Laredo is a small resort town in the region of Cantabria on the eastern shore of Ria de Trento, only 15 nautical miles east from Santander.
When arriving to a new town it is usually easy to spot the location of the marina by searching the masts of sailboats. However, when we were approaching the marina of Laredo Andrus could not see any masts at all. He double checked several times our position from GPS and even wondered, are we in a correct ria as the marina was nowhere to be seen. Finally, almost at the marina entrance he spotted some masts. All boats were hidden behind a massive breakwater which must be something like 15 metres tall. We later learned that the winter storms can really be vigorous here on the Bay of Biscay. The breakwater was designed to withstand the pounding of 10 metre tall waves arriving at 19 second intervals. What a marvel of engineering! This isn't anyhow the first harbour in Laredo. On seaside coast we could visit the ruins of the harbour built during the Roman Empire.
The marina itself is very new with sturdy pontoons and all services readily available. Even if mid-July is high season for sure there was a plenty of space available. It looks like sailors have not yet found this wonderful place.
In the first morning when we were having a coffee in the cockpit the marinero came to say hello and explained all kinds of things about the marina like how to connect electricity, the gate access and all. He was speaking in Spanish and we were listening and smiling only understanding very few words here and there. After a 10 minute long discussion we somehow agreed that we'll come to the harbour office for registering. In the office it was much more straightforward. Whenever we did not understand each other he just used Google Translate to speak from Spanish to Finnish. All formalities were done quickly and soon we had also a good amount of information on what to do in the town.
Laredo has a small old town and it is mostly dominated by a five kilometre long beach and surrounding mountains. Laredo is neither a shopping paradise nor party heaven. Activities here are related to being outdoors, indeed. We wanted to see also a little bit of North Spanish countryside and opted to go for a walking tour. The routes are very well marked and vary in lengths from just two kilometres to multi-day hikes between the villages on the coast. We chose 10 kilometre long trail that took us to nearby mountain to the height of 180 metres.
We also got a good sample of local Cantabrian cuisine which was absolutely delicious. It was also surprisingly cheap. For example, 3-course-meal including half a bottle of wine was only 12 € per person.
In the end we were very happy that we had turned south on the Biscay and visited Cantabria as well. This detour meant that now we had to watch the weather windows for going west more carefully. We already had flight tickets back home and there was not much time left for reaching Sada in Galicia.
The Bay of Biscay '17
Laredo is a small resort town in the region of Cantabria on the eastern shore of Ria de Trento, only 15 nautical miles east from Santander.
The prevailing winds on the northern coast of Spain are from the west that is just from the direction we were heading to. Andrus was following the weather and only options he saw there was either 20 knot westerly wind or no wind at all. We chose a day with a latter. The Sun was shining, a group of dolphins playing around us and our trustworthy Perkins purring quietly and comfortingly pushing us for 95 nautical miles to Gijon.
Gijon is a major town in the region of Asturias. It has been a centre of industrial activities for several decades that are now slowly turning into more service oriented business. There are two marinas, one in the old fishing harbour and another just outside the town behind the container port. We chose the first one and to stay in the centre of the city.
Our stay in Gijon was very short, we only stayed there for one day. One day is way too short for getting any understanding of a big city. We settled just for a walk in the centre area looking at some landmarks and even stumbling on a flamenco performance.
The weather was still good so it was right time to continue going west as Galicia is waiting us.
There was still no wind when we were sailing from Gijon to Viveiro. A few other boats were going west at the same time as well. Every now and then some boats tried to sail but soon everybody was again using the iron genny. After 82 nautical miles at sea we arrived to Viveiro.
When we turned south for entering the ria we liked a lot what we saw. There were several anchorages on both the eastern and western coast of the ria. In addition there was an anchorage just in front of the beach of Viveiro. Clearly we had arrived to the world-famous rias of Galicia. These rias are recommended by all cruising guides and what we saw did not disappoint at all. For a short time we even thought about dropping the hook but as we had limited time we opted to enter the marina.
After passing the marina entrance we saw a marinera waving hands and pointing at her handheld VHF. Soon we had a berth and she was made fast. However the latter took some time as many friendly Spanish sailors wanted to come to talk to the visitors from far away. We shared our experiences about sailing to Spain and at the same time tried to make sure that the boat is properly secured. Soon we were ready and after registration we headed to the town. We passed a big supermarket next to the marina and continued to the old town for a delicious Galician dinner. The old town was great.
