The Rías Baixas comprise four estuarine inlets located on the northwest coast of Spain in Galicia. They include the Ría de Muros e Noia, the Ría de Arousa, the Ría de Pontevedra, and the Ría de Vigo. Once around Cape Finisterre, the Rías populate the area up to the Portuguese coast.
The Rías are rich in marine life; each filled with a heavy aquaculture industry and many small fishing ports. A large percentage of the population in this region make their living from fishing and supporting services, as well as tourism which is taking a hit due to COVID. Sailing around the Rías one has to be mindful of the hundreds of mussel rafts. This area produces around 95% of Spanish mussels – around 200,000 tonnes each year and is one of the largest mussel producing areas in the world. Small fishing vessels also rake the sandy bottoms for hauls of clams while the mariscadoras, Galician women may rake along the sandy beaches for the meaty shellfish.
From Ria de Muros, we sailed south 15nm with 20-30kn northerly winds, and slight seas to drop anchor at a beautiful spot with views of sand dunes at Ensenada de Corrubedo for the night before rounding into the Ría de Arousa.
The next morning we sailed in calm conditions through the narrow channel into the Ría de Arousa and headed north to anchor alongside the long stretch of white sandy beach at the small town of Ribeira. Protected from the strong northerly winds, we had a pleasant night at anchor while the shops closed for the public holiday of “Virgen del Carmen” (The Patron Saint of sailors).
Dodging the many mussel rafts, we motored 5nm to the fishing port on the Illa de Arousa, grabbing a vacant mooring – one used by fishermen who would no doubt be out fishing in the calm weather. On shore a very new Frioz supermarket was a welcome stop for fresh bread and supplies; opposite a self-serve laundry – probably the best I’ve ever used in all my travels (it’s the little things that please me nowadays…).
Taking a stroll during siesta, we wandered along the open market-place before finding a little bar on the other side of the island where we stopped for beer and tapas before heading back to Blue Heeler for our own siesta.
With a slight breeze the following morning, we sailed 20nm to a protected beach at Enseada da Barra on the northern entrance to Ría de Vigo. To discover all these anchorages, we use a combination of pilot guides (Reeds Nautical Almanac, Cruising Association’s Cruising Almanac), plus more often than not we use Navily – a user-friendly app with reviews by cruisers and sailors. ActiveCaptain is still available through Navionics but it’s a little dated.
To catch up with friends on S.Y. Walrus, we motored across the Ría de Vigo to the touristy town of Baiona. It was great to finally catch up with the crew.
The anchorage at Baiona is good in calm conditions. Days of stillness brought in heavy fog and mist along the entire coastline. This reminded us of the passage from the Azores to Ireland where we experienced similar misty conditions.
Baiona’s Fortaleza de Monterreal attracts the tourists, as does the many cafes and bars along the back lanes of the old town. Baiona is a pleasant stop but I really wanted to spend some time at the famous Atlantic Islands of Galicia. Boats must have a permit to visit these islands. The permit can be obtained through this link. Once permission is granted (which takes a couple of business days), you can then nominate which days you want to anchor – this last part can be done directly online and is approved immediately.
The Ilhas de Cies – one of the most visited places in Galicia – has notably the ‘best beach in the world’. (While the Praia de Rodas is certainly a lovely stretch of sand, I would consider the white sandy beaches of Western Australia deserve a special mention).
We anchored at the Praia de Rodas beach – quite calm except for the influx of regular ferries churning up the water, each dumping loads of visitors to the island. Nonetheless, it’s worth a trip ashore to walk up to the Faros de Cies for superb views overlooking the Illa de San Martiño to the south. Spectacular! At the campground below is a small supermarket and a cafe for a refreshing drink after the walk.
A less common southerly wind was forecast, so we waited until it was upon us and took advantage of the conditions to sail north into the Ría de Pontevedra and anchored outside the small town of Bueu for a couple of nights. Here is a simple town, less touristy, and has a great fish market near the harbour.
With a change in the wind, we returned to Baiona anchorage for a night to prepare for a 54nm passage south.
This is where we leave Spain and head into Portugal.
The pandemic situation is still critical in Spain and Portugal, yet people are out and about, as we are, taking all precautions necessary to enjoy summer as best we can. Masks are mandatory indoors, and most people wear masks outdoors too.
As we sail along the Atlantic coastline, we are mindful of the Orca problem further south and regularly monitor the Iberia Orca website plus Noonsite for any recent news on boat interactions. In fact, we met up with a Dutch couple sailing north who had been harassed by orcas last season. Fortunately they had no boat damage.
As we departed Baiona, skipper saw a large dorsal fin glide out of the water…
(don’t worry folks…photo below isn’t real!).