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One man and his new boat: Two Years On

So it’s about two years since I wrote a blog. Have you missed me?

Where to begin? Well for a start I sold the RIB. For those who aren’t in the know, that’s the boat I used to have, complete with hypalon tubes around a fibreglass hull. RIB – Rigid Inflatable Boat. I didn’t have much choice in selling it because – thanks to Brexit legislation – I would no longer be able to skipper the boat with paying passengers, because it wasn’t a Spanish flagged vessel, and so I’d have had to change the flag. And when I looked at the process for doing that, I was quickly put off. Trust me, Spanish bureaucracy is not something to be meddled with. So off it went, towed back to the UK by a very happy new owner from Southend, which funnily enough was a place I spent a couple of years living in as a boy. My time there may even be what’s responsible for giving me such a passion for the sea in the first place. Not since Captain Smith sank the Titanic has a land-locked boy from Stoke had such a desire to up sticks and become a commercial skipper.

Then a lot of things happened. I looked for a new boat, found a few, went all the way to Cadiz on overnight bus and settled on a 2010 fibre boat made by a yard in Almeria. A long long way from Galicia. I had it towed back to my place in the Rias Baixas, a mere thousand kilometres away, and put her in the water ready for the next season. And that’s when Covid19 hit. Now, I won’t go on about the impact of the pandemic, I know for most it’s been an incredibly difficult year to say the least (though I do know a few mates back in the UK who are quite happy with their new work at home arrangements!). Somewhere amid all of the above I also drove back to the UK, sold my old Jeep, brought my motorbike to Spain and re-registered it here. So I’m pretty much a fully-fledged Spaniard these days. We have a Spanish family estate, the motorbike, and a Spanish flagged boat! We sound like quite the family of luxury, right? Wrong. After last year’s palaver if I could afford to put fuel in the boat I’d be happy.

But genuinely, I’m poised for a good year, vaccine rollout pending. I’ve got myself involved in a little boat signage / vinyl business franchise which means I will have a second way of making a few quid, outside of the frighteningly short holiday season (something I was sure I could manage to prolong, little did I know…). So roll on spring. Let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope people can start flying around and polluting the planet again (sorry Greta) and Sanxenxo will be once again inundated by tourists from the world around and I can do what I came here for and make an honest living from exploring the beautiful seascape of Galicia.

From now on I’m going to write a monthly episode. Keep tuned if you’ve got nothing better to do, which, let’s face it, right now, you don’t.

The new boat – Cocodella

Time to Escaparia.com

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything on here, so after a couple of nudges, I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to.

Probably too much to recount, really. Since Christmas it’s been full steam ahead (I’ve decided to get as many nautical references in as possible) on planning for the business. Which, of course, has not been an easy ride. The Spanish may have a reputation for being laid-back, but up here in #Galicia, and in respect of things of the sea, they’re pretty damn serious. So, amid filing licenses, boat paperwork, making applications to get permission to visit the islands, and other such seemingly endless bureaucracy, there’s been less time for actually going out on the boat, let alone scribbling about my escapades on here. However, things are all getting pretty interesting…

I’ve moved the RIB to #Portonovo, #Sanxenxo. After much mental debate about the pros and cons of putting it in various different marinas, I plumped for the one that offers a decent price and is pretty much slap bang in the midst of tourist central come summertime – and also benefits from trade anytime the sun’s out, really. So, for business, it made the most sense. Even if I did leave my heart in the stunning San Vicente do Mar, which has natural unspoiled beauty on its side, but fewer opportunities in terms of the potential business to be had.

We now have a website – it’s in Spanish, but can of course be translated using Google if needs be and, well, I’ll also be getting around to writing an English version to go alongside it so we don’t have to rely on the ingenious, but still flawed, Google translation. Please have a look at, and share, the site, it’s at: www.escaparia.com – which you’ll notice is now also the URL of this blog. So, why #Escaparía ? Well, if you are Spanish this needs little explanation, but for the Brits, you will be able to guess it’s something to do with escaping, right? It’s just a conjugation of the verb ‘to escape’ which literally means ‘he/she/one would escape’. But the word ‘ría’, embedded into the name, is also the word that describes the type of estuary where we’re based – just a smidge off the Atlantic coast. So, it’s a play on words.