Next morning we could not believe it. During the night another Finnish boat had arrived next to us. S/Y My Joy had crossed the Biscay coming straight from Brittany. There has been some heavy weather in the middle of Biscay and they also had turned south earlier to shorten their voyage to A Coruña. At this point they needed a well-deserved rest :-) but later we exchanged our experiences.
The river Landro is flowing through Viveiro and after the bridges continues meandering between the mountains. We heard that there is a well maintained footpath along the river and so we put our hiking shoes on and hit the road. At first the river passes the lowlands that are flooding during the high water springs. Then we were entering a beautiful riverside scenery. A total round trip of 12 kilometres was well worth the effort.
Throughout the day there were gunshots in the town that were echoing all around mountains and we were wondering what is this about? Every few hours or so there were several loud bangs. It was all about the festival. We never found out what was the celebration about. There was live music in the town centre every evening. The bands were playing on a stage while people were dancing and other were watching while sipping some wine. Overall it was very relaxed atmosphere.
After four full days in Viveiro it was time for departing to the last leg of the summer cruise to Sada, next winter's home of Suwena.
We departed to the last leg of the summer cruise 9:30 in the morning. Our aim was to arrive at Marina Sada, Suwena’s next winter home, during the daylight. The planned sailing distance was about 50 nautical miles.
Wind was light and just on our nose as we were driving out from the ría, so we were motorsailing in the beginning. After passing the cape of Capo Ortega, on the western side of it, the wind suddenly picked up to 18 knots and soon we’re broad reaching towards A Coruña.
There were also quite a steep waves on the western side of the cape. Maybe it was due to sea currents. A charmingly named sea area Costa da Morte or Death Coast is thought to start on the southern side of A Coruña but the wind managed to create very steep sea state here on the northern side as well.
In no time there was very anguished Mayday call on VHF. We could really hear from the voice of the crew that the distress was real when they tried to talk to the coastguard despite of the language barrier in a mix of French, English and Spanish. After a while it became clear that the boat had become unsteerable. With every wave the rudder was raised from the water and the sea tried to turn the boat sideways in steep waves. I can only imagine how stressful it must have been with rising seas and uncontrollable yacht. According to coordinates we received, they were five miles north, behind of us. Andrus could see from AIS that about a mile from the boat in distress was another yacht in parallel course with them. We were about to turn around and go helping them when this other yacht turned and let everybody know on VHF that they will go for help. To us it would have been five miles of tacking against both the wind and waves. In addition, the sea rescue vessel departed from nearby village of Cedeira as well. Fortunately, an hour later the distress was resolved when the small yacht had managed to pass the worst location of waves and could continue on their own.
The rest of the passage we were enjoying sailing of the last leg of the summer. When we proudly sailed pass A Coruña we were in high mood thinking about next summer and this is the place we’ll come. To many long-distance cruisers, A Coruña is one of the most important milestones. The Bay of Biscay and Northern Europe are located north from here, while the Southern Europe waters clearly start from the Galicia of Spain. We however continued deeper into the rías. There are three branching rías in front of A Coruña: Ría de Coruña, Ría de Betanzos and Ría de Ferrol. Our destination was at the bottom of the middle bay where Marina Sada was waiting for us.
And I mean it was literally waiting. We had booked a winter berth to Suwena from Marina Sada but we had not notified our exact day of arrival. It was a nice surprise when the harbor master run to catch our lines and handed to us a parcel that had arrived earlier. It was the first time when the parcel was delivered to the yacht and we’ve had a lot of parcels arriving all over Europe in different marinas because of our work.
The harbour master pointed to us our berth and advised about marina services, local shops etc. From this moment forward we quickly started to prepare her for winter storage. Originally, we had booked a berth for Suwena in water for the winter. However, during the summer our plans changed and most probably we do not have time to visit onboard every few months and so we decided to lift her ashore. Even if there were only a few days the harbourmaster managed to arrange the lift out. Last time Suwena have been wintering on hard five years ago. But of course, every spring we have had a week-long haul-out for maintaining the hull. It has been great to see that even she has been in many different countries always the professional team have been handling her and again she was lifted beautifully out of the water and transferred to her stand.
