We arrived in A Coruña very early on Tuesday morning last week. We entered Marina Coruña (there are 3 marinas in A Coruña; Marina Real, Marina Seca and Marina Coruña. Marina Coruña is the one next to the breakwater) and picked up a berth on the end of a finger pontoon so that we didn’t have to do too much tricky manoeuvring.
After a much needed rest we headed out into the streets of A Coruña in search of some food and to get our bearings. The weather was blisteringly hot and beautifully clear; just what we needed after a few days at sea. Apparently this sort of weather is very rare for this time of year in Galicia so we felt extremely lucky. This would also come as quite a shock to my very English skin, I can tell you I looked like a well-done lobster.
Al had found a bar/restaurant that served amazing coffee for not much money at all and, quite rightly assumed that the food would be much the same. Sadly it was not quite the Galician gastronomic feast we had been dreaming about for 3 days. However, the beers were very cold, served in frosty glasses and they certainly hit the spot! We ambled back to the marina, made ourselves known to the marina office and presented our boat documents and passports.
The marina itself is large, clean, tidy, has wifi (which even managed to reach us at the far end of the marina, even if at times it was a weak signal), is locked and secure at night, has good washing and bathing facilities, very friendly and helpful staff who, for the most part spoke very good English (useful for us as our Spanish/Galician is worse than Manuel, the Faulty Towers waiter’s English), basically everything you would expect for paying €47 a night! They also have discounts for longer stays; stay 5 nights and get 20% off, or stay 7 nights and get 25% off. We stayed 5 nights so essentially got the fifth night for free!
Jake found it easy to manoeuvre Ragtime into and out of the marina. Picking up a berth on the end of a finger pontoon was also without problems. Having said that, without a bow-thruster we would aways try to go starboard side-to with not much in front or behind us and we were lucky to have found this space. When tying up on a pontoon be aware that there may not be cleats in some places, especially on the larger pontoons further out of the marina – it seems that these are reserved for large super yachts.
Both Jake and Al will advise you to be aware of anti-seagull lines! They both have personal experience of landing face-first on a pontoon, having come a-cropper of these horrid thin green lines which are extremely difficult to see in the dark and when you are in a rush. You have been warned! The marina is on the edge of the city but in the city all the same. The noise wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t sleep but it is worth noting that people do come and go near the breakwater; running, cycling, walking, fishing, leaping off a smaller wall into the water, and one extremely irritating dog who would NOT STOP BARKING it seemed for the entire time we were there.
We decided to make use of the facilities that come with the €47 per night price tag and wash our bedding which was slightly damp and salty after the Biscay crossing. It is incredible what some clean bedsheets can do for you and your mood, especially after a long passage at sea.
Jake had a few repair jobs to get done on the boat and we tidied, cleaned and generally sorted out the mess that had accumulated over the past 3 days. We were also excitedly awaiting the arrival of some friends from Alderney the next day so we made sure that Ragtime was looking her best!
The next day we headed into town to buy some food for lunch when Judy and Holly would be with us. We managed to get hold of langoustine, sardines (which are dirt cheap but so yummy), some other lovely Spanish bits…including a large leg of ham which is now hanging in our saloon. A cracking buy as it was €18 and should feed us for weeks, if not months and it is so very tasty indeed!
Judy and Holly finally arrived, despite Jake’s terrible directions, and we had a wonderful lunch all together. This was an extra special visit from our friends as this holiday was a present from Judy to Holly for her 30thBirthday! It had been meticulously and deviously planned by Judy for months; she had told Holly that she was going to Mallorca but had in fact planned to come to see us in A Coruña all along and it was almost a very closely guarded secret. *Side note; never tell me any secrets because I will accidentally tell quite a lot of people*
Jake and I were a little nervous how Holly would react to being told that, actually no you’re not going to Mallorca but to A Coruña to see two people you thought you’d just managed to get away from! We needn’t have worried though because Holly was delighted to see us and we hope she had a wonderful time with us. Happy Birthday, Holly!
The bars and restaurants of A Coruña are, for the most part, fantastic. One place in particular which we visited on Thursday night called A Lagareta. You will find it down a small street off the Maria Pita square. Testing my theory of ‘if it has old wooden barrels outside then it’s guaranteed to be good’ we sat and tried to make sense of the Galician menu which none of us could do. Thankfully the owner, who spoke good English came over and was exceptionally helpful by choosing a selection of Tostadas for us to try. Tostadas are essentially crostinis with traditional Galician food on top. We had about 6 dishes between 5 of us in total and we think about 5 bottles of a local Galician white wine, although none of us are entirely sure about the actual number of bottles we had, for reasons which I think you will understand, all for €90. What a bargain! The food was fantastic and the service could not be faulted. It gets a Barefoot stamp of approval!