And we’ve also got a brand – that includes a jumping dolphin, something I’ve seen a whole bunch of times on the boat since October, and something I wanted to be integral to the image of the business, and what we’re all about – even if I can’t promise to find them every time! I’ve ordered the decals for the boat tubes with the new brand, had the engine serviced, and hell, even had the time to do a bit of cruising around the ‘ría’ once or twice a week, formulating plans for the different routes we can offer, and working out how much fuel we use on each. The answer is – A LOT! I’ve made the decision that we open (given permission pending from the harbour-master, of course) in Easter. So Brits and anyone else from outside Spain, get a plane booked to Santiago and come to see us. For those of you closer to my new home, make a date to get in the car and get yourselves to the coast of #Sanxenxo for ‘Semana Santa’. It’s nearly 20 degrees and it’s only late February.

Matt Taylor – licensed to fish

OK, so it’s hardly a patch on James Bond’s strapline, but hey, I’m quite chuffed that I’m now legal – I can fish anywhere I like off the coast of Spain, and nobody can stop me! If only I knew how to get any of those fish out of the damn water, it would be fantastic. Cue Youtube searches for ‘sea fishing in the Atlantic’, ‘fishing for mackerel off a boat’, and other such desperate attempts to learn how to snatch just one of the buggers for tea.

Half a dozen people have told me I must go and get a fishing license now that I’ve got a boat in the water here, so I decided to have a go at a pastime that until now I’ve never once in my life bothered with. I never liked the idea of sleeping in a tent at Wesport lake with a rod in the water to catch something I’d definitely never put in my mouth. People love their fish here. We’re in coastal Galicia and it’s not just food, it’s part of the culture. Which I suppose that brings me to the point of today’s blog. What’s this place they call Galicia all about, and why did I want to come and live here? Well you could write a long series of articles about that subject, but for now I’ll try to give you a taster of what I think is so special about it. You never know, for those of you from overseas or from other regions of Spain, it might convince to you to come and take a trip over here to see for yourselves. And for anyone I know from the local area, I hope you’ll be proud that an Englishman like me came to Galicia and loved what he found…

There’s the obvious: La Lanzada, 2.5km of golden sand home to surfers and sunseekers alike, and a host of other blue-flag beaches from the sheltered coves like the stunning Paxariñas (little birds), to the beautiful boulders of San Vicente and its numerous beaches connected by a boardwalk that runs around the rocks along the coast. There are many, many more; these are just some of the best in the area in which I’m lucky enough to find myself.

And there’s the less obvious: as you veer off the main roads, and into the lanes that connect the villages (por dentro), you’re just as likely to meet a tractor and trailer full of potatoes, or corn, or seaweed (depending on the time of year) as you are a pedestrian. This region, as well as having the allure of the coastline, boasts some lovely countryside, much of which is farmed – not by commercial farmers with hundreds of acres or a huge herd of cows (is it a herd of cows?), but by the local people, who make it their lifestyle to grow their own in fields of their own. It really is ‘the good life’, the kind of thing that UK city-dwellers eager to escape the smoke would swoon over. It’s fresh tomatoes, that have so much more taste than the crap we get served up at the supermarkets, lettuce onions, potatoes,and neighbours with orchards of trees bearing fruits from average apples and oranges to kiwis. And the best thing, perhaps, is how basically everyone grows the local grape – from the vines of the renowned Albariño – and makes their own house wine…to varying degrees of quality depending on whose house you’re in, of course!

There are dozens of other reasons I love the ‘Rias Baixas’ – the name given to the region thanks to the inland estuaries that are also the haven for its wealth of seafood. But just one thing to add for now. You get all of the above, and so much more, and you don’t get ripped off. This is not like the South of France. There are huge million pound yachts in some of the marinas. But here, you can go out for a coffee for a couple of Euros (and I haven’t seen a Starbucks since I left the UK, thank God). The only thing I don’t seem to be able to get away from is Brexit. Thanks to Gibraltar, it’s on the TV here now, too.

You don’t have to go to Seaworld…

So, I’ve been in Galicia a month now, and there’s been a lot going on!

Firstly, after having driven a thousand miles with an 8m boat attached the back of the Jeep, I reversed into the wall outside our new abode, putting a not insignificant gash in the bumper. And for anyone who’s ever driven under their usual insurance in another country, it’s a third-party only kind of deal, unless you pay a couple of hundred quid to extend your cover, which I – of course – didn’t, thinking if anything was in any danger of happening, it was me breaking down on the way, which I had well-covered internationally and which – of course – didn’t happen.

But not to worry, calls to about 20 scrapyards across Spain with some newly-googled vocabulary and numerous registrations with online spare parts sites later, I managed to get a new bumper delivered all the way from Sevilla, had it painted and fitted (thanks go to Raúl at Talleres Pintos) all for a few hundred euros. So – relatively – happy days.

