We had started the trip in Cantabria, passed through Asturias while scarcely realising it, and now we were almost in the province we had really come to Spain to visit.
On Tuesday morning Robin and I had set off from Gijon (the principal port of the Asturias region) quite early, but not quite as early as we had intended, because not one, but two, Asturian ladies had told Robin that the bread shop “up the hill over there” didn’t open till 9:30. We had finished breakfast by 9, so went off to see if this was, in fact the case, and having mounted the hill and found no panaderia, we enquired of an elderly gent with a walking stick, who was conversing loudly with a woman & her dog, if either of them knew where we could find some Pan. “Que?”, he replied, “Pan” we said. The dog tugged and the lady walked off. The old gent adjusted his hearing aid, and after several more repetitions, he said “Ah, Pan!”, seized Robin by the elbow and took us back 50 metres to the café on the corner, (all the time chattering away in the local dialect), that we had overlooked as not being a bread shop. We went in, and noted that the bread baskets were ominously empty (but it was 9:15); the rather fierce looking proprietress demanded what we wanted. “Tea-ay-nay pan?” we asked dubiously, and there it was, under the counter, black market bread. We took 4 loaves as we didn’t want to go through that palaver again too soon!
The wind was slight and from the east. However there was a little north in it – enough to motor sail with the main and mizzen towards our destination to the west. The coastline, after we had passed the headland of Cabo Penas, just beyond Gijon, fell away to the south and was clouded above the cliffs – not as spectacular as the day before when we had been viewing snowcapped mountains through gaps in the cloud and paragliders playing above the cliffs.
We did about six hours of that, George and Perkins doing most of the work, while we tweaked the sails to get an extra knot or so, and then it began to go ominously cloudy in the northwest. Soon we were being engulfed in a warm front, the wind swung around and increased to force 4-5, and we turned the engine off for the first time since leaving Santander. The breeze steadied down to a nice force 3, and Voltair found it much to her liking, since the sea was relatively calm, the wind direction being just right for sailing “full and by” and she practically steered herself at 5.5 knots.
A timetable was prepared for dinner: beef into oven at 21:30, along with potatoes, out to rest at 22:15, at which time the Yorkshire pud was to go in. We had succumbed to the Spanish habit of eating dinner around 11pm, but today it would be a bit later since we had another 20 miles to do at 7:30pm in order to reach Ribadeo, our target for the day, and 65 miles from Gijon. Sunset was expected at 22:07.
The breeze eventually headed us and faded away, leaving the boat covered in a damp dew and a sky completely overcast, except for a tiny slot on the horizon to the northwest. As we turned in towards our destination, the sun lit up the window, giving us a lovely silhouette of the next cape along and a lone fishing boat against the orange sunset.
Now the entrance to Ribadeo has a lighthouse on each bank, not one but two sets of leading lights, and a bridge with lights under the navigable arch. As we approached, the only lights we could see were from the western bank – a stuttering succession of white flashes, which might or might not have been 3 flashes every 20 seconds. We could see the eastern light itself, and the first of the leading lights, but they were “off”. But, as soon as we passed the eastern light, it began to flash brightly… Then the furthest of the leading lights began, and once we had lined them up, the front one flashed after a while also. As Robin pointed out, it was just as if someone on a bicycle was starting at the coast, and rushing from lamp to lamp to switch it on! One of the bridge lights came on a while later, as did one of the second group of leaders. The other two remained steadfastly “off”, though a vertical strip of white lights could eventually be deciphered as “San Miguel”. We approached the marina in twilight, berthing next door to another ketch of a similar length, passing our warps, as it turned out, to an English couple aboard the yacht, at 22:10.
Beef out of oven, yorkshire pud in oven, pour G and Ts, arrival in Galicia complete!
Best wishes from John and Robin (whose postcard writing seems to have wilted away, until today).