There are two marinas in the harbour basin of Sada: the yacht club and Puerto Deportivo Marina Sada. Suwena is spending the winter in the latter one. The big Carrefour supermarket next to the marina helped everyday living as we had only two days to clean the boat, arrange all stuff, prepare the equipment for winter storage and also pack the luggage. Even better help was the yacht club restaurant next door. We could enjoy the Galician food while the fridge was melting on its own.
There is also a marine service company and chandlery Cadenote that offers services from sail sewing to engine repairs. We took there our bimini that was ripped during the summer and we’ll collect it next spring repaired and ready for reinstallation.
As a town Sada is a small suburb of A Coruña. It is only 18 kilometres from A Coruña and our travel back home started with a taxy trip to the airport of A Coruña. Again one summer cruise was over and we have the whole winter to think back the wonderful memories before new sailing adventures.
In the summer of 2017 we mainly sailed in the waters of South-Brittany and continued later south on the west coast of France until La Rochelle from where we sailed across the Bay of Biscay to the coast of North-Spain. In Spain we sailed for two weeks along its northern coast. Our plan was to sail south looking for warmer weather as the summers in the English Channel have been rather mild and windy. Our wishes were granted as soon as we sailed around the French Finisterre to Brest where the weather started really to warm up. There was a heatwave after heatwave during our stay in France. Of course, the lovely weather meant relatively calm winds and Perkins was the main propulsion during this summer. The total distance of the summer cruise was 845 nautical miles from which we sailed about third.
The west coast of France is extremely popular sailing area. We could really see that the sailing in France is a national sport. Along the coast there are so many marinas many of them having thousands of berths and at sea there was always other sailors as well. Already in June there was some feeling of rush as the yachts on multitude of sailing schools and racing boats together with cruising yachts were filling marinas. If we wanted a berth we needed to arrive early, or we’d spend a night rafted to other boats.
The west coast of France is definitely the best sailing area after the Baltic Sea where we have been ever sailing. There are a lot of possibilities when planning the route as we could choose between gorgeous islands, idyllic rivers or charming old towns. Our favorite locations were following,
- Islands of Belle-Île-en-Mer and Îles de Glénan
- The River of L’Aulne in Rade de Brest
- Towns of La Rochelle and Vannes
Especially our favourite was the town of La Rochelle. It is charming little French city where there is still present the feeling of originality. The small boutiques and numerous restaurants are situated in the heart of old town keeping it busy with people buzzling around. There are big shopping malls next to highway intersections in too many places which have eroded the life from city centres. There are several marinas in La Rochelle including the largest of Europe with 4588 berths and in addition there are many boatyards which really bring seafaring atmosphere to the town.
The crossing of the Bay of Biscay was tough for Suwena’s crew. Technical problems, sea sickness and thunderstorm in the middle of the night at Biscay created quite a stress. However, 200 miles later we made her fast to the marina of Laredo. We felt tired but happy, we had made it across the Bay of Biscay.
Originally, we planned to start exploring Spain in the Basque Country but we had problems with batteries and had to make repairs in La Rochelle. Finally we shortened our stay in Spain for arriving in Sada on time for our flights back home.
It is about 250 nautical miles from Laredo to Sada and dominant winds on the northern coast of Spain are from west. For us this would be a long sailing into the wind and so we tried to make good of any weather windows for going west. We only stopped in three places and tried to sample the Spanish hospitality as much as we could. Especially we can give thumbs up to Laredo and Viveiro as both these small lively towns were really charming. Also the friendly and welcoming Spanish people took our hearts.
We’ll have more time to get acquainted with Spanish culture next summer. Suwena is in Sada waiting for us and the upcoming summer adventure in Galicia.
The blog stories of Suwena's sailing on the coast of Bay of Biscay you can read from the blog archive
Log summary of Suwena 2017
- Nautical miles: 845 M, from where 18 % sailing, 9 % motorsailing and 73 % motoring
- Engine hours: 120 h
- Generator hours: 13 h
- Fuel used incl. engine, generator and heater: 579 l
- Dinghy fuel consumption: 10 l
- Fresh water: 5868 l, 72 l/day
- Ports 14 + anchorages 6: total 20 ports of call
- Overnight stays: 81 nights
- Longest leg: La Rochelle – Laredo 200 M
Just after passing around the western corner of Brittany the summer started, indeed. The temperature really rose and the Sun was shining beautifully. We found the sheltered inland sea where we headed with Suwena. Come on with us to the sailing of Rade de Brest.
You can read our river adventure from our blog entry.