The British Armada

The journey south continues.

13th August 2020

Bornalle, Muros, Spain – Ila Salvora, Ria Arosa, Spain via Pobra do Carminal, Ria Arosa, Cabo Cruz, Ria Arosa & Ila Cortegada, Ria Arosa

There is the old adage that two is company and three is a crowd. In the case of “Ruffian”, “Persephone” and “Annie”, three is not a crowd, three is a little British Armada. Unlike the enormous Spanish Armada of 1588, who were intent on destroying English culture, our little armada has sampled Spanish culture at its best and indeed most confusing.

Leaving Muros the differences between “Ruffian” and “Persephone” were instantly obvious. While we put up all our sails and tried our hardest to eek out every knot of boatspeed, “Persephone” simply sat back and screamed past us. Their racing lines, fast sails and clean bottom gave them the edge, or did it?

As “Persephone” pushed past us, we did our usual and pottered about. Unusually however we had an intermittent noise which sounded ominous and we set to tracking it down. With ears to the ground and eye’s peeled Iain suddenly took to the floor, taking up carpet and floorboards. With his heart in his hands he’d discovered the noise. We were sinking, the bilges were full of water (could this be why Persephone was faster than us?)

Within moments the error of Iain’s ways had made themselves known. With Ruffian’s left hand (Iain) not talking to it’s right (Fiona’s), we’d been slowly filling Ruffian up through a watermaker filter housing. Iain had thought in his wisdom he’d give it a wash and leave it out to dry, Fiona, then following our usual protocol changed our seacock configuration. This left water to simply flow into the boat!  The odd noise we had heard were the automatic bilge pumps trying their hardest to keep on top of the problem.

With the seacocks now closed, the job of removing litres and litres of water from the inside of the boat began. Bucket after bucket were removed, bilge after bilge sponged out and dried and Ruffian was restored to her usual dry self. Even with all this drying however “Persephone” continued to pull away, but at least we now had a story and an excuse for losing the race!

Dodging our way past rocks and skinny passages we made our way into Ria Arousa and the endless beach at Pobra do Caraminal. “Annie” however took the safe outside line past the islands, in lots of sea room and claimed the moral victory of sailing the whole way.

Culture was alive in Pobra as the boardwalk was busy with people promenading, churches rang bells calling their worshippers and firecrackers sent dogs scattering leaving the Ruffians to scratch their heads. In any other part of the world if a white van drove through town intent on making repeated explosions the flying squad would be called, in Spain however this seems usual protocol. We watched in awe as piles of pyrotechnics were haphazardly lit, left to fly into the air and have their resulting boom ricochet off the hills. The nonchalance of the entire affair felt like all of Spanish culture in microcosm.

With “Annie”, “Persephone” and “Ruffian” all in residence socialising was a key activity. As we took sundowners on “Annie” we marvelled at her luxurious bedroom (it’s too posh for a ‘cabin’), almost got lost in her enormous bathroom (any space with a proper shower can’t be considered a ‘heads’) and were surprised that her kitchen didn’t have an island unit (although we’re sure they might be hiding one somewhere).

In this social whirlwind Will and Mary regaled us with the funniest of stories where American relatives went shooting in the UK. We had images of the Americans turning up with M16’s and camo gear and the Brits being rather confused in their plus 4’s while sipping tots of rum. Nigel and Karen on the other hand had us on the edge of our seats as they spoke about hitting rocks while racing and the worries of water ingress as they crossed oceans.

With our paths diverging our little armada’s days were numbered. “Annie” was heading off to find some knarly kitesurfing and “Persephone” had an appointment in France., but before their appointment we had a little more adventuring to do.

Right at the top of the Ria there is a deserted island that’s designated a national park and Iain had his eye on it. With “Persephone” in tow we anchored landed and circumnavigated. The island was a hive of activity as fishermen sieved the sand looking for shellfish by day and as dusk descended spotlights were turned on so they could turn their attention to fish. Among all this industrial, but sustainable, activity the island literally squirmed with life as gecko’s hid under rocks, butterflies looked for mates and lots of critters rustled in the undergrowth.

Bidding a fond farewell to “Persephone”, we were one again alone and headed off to isolation at Ila Salvora, our isolation wasn’t however to last. After we anchored between the rocks and in front of the harbour, boat after boat turned up and anchored in front, behind, beside and literally on top of us. We’d happened upon the rendezvous for a big party but no one had invited us.

Seeking solace, we headed ashore to this extraordinary island. There was an abandoned village to explore, derelict houses to nose around, untold paths to trek, volcanic rocks to marvel at and a lighthouse to ponder. While the party was going on around Ruffian we had the island to ourselves.

Fiona was beside herself as we explored. She nosed into house after house and building after building with little information boards giving a hint as to the untold stories that the buildings kept and the landscape hid. Scaling the heights of the hills we were taken aback by the primitive scenery and the precarious rocks were scattered everywhere. There were so many questions. Why was it abandoned? Why had the army taken over? How can such big rocks get to the tops of hills? Who carved the lady of the lake? Questions which we’ll never know the answers to.

Saying goodbye to “Annie” and “Persephone” and the break-up of our little armada has made us realise that it’s the relationships that make this lifestyle so memorable, but it’s the culture, discoveries and confusion that make it special.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

1 thought on “The British Armada

  1. Hey Iain and Fiona,

    I was pleased to see another almost-definitely English-speaking vessel come in to Seixal, so I did a little google of your boatname:) I’m the Lagoon 380 catamaran beside you. If you want to catch up for a socially-distanced beverage or need help with anything let me know! I’m on +351962268074


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