Still alive on the Costa Da Morte (2-10 September 2013)

We left La Coruna on the 2nd September on a warm sunny morning promising wind. We left the Torre de Hercules lighthouse behind and headed west. We had a lively NE wind to help us and soon made good progress along the stunning coast. The cliffs are huge along this coast and there are fearsome rock stacks, like teeth, with the huge swells breaking over them. We stayed well offshore for obvious reasons. This whole stretch of coast to Finisterre is called the Costa da Morte and you can see why! There are also the usual legends of wreckers and pirates, just like Cornwall and Brittany.



Small boat, large sea!

No one seemed to be going in our direction that day but we saw 6 yachts coming towards us going east. It was lovely to think that we could continue sailing when others were having to get back to work after the holiday month of August!
We dropped anchor in the lovely little Ria de Corme and it was still warm enough to eat tea outside. The next morning we awoke to a fine covering of ash all over the boat. We thought there was too much for it to have been from the German boat’s BBQ from the previous night! The air smelled of smoke too so we suspected a forest fire on shore somewhere and instead of going ashore we upped anchor and headed for another Ria further south – Ria de Camarinas. There were huge windmills on every headland and hill. Donald Trump would have a field day!


Giant windmills on the hills


We had to do the usual dodging of random buoys in 80m of water and avoiding fishing boats doing twirls in front of us, but we got to Camarinas in good time and went ashore to stock up on essentials: bread, butter, wine, beer ……. and then headed for the beach for a bit of serious sunbathing! There were fish jumping everywhere and lots of little fish right inshore. Egrets and terns flew around with the usual gulls. There appear not be any seals in these waters. The fish were not the usual grey mullet we have seen everywhere either and we wondered if they might be salmon as there are a couple of rivers flowing into this Ria. Unfortunately, our attempts at fishing yielded a complete blank. Thank goodness for shops!

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Views of Camarinas


The next morning dawned sunny. We had a great walk through the pine forest on the shore and up a little hill which gave a lovely view of the whole Ria. This little town is not touristy and the locals seems to survive on jobs at the fishing and the local canning factory (which has been going since 1890, although now thoroughly modern).

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Views of Camarinas from the ridge


The beautiful silver sand at Camarinas beach (mica sand)

We set off to go round Cape Finisterre the following morning which entailed a crack of dawn start (8am! Yes the sun really does not rise until then here). The weather looked good (according to the forecast and the Navtex), however we had not got very far when the fog enveloped us. We have had quite a lot of fog since we left Loch Creran. It’s not something that we normally get much of in Scotland and it is very scary and disorientating. We are seriously considering getting Radar! Fog is a hazard quite often on this coast apparently. The water is still cold (14 Deg C) even at this time of year and the land is very hot, so fog is the inevitable result. Luckily we were not in the shipping lane, as it is about 10 miles offshore and there was only 1 fishing boat which loomed out of the mist. After a couple of hours, the fog lifted and it was lovely to see again and to get a view of the land. Fortunately we had missed the most westerly point of Europe (Cabo Torinana) but we got a good view of Cabo Finisterre as we rounded it and dropped anchor in the lovely Ensenada del Sardineiro (Bay of the Sardine fishermen). It was amazing to think that we were now “round the corner” and it’s all south from here!


The cape on the chart plotter


Rounding Cape Finisterre

That night was “mossi night”. Both Andy and I ended up with multiple bites which made sure that we got the mossi nets out and fitted the next day! The day was cool with a very strong NE wind, so not a day for sunbathing but quite good to get on with some essential chores and cleaning.


Petra at the helm leaving the anchorage

We decided to move closer to Fisterra (the town before the lighthouse) the next day, as the walk to the lighthouse was only a few miles from the town and there had been a lot of loud music during the night, which we thought might have come from the shore-side restaurant. As it turned out, it was Fiesta weekend in Fisterra which explained the loud music. A DJ was playing all night with advertised 40 000W speakers. No wonder we had heard it from 3 miles away.
We saw a procession of boats, all decked with flags, which processed round the Ria, accompanied by lots and lots of loud fireworks. A local navy boat joined in and even put on its water jets. It was all very festive, with a funfair and music and everyone dressed up and enjoying themselves. We inadvertently got caught up in a protest march as we were sucked along one of the little streets behind a piper. It looked like they were protesting against closure of rural schools. That brought back some memories.

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The procession of ships and Vaila decked out with all her flags up too.


The beach at Fisterra town


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Watching the Fiesta


Typical street in Fisterra



A granite “grain store” typical of Galicia


The walk to the lighthouse had to wait for the next day. We were lucky enough to see the parade of the Statue of Carmen along the road accompanied by three Galician Pipers and some drummers. The statue was being carried by young men and women of the town and preceded by 4 young girls in white dresses. It was all very solemn and stately. The same statue had been carried on the ship flotilla the day before and is a blessing for the ships and people for the harvest from the sea.

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The procession of the Viragen de Carmen

The walk to the lighthouse then took us through trees and over a hill which gave amazing views south and west. The lighthouse really did feel at the “end of the earth”. It was a very low key tourist attraction with just a couple of stalls and a small restaurant, so very pleasant and not busy. Inside was an exhibition of Nobel prize winners and other worthies who came here a few years ago at the invitation of the Galician administration (Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough amongst others).


View south along the Galician coast


Finisterre Lighthouse “at the end of the earth”

There were also a lot of Pilgrims who walk to the lighthouse after doing the St James Way to Santiago de Compostella. I suppose if you have just walked 783Km another 100Km doesn’t seem so bad! The town of Fisterra has a lot of hostels for Pilgrims and there were quite a few sleeping on the beach as well.

10th September
We sailed to the next Ria (Ria de Muros) yesterday and are now in the small Marina at Portosin. The sail here was lovely, with a good wind and as we left Finisterre behind it definitely got warmer. The last few nights in Fisterra were very cold. These rias south of Finisterre are the Ria Baixas (Lowland Rias) where there are more dunes, smaller hills and vinyards.

There were lots of fireworks being let off as we came in, but it was not a welcome party for us but part of the local Fiesta which celebrates the last of the sardine harvest. So today we are catching up with washing, shopping WiFi again while here. There is a strong wind warning so we will probably stay here for a couple of days to sit it out. Sounds like there is lots going on and there is a prehistoric site nearby which I would like to visit.

1 thought on “Still alive on the Costa Da Morte (2-10 September 2013)

  1. Judith Menes

    Hi Petra and Andy, I am enjoying reading your blog very much! Your trip sounds fantastic and I am glad you are having such a good time. The fog sounded bad though, lucky it didn’t last. Love Judithx


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