoon, with clearing weather, we toured a couple of anchorages in this very unspoilt ría, which in many ways was my favourite.

Above and below: east and south of Muxia. Anchorages which we had to ourselves

That evening we headed into Camariñas marina, a slightly dilapidated place. We enjoyed wandering along the quay to see the fishermen unload sardines, and then ate some nice food in town.

The local catch of sardines
Sunset at Camariñas

Next was Muros. We had a pleasant sail around into this nice ría, passing Cape Finisterre (Cabo Finisterre), a somewhat notorious headland on the tip of NW Spain. We were still getting reports of orca attacks in the vicinity, but stayed quite close to shore and mercifully were not approached.

Pedro, the delightfully efficient harbourmaster at Muros checked us in. We then enjoyed a stroll around the old town and harbour front in the evening and the following morning.

Muros, above and below

The next ría south, Arousa, was noticeably more built up: this became increasingly the case as we headed down the coast. We had a great sail down, accompanied by dolphins as we approached downwind, then tacking gently into the ría to find an isolated anchorage for the night in its upper reaches. That night we had a fine BBQ.

Off Arousa
A midday beer, while reaching fast down the Spanish coast under cruising chute
‘Vivieros’ abound in Arousa: mussel farms and other forms of marine industry. Happily you can sail through them

After a night at anchor we left downwind and threaded our way past off lying islands (Ons and Cíes) towards Baiona, enjoying light airs but finally motoring. We had a brief stop to anchor and swim off the beach at Panjón before heading into the Real Club Baiona, to be met by two very smart uniformed marinieros. It is a fabulously situated club, sitting below a citadel and commanding great views. We strolled around the battlements and into town before heading to the club for one of their famous G&Ts.

Under the citadel at Baiona. It is here to where Columbus returned with news of lands to the west
Enjoying a drink at the Real Club Baiona

We had anticipated eating at the Club but sadly found the service so poor that we headed into town. It’s a pity, as the club has a good reputation. In my experience the one at Gijon was far, far nicer and better run.

Baiona nightlife
Eating rather odd goose neck barnacles. I found them utterly disgusting, sadly, both in taste and texture

We slipped Baiona early the next morning for the long passage down to Porto, having occasionally excellent periods of reaching in offshore winds, but finally motoring in calm seas.

Racing south in a fine wind and a flat sea
More beer at lunchtime I’m afraid

It was a long day sail, ending in a few hours of motoring as the wind died. Our destination was Leixões, the main industrial harbour for Porto and a couple of miles north of the mouth of the river Douro. I chose it as the marina in the Douro is notorious for swell, being more open, and I wanted to find somewhere more secure to leave Spellbinder for a few weeks. We arrived in the early evening, settling down for the night on the reception pontoon.

Leixões is a container and fishing port – not the prettiest in the world, and with seagulls of all types absolutely everywhere

The main event the next day, sadly, was to watch the Queen’s state funeral. I had been wearing my ensign at half mast for the previous few days, following protocol, so it was all very much on our minds. We set up the laptop and watched the extraordinary event on the BBC, not without emotion.

Watching the state funeral while in Leixões. Our country at its best, for our best

Once the Westminster part of the occasion was over, we needed a change of scene and so grabbed a taxi into Porto, walking up and down its streets, hiking up to the cathedral at the top and generally taking in the views. I had never been before and found the place intriguing; the river cuts through and the city is built in a ravine.

The view from Porto cathedral, with the river Douro running through below
Typical Porto streets
Looking down to the river
One of the cathedral’s ceilings

Back on board, Jonty cooked us mussels before we retired for the night. The next day was about admin: cleaning up Spellbinder, carrying out some minor repairs, and doing a deal with the marina to keep Spellbinder there until the end of next month. They were most amenable and keen to do business.

We took a break from all of this to take Spellbinder round into the Douro to see Porto from the river, which is the best way really.

Approaching central Porto, with the famous Ribeira on the left
Ribeira, closer up. Evidence of the port wine trade is everywhere

We had booked a port tasting at Cockburn’s wine lodge in the cool of the evening, and headed there when our work on Spellbinder was complete. We much enjoyed the tour, learning a great deal about the history of port wine making, the way the wine was transported great distances down the Douro river, and how Porto as a city thrived as a result, as well as the English influence.

Cockburn’s has the largest of the port wine warehouses
Kept very secure is their oldest vintage bottle – from the early 19th century, and priceless
Of these, I think we agreed the LBV was the best. We went on to taste the 2011 vintage, one of their best ever

After the tasting, which was most refreshing, we headed down into Porto and enjoyed the city by night, eating at a good meat restaurant and enjoying the sights and sounds.

Above and below – Porto by night

And so ended the summer cruise. I have logged 2397 miles this season, and the changing continental coastline has been a pleasure to sail down. I have much enjoyed the contrasts between five countries: the Dutch canals, the bleak Belgian coastline, the beautiful faces of Normandy and North and South Brittany, the Vendée and Gascony, the brutal but stunning north coast of Spain, the wonderful rías of Galicia and finally northern Portugal. Thank you, this time, to Alastair, Caspar and Jonty for accompanying me on this last bit, but more broadly a heartfelt thanks to all my other friends and family who have crewed for me this year. It has been great fun.

3 thoughts on “A Coruña to Porto – more Spanish rías

  1. Neil

    Did you finish all the ham?

    It was a pleasure to have shared a small part of your travels on Spellbinder with you, and good to see you made your intended destination by the end of the season. Fair Winds..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicolas Casanova

      Hi Nick, we are sailing southward through the rias. We will not stop ashore the islands because a north-eastward wind tonight , 25 kts anticipated.
      So we are going to Bayona this afternoon and tomorrow to Porto.
      Thanks for the blog, very interesting to read ! As usually !!!
      Sea You soon ! 😁


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