Other than that, it’s been very much ‘plain sailing’. And the much more upbeat story of the month is:  dolphins! The boat and I have been out probably 8 or 9 times over the last few weeks since its Galician baptism, with my in-laws, my wife, Laura, my friend Luke (the only English guy I know exists in these parts – so we’ll let him off for being a posh ‘scouser’ – and I also did my first ‘paid’ trip out. OK, actually I only charged them for the cost of the fuel we used, but in the end this was as much an experience for me as for them, so everyone was happy.

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And happy they truly were when we spotted the dolphins. This was the second time since I’ve been here out on the boat that I’ve seen them swimming around. The first time was just off the coast near Sanxenxo, where we were treated to a display when one of these beautiful creatures jumped high out of the water and flipped before diving back in. Much like a Seaworld show, but without the need for any incarceration. It was a sight to behold, and just precious to be so close to them in their own environment. There were literally dozens of them, swimming around us, as we slowed down (Luke was with me on this occasion too) and took in the sight.

So, to see them again a week later with a boat full of ‘tourists’ was a real delight and a genuine surprise. I use the word ‘tourists’ quite loosely; the passengers on this occasion were actually Luke’s family, who were visiting from Liverpool, and his girlfriend, Minia, and her parents, who hail from the much more local Dorrón, in the hills near the coast where we saw the dolphins.

All of this and a bunch of trips out on my own, getting to know the coast a little better, and testing myself on some pretty huge waves off the coast by San Vicente on a windy day, plus getting my official residency – ‘Green Card’ – sorted out (I felt a bit like Depardieu in that predictable American flick from the 90s, for those who are unlucky enough to remember it), it’s been another very interesting month!

Now, where were those dolphins…

The Journey Begins – an Englishman in Galicia

This month has been a big month.

I resigned my job, hooked up my boat to the Jeep, rented our house to a family of strangers, and set off for a new life in Spain.

If I hadn’t been so bloody busy, I could’ve written half a dozen blog entries. Since August, my wife (Laura) and two kids (Sofia (5) and Emma (2)) have already been in Galicia, the beautiful, green, and largely unspoiled – despite a fairly buzzing tourism industry – north-western region of Spain. This is where my wife comes from, and where I have – bizarrely – been trying to convince her we should return for the last ten years since we got together. Why? Keep on reading this blog every now and again and you’ll find out. Laura already has a job, teaching at a nearby school. And me? Well, I’m planning for the coming spring, when I will launch my boat business.

I have some of the necessary ingredients…a boat, some qualifications, and a bit of business sense. And some Spanish which needs to be worked on very hard over the next five months. But basically, I’ve launched myself and my family into the unknown, with the hope of building myself and my family a better life here, whilst giving up what we had back at home.

So to sum up…October 4th, I left home and drove to Wales to pick up the boat, which until then had been kept at Port Dinorwic on the Menai Straits. Before that day, I’d only pulled the boat on the trailer the mammoth distance of about 3 miles from one storage location to another. So – some might say – it was a bit of a crazy escapade I was about to embark upon – to tow the boat all the way to Sanxenxo, Galicia. But it’s amazing what you can pick up on Youtube! Three days, an overnight stay somewhere near Warwick, a bodged-fix on the trailer winch, a delayed overnight ferry to Santander and a few hundred quids’ worth of diesel later, we arrived in Vilalonga, near Sanxenxo, in the Province of Pontevedra. At 6am. Cue kids waking me up approximately an hour and a half later. But the wake-up ‘it’s my daddy!’ from Emma was still welcome,  despite the lack of sleep.

Three weeks later, and the mission is already under way. I’ve launched the boat into the water and tied her up in the absolutely stunning San Vicente do Mar, for a provisional month, with the help of my cousin-in-law Santi – named after nearby city and capital of the region, Santiago de Compostela, famous for its pilgrimage (or ‘camino’), a guy down at the marina called Jose, and a newly befriended fisherman, David. The launch of the boat also launched my first in-roads into integrating myself and getting to know the locals, who have so far welcomed me with open arms – amid the odd jibe about the English. Friendliness and helpfulness seems to be a given in this place. The local fisherman, David, saw us struggling with getting the boat off the trailer, when we’d reversed it into the water via the ramp, and immediately started tying ropes to help us get the boat immersed so deeply that it just floated off, and the proceeded to say to me (in Spanish of course, it’s not like being on the East coast, people don’t just start talking to you in English here), “so when are we going out on the boat then?” and promising to show me the best fishing spots.

Basically, the first couple of weeks have been an immersion for both me and the boat. And I’m thriving on it. Now I just need to get on with thinking about this boat business I need to start…

More tales of boat adventures and an Englishman in Galicia coming soon…

The boat is finally in the water! And what beautiful water…