We all had some rather fuzzy heads the next day but that was soon made better by the arrival of our Galician friend Tamara! We were very excited about Tamara’s arrival, not only because we are great friends, but we were in desperate need of a Galician speaker to translate for us!
You will struggle to find anyone as passionate about the area of Galicia as Tamara. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of A Coruña and loves to share stories of the area, food and festivals. I am sure that there is a Tour Guide job for Tamara with her name on it in A Coruña.
Sadly, the time came for one of our crew to head back to Alderney. Al has been a calm and steady crew member, unflappable in tricky situations and a massive help to Jake and myself. We cannot thank him enough for all he has done, not just on the Biscay trip but in the months leading up to it. Al has dispensed advice, helped Jake with the electrics on the boat, been kind enough to buy us food, wine and even EPIRBS (essential safety equipment for use if we start sinking or fall overboard), and of course helped us to sail to Spain. Thank you for everything, Al. We hope you had a wonderful stay on Ragtime!
It was a shame that Al couldn’t stay, no matter how much we tried convincing him because that evening we drove to Santiago de Compostela, the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route which thousands of people embark upon each year. About 45 minutes to an hour’s drive away from A Coruña, it is a wonderfully old and beautiful city with a rich history and of course a huge religious significance; the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is alleged to be the burial site of the Biblical Apostle St. James. Not only is this beautiful city a pilgrimage site but it is also home to some 40,000 students studying at the University.
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore all of Santiago de Compostela, but whilst there we ventured inside the Cathedral and marvelled at its vast stone structure, a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles.
The next day brought the much-anticipated San Xoan Festival which is a highlight of Galicia’s calendar and it is celebrated on 23rdJune every year all over Galicia. The festival celebrates the end of the old season and the beginning of the summer; for new projects or challenges to be undertaken, while previous bad feelings or experiences are burned away by the fires lit all over the beach. Galicians build their own fires and it is tradition to jump over the fire in order to cleanse your soul in preparation for the new season ahead. Unfortunately none of us felt like singeing our toes that evening so we did not jump over any fires but we were there to experience the noise, buzz and excitement of the night which usually carries on until 6am the next morning. We could not help but draw comparisons with the Alderney Quarry parties as it felt like Alderney week ramped up by 100%!
Walking through the streets there were parties going strong and barbecues outside restaurants still serving barbecued sardines at 1am. The entire city seemed to fling itself into the festivities which was wonderful to experience.
Because the marina was quite pricey for us to stay in we decided that Sunday was the day to move out and over to the anchorage across the bay. The weather was hot and dry with a little wind so we took Holly, Judy and Tamara across to the anchorage for a chilled boat day.
I was feeling nervous as this was the very first time for Jake and I trying to get out of a marina, put the sails up and sail on our own as crew. But we let the lines go and motored out and I put the sails up no problem – we had a lovely sail, even if it was a little short (only about 20 minutes) across the bay. After dropping the anchor, which I am very happy to confirm does work and we have not drifted (yet), we jumped into the cool water, read books, drank some beer and ate some empinadas (essentially a Galician Pasty).
We lifted the anchor after a few hours to take our visitors back to the marina. This was the true test, I thought; hoisting the sails again and then getting back into the marina safely without hitting anyone else or ourselves! Jake was masterful in coaxing Ragtime round to the same berth we had been in before, only this time there was another British yacht in the berth directly behind us, which I thought might present a problem but not so. We glided in smoothly and I jumped onto the pontoon like a graceful cat (or at least in my head that’s what it looked like, it probably looked like a hippo trying to do gymnastics), made fast the lines on the cleats and we were in! We said goodbye to everyone at the top of the marina and took Ragtime back out and over to the anchorage.
This was the first time that I had lifted both sails by myself while Jake was helming; three times putting the sails up and taking them down. I never knew how tiring this sailing malarchy would be! I was shattered by the time we dropped the anchor again. It is clear that I have been a lady-passenger up until now, but no more!
From now on, or for at least the next few weeks it is just the two of us. All our visitors have gone home so we have taken advantage of an empty boat at a quiet anchorage and had a ‘Boatmin’ day. Cleaning, tidying, washing, fixing, writing, editing and in a moment gutting and scaling two fish which Jake caught last night for dinner! Whilst it was awesome fun having our friends with us this week it feels nice to have time to catch up on things and also to have a little time to ourselves.
Having said that we may well get bored of each other and run out of things to talk about! Ben and Helene gave us some invaluable advice; “be nice to each other”…we will try but we can’t promise anything.
You never know, by the time the next blog post goes up one of us may have gotten so fed up with the other they’ve pushed them over the side. Ah well, at least they would have an EPIRB and life jacket on so some other yacht out there would pick them up….eventually.