Hell in the Rias.
Until this point in time the Rias had been quite idyllic but, unknown to us at the time, things were about to change and not for the better.
T he day following our walk in the hills was again a hot one, but with a difference, the ridge we had walked was on fire. Through midday the smoke increased and started to blow over the town of Carmiñal, then the ash started to fall causing us to be glad not to be beneath the plumes of smoke. At anchor we had a splendid view particularly when two fire fighting aeroplanes arrived.
The planes flew very low between the moored yachts and landed on the water about 50m from us, they then taxied, presumably filling up on water, for 200 or 300 metres before flying off and above the flames 2000' above us. We could clearly see the "water bomb" fall as spray into the smoke. Great spectacle we all said. It took about 3 hours of bombing; 2 planes had reloaded every 7 minutes for those 3 hours, dropping the loads with some precision, until the smoke visible reduced and the fire went out.
Next morning we were still talking about the fires when David noticed another two fires at the other side of the Ria, perhaps more excitement we thought. These thoughts coincided with the wind rising into the 20's of knots and our decision to move to a more sheltered location.
Moving East (ish) across the Ria took us into clear air and we anchored on the shore opposite Rianjo and had a quiet night. It was a super location but by mid morning the wind was higher so we opted for Rianjo marina itself. Rianjo is a lovely old town with everything a visiting yachty needs, apart from the dirty walk across the boat repair yard, but what the heck.
We had a gala dinner in town, courtesy of David as it was his last night with us. We also had a few drinks in the Rianjo YC bar and met Tito. Tito was a retired merchant seaman and had an endless series of seafaring tales to amuse us vino tinto Rioja consumers. He joined us on the Rioja and said we should all go out on a mussel boat at 0600 tomorrow. A few milliseconds of sudden sobriety allowed us to decline this chance of a lifetime.
The following day David boarded the Santiago bus at 1100 and our holiday was deemed to have ended. We walked back to Ruby T and on route noticed 4 fires burning in the hills. That night the wind rose into the 30's and we were pressed hard onto the pontoon.
After 2 days of squeaking fenders we decided to find a sheltered anchorage, and so anchored to the East of Cabo Cruz 200m from the beach. We still got the gusty winds but the water was calm.
For 4 days we were buffeted by 25 to 35 knot winds, one night the instruments recorded 38 knots, and worst of all, as with the whole of the Ria, the air was filled with soot and ash and it dropped everywhere. The winds were fanning the blazes and driving the ash quite a distance, it came through the mosquito nets unabated and settled everywhere below. Janet was seriously upset (as only Janet can be) by the dirt which seemed to defy attempts to clean it off the fabrics below, so much so we covered the whole of the saloon seating with bin bags. This photo, taken mid afternoon, shows the polluted air.
Up on top white ropes looked totally black on the windward edge. The deck had a fine layer of wind blown spray on it but it was perfectly dry as the temps were 28 - 30 degrees C, then each night the salt absorbed moisture and the soot clung to it, by morning we were black and walking about meant we carried it below, more trauma. In addition to all of this we were about 300m upwind of a beautifully landscaped sewage treatment plant and its resident population of ten million flies. They found us such that most times we had about 10 flying around in the saloon. Janet could take no more, we had to find shelter from the wind, the soot and the flies.
We had a smashing downwind sail in 25 - 35 knots to Riviera marina but we were turned away as the entrance was too dangerous to enter. This meant a 4 mile beat into the gale back to Carmiñal.
We lined up on a gap on the outside pontoon at Carmiñal, and even though it was a bit bouncy it was chosen because we would be blown off but, as we approached, the marineros waved us away and pointed to an inside berth. The wind was still gusting as we travelled down between the moored yachts to our pontoon but as the pontoons were designed for 50+ ft boats we would easily get in and we would be blown onto the pontoon. With the engine in reverse to keep our wind blown boat speed down to below 3knots I approached the waving marineros and turned into the gap, unfortunately finding it not as big as I'd expected but in we went. He took the bow line as we went in, I stayed close to the boat moored to windward as I'd just noticed a huge pile on the pontoon and it was consuming our much needed space. We almost got past it, but for about 1 inch and that was the depth the ring around the pile bit into our hull just past our point of max beam.
Janet was as good as gold, no finger pointing, no verbals, she just said "there's a hole in our side, its our first in 20 years."
During the evening we got a Spanish national newspaper, no we weren't mentioned but the fires were. Of its 80 pages 19 were about the fire. For us it had been good to watch, the soot was a pain but we could clean up, we hoped, but to the Galicians is was a disaster. 1 million acres were on fire, 148 fires were logged in the previous day alone, 6 lives were lost already and the fire fighters were at full stretch and not coping. Villages were destroyed and factories damaged and the fire fighters were only tackling fires likely to get into the towns. The following day things were still worsening.
The above photos are taken over a 5 hours period and are off the stern of Ruby;
Two weeks later I see that 35 people are detained in prison for "activities incendiary"; it seems many of the fires were deliberately started.