Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Combarro, Pontevedra Ria

We left Muros doing an effortless 6.5 knots on a beam reach through our first bout of the famous Galician fog.  The visibility was about 2 miles, good enough to see other boats, so we weren’t too anxious about it.  The wind slowly died as the morning progressed and the cool fog settled in for the rest of the day.  The gennaker worked its magic for an hour or so and then the motor had to be called on to push us along in an oily flat sea.  We glided past O Grove, which seemed to be a very chic peninsula with a lovely little beach, but we had no motivation for an anchorage in the fog.  A call on the vhf from some new friends drew us on down to the Pontevedra Ria.

Tambo Island, Pontevedra
We pulled into Porto Novo in the late afternoon as the sun finally pierced through the fog and the wind picked up.  This was the beginning of our first major wind event along the Iberian coast.  All of the standard climate clich├ęs were tossed around among sailors we met: “either too much wind or not enough” or “it always blows in multiples of 3 days.  We’re in for a 6 this time.”  No matter, we were happy to be here and exploring what we think is one of the more beautiful of the ria baixas.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s the home of our favorite Galician white wines, the Albarino.  After signing in at Porto Novo, we were given a chilled bottle as a welcome gift.  We’re wondering if we’ll get another if we go back… 

Our IMRAY nautical guide pointed us to a small marina at the head of the ria called Combarro, saying it was “not to be missed.”  While it’s blowing a steady 30 knots along the Atlantic coast, the rias and their steep hills on either side offer good protection from the worst of the blows, so we braved the building winds to work our way around the 6 miles of mussel farms separating Porto Novo from Combarro. 

The start of Main Street in Combarro
The town is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  The old town of the village is built around a waterfront that seems to have been carved out of the stone ledge of the water’s edge, and traditional stone granaries once used as store houses for grains and vegetables traded along the ria communities have been preserved and integrated into the more-or-less modern life of the village.  

Sadly, the historical and geological charm couldn’t protect the village from the line of restaurants with terraces looking over the bay and the mind-boggling number of trinket shops niched in old stone homes and warehouses.  Casting snobbery aside, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of pulpo (octopus) washed down with a lovely Albarino wine while admiring the view over the bay (but I’m pleased to say we didn’t put a foot into any of the trinket shops.)

Octopus and potatoes for dinner !
This weekend is the festival of St John.  It’s a bit like many of the other Christian holidays, set on top of old pagan holidays situated around astronomical events.  This is the weekend closest to the summer solstice, and while there may be some special masses being said, it’s clear that the festival is all about celebrating the beginning of summer.  The festivities are like America’s Memorial Day weekend holiday on steroids.  Bonfires and open-pit barbeques are dotted around the village, and firecrackers and roman candles are set off at odd times throughout the day and night.  The nights pulsate with music and the firecrackers start again around sunrise to re-start the cycle during this 4-day weekend. 

Sunset over cockpit, Combarro
Our friends are starting to get restless, tired of being laid up by the weather.  Patrick and I are pretty happy to enjoy this relative down-time.  There are always little things to fix on the boat, and we’ve got good books, good movies, good sea stories with new friends, and the Euro football (soccer) matches to keep us entertained when the village starts to feel too small.  We’ll move back down the ria tomorrow to check out Sanxenxo, the 3rd and final port that we’ll visit before leaving this ria.  The weather looks like it will allow us to leave on Thursday, and we’ll head down to the Vigo ria, the last ria before the Portuguese border.  We’re on schedule, in as much as we have one, but we have missed a lot of areas we thought we might like to visit.  The Arousa ria was a complete miss and I don’t think we’ll make it to the Cies islands since the permit takes a week or so to get in order.  And yet we don’t feel any sense of loss or frustration.  We’re both eager to continue our journey and we know that we can always come back to Galicia later, since it’s a destination that can be visited during a single sailing season from Brittany.


Astrolabe Sailing said...

Looks lovely!
Hope you get some good weather.

Sailing Mareda said...

Thanks Astrolabe. As a Dutch sailor reminded me yesterday, "A sailor with no calendar always has good weather." We hope we can turn that into reality !