In chest-high waders or loose shorts and t-shirts, men and women wallowed out to their waists, their tanned skin wearing the growing morning sun. In their hands each carried a long vertical stick which protruded from the surface, widening underneath to a digging and sifting mechanism, and a bucket. For a few hours they rocked back and forth hard against their sticks, rhythmically, like grinding disco podium dancers, turning over the sandy sea bed and prising up the shellfish who sought safety there. At lunchtime they returned to the shore to weigh their winnings.
From our boat, a little further out from Muros’ beach, we wondered that there’s any sea life left after the armies of diggers, fishers, divers and pot-droppers have had their way. But in Galicia their work seems never ending and the restaurants are always stacked. The most visibly sustainable seafood gatherers are those who manage the wide “viveros” that float between most anchorages in the rias. From each beam in each great wooden or plastic lattice, long branching ropes are draped down to the sea bed, laden with mussels who have latched on and expanded like heavy fruit. When they’re fully grown it takes a crane to lift the ropes out.
We steer our way between viveros if we can, or change our passages to avoid them completely when the wind is low or in front of us. We sail off the anchor (always a joy) and carry on for a day or half a day, choosing our next destination by referring to an out of date pilot guide, a more recent but brief cruisers’ guide that Rich downloaded, and the recommendations of those we’ve met along the way. Sometimes we’re unlucky – our last anchorage off the charming town of A Pobra do Caraminal (where Rich climbed a massive hill with a fold up bike strapped to his back, and I ate a lot of biscuits while pushing through my design work) was within hearing range of the monstrous creaking whirr of a shipyard. Then a strong wind came and made it choppy and even noisier, so we used it the next morning to escape.
Planning only means so much. On yesterday’s trip we simply decided we’d had enough of sailing for the day and avoided the tight vivero slalom towards our original destination by plonking ourselves near an island that looked interesting. The anchor went down, the sails got tied up, and I had a much needed bucket shower that included an even more needed saucepan underwear wash. In no time we’d rowed to Interesting Island (Isla Cortegada) and were walking beneath huge pines in open bracken and brush one moment and into the cover of dense laurels another, spotting lizards and eating apples and chatting quietly so as not to scare the many birds we could hear but struggled to see.
In the afternoon we read, grazed and rested on Gwen. Andrew, who we met in Camarinas and bump into from time to time, motored past with a plastic bag offered in his outstretched arm, full of vegetables from his Portugese girlfriend’s garden, and we hooked it on board gratefully. Andrew’s a gem who tells me off for using the wrong boat words and digresses into tales of history and legend. Of the many sailing folk Rich gets chatting to I find those like him, with a good yarn and a wicked smile, more enjoyable than those who dwell only on practicality. Rich, on the other hand, can talk for hours to anybody providing boats are the subject. Recently I got trapped in a protracted conversation about the Perkins marine engine and nearly lost my mind. Rich thinks I need to be more forceful when suggesting we leave such situations, or somehow summon the nerve and nous to change the topic. I think he should be able to notice when my brain is dribbling out of my nose. I smile vacantly and mutter things about “really needing to get some dinner on”and finally resort to stabbing him in the leg with my fingernails. Everyone is kind and friendly, the rest of the evening is charming, and I am a terrible person.
Last night we went ashore in Carril, found internet, and forayed miserably in to the world of work and duty. Coir for the composting toilet was laboriously ordered to a post office in Bayona, where we must soon sail to retrieve it. Clients were contacted and changes to documents promised. Our conversation turned to sorting out our CVs and portfolios – the rigmarole that hints that the glory days of sailing, sunbathing and exploration are almost up. We have enough money to survive until the end of October, but we don’t want to leave it to the last minute to find our next income, so the job hunt begins at our next stop. We left the cafe before midnight and strolled down a wide and busy promenade to dance to a rock covers group that were blasting out in a children’s playpark. Enough with the sensible.
Tonight we’ll be walking a little further, to Villagarcia de Arosa, because it’s “Noite das Meigas”. This has something to do with witches, and that’s about all I can tell you. We’ve narrowly missed a fiesta in almost every place we’ve stopped so we’re going to seize this opportunity to celebrate, whatever it may be for. No doubt there will be fireworks, as Spain seems obsessed with the things and sets them off day and night. The picture on the poster featured a dog on a broomstick, perhaps something to do with the insanely yappy doglets attached to almost everybody on the promenade. Perhaps we’ll boil them in a cauldron. Or perhaps they’ll devour their human overlords. I’ll post a picture or two when we’ve found out.