I [Diana] scanned the shoreline’s breezy walking and biking trail through the binoculars while Randy set up the oars on the dinghy. The outboard was out of commission, again. I must have missed it I think as I revert the path, scanning back and forth and not seeing what I’m looking for – two small red bicycles that we had locked to the path’s railing the night before.
We’d eaten ashore, sharing a meal with others anchored nearby, enjoying tacos and margaritas and good conversation with curious characters. It was late when we got back to our micro-sized dinghy, and the thought of folding the bikes and sitting on top of them as we rowed back to the boat seemed like more effort than it was worth, especially since we’d surely be doing the reverse right back to shore within 10-12 hours. So we left them locked to the railing, something we had done at numerous ports before. These are not fancy bikes after all. They are old, small, and kind of crappy to be honest. Not something your average cyclist in these parts would consider a prize. Plus they stick out. No one would steal these. Surely. We did think to remove the bike seats, in case someone wanted to take pieces away.
Nevertheless, my heart sinking deeper and deeper with every scan, I start to worry. “Randy, I don’t see the bikes.” He continues fiddling with the outboard. “I hope I’m wrong. But I think they might be gone.” We’re both in disbelief, thinking let’s just get to shore and see things up close.
As we glide closer and closer to shore, my stomach churns. Finally it’s unmistakable. The lock is hanging, empty, from the railing to which we’d secured the bikes. We still have no idea how the thief removed them, given the lock remained fully intact, and locked. Perhaps they disassembled the folding parts and just like that, the halves parted from the lock like magic. We’re not sure.
This new development is a crushing blow. Realizing the privilege that we had to own these bikes to begin with (not to mention cruising by boat), it was still a blow. We had grown very fond of these generous hand-me-downs from my parents. They offered a way for us to explore places ashore in a way that walking just couldn’t. It was a wonderful complement to our teeny-tiny dinghy and temperamental motor.
Cruisers differ on dinghy philosophy. Some compare it to their SUV – it takes them everywhere when they park their “RV” (or boat), they can explore far off bays, go diving from the dinghy, and get places. This is very compelling, but we opted (i.e. couldn’t afford better) to keep our old dinghy and donated outboard. The benefit of a small dinghy is that you can stow it when offshore (clear decks!), and it is light enough that the two of us can lift it out of almost any situation. It gets us from the boat to shore and back, not always dry, but it does the job. The bikes are what got us around and granted us the gift of distance.
For example – we carried the bikes with us by bus to A Coruña and spent the day biking around the city. We were able to get to check in with immigration, visit friends for lunch, and check out a couple of climbing shops in the old part of town, procuring a climbing rope & guidebooks for the area. Back at the bus station by 3pm for the last ride home, thanks to our wheels.
Next, we designed a day long adventure, taking a 1-way set of busses from Muxia to Finisterre and biking our way back. This ride took us over 20 miles on beautiful, winding, and quite hilly (6k ft vert?) backroads through pine forests and small villages. The tiny bikes sometimes needed to be walked up hill, but it was a wonderful excursion and provided some great backcountry access as well as exercise.
They even got us to climbing areas. We packed full climbing packs (ropes, harness, draws, shoes, lots of water, lunch) and tested out the maximum weight capacity of the little dudes and biked our way over to a crag in Monteferro park. There is no way we would have done this trip without the bikes. Needless to say, we haven’t gone climbing since they’ve been gone.
So there we stood. Gutted. Staring at the empty lock, wondering what we could do. Our terrible little very loved bikes were gone. It wasn’t just the bikes, it was the freedom they represented. The small size and easy storage. The crappiness of them, lifting concerns about being too careful when we knocked them around. The ability to squeeze them into our tiny dinghy and go places. I looked around for security cameras and didn’t see any. We discussed whether or not we should report it to the police.
In Seattle, it’s hard to get the police to come out for a stolen automobile. We know people who have had intruders breaking windows to their house and the police still didn’t show up for a good 40+ minutes (the 911 operator literally told the caller to “arm herself” in case the person made it inside. With what, a frying pan??). You can imagine our hesitation to report a theft of 20+ year-old folding bicycles to the police. In Seattle, we’d be lucky to get a shrug, if not laughter, and needless to say the hassle wasn’t likely worth any report to insurance.
Our inaction made the decision for us. It was time to move on, we had been in Baiona too long already. Randy had installed a watermaker aboard (awesome!) and we’d found it a good base to complete various projects. But we were lingering too long and had to keep moving south, so we headed over to the fuel dock to top up before departure. Randy decided to see if he could leave the orphaned bicycle seats somewhere. Perhaps they could be donated?
As he walked up the dock with the seats in hand, the fuel dock attendant was curious and started asking questions. We let him know the seats had belonged to some bikes that had been stolen, and asked if there was somewhere or someone we could give them to. Fuel guy got visibly riled up at the thought that our bikes had been stolen. What? Where? When? No, this is not right! We don’t want visitors to this place to think this of Baiona. He was livid. He knew people in the police. He made some calls.
This escalated into some serious detective work. An ad was found on Facebook Marketplace. A bike without seats. A team of undercover cops started engaging with the seller. We did not leave Baiona. This would take days. Statements were taken. Photographs made. Signatures, forms, and stamps. I have some pretty fancy paperwork from all this.
Finally, amazingly, one bike was recovered – the one from the ad. I walked up to the police station with the seat in hand, and it fit like Cinderella’s shoe. Hooray! Smiles all around. I was notified that they weren’t sure about the second bike. It appears the pair had been split up, and they weren’t certain that the person who was selling this one was the person who had actually stolen them or knew the whereabouts of the other one. They would keep on the case, but it was less certain. I kept thanking them profusely, noting that I couldn’t believe they’d taken this so seriously. That even one bike recovered was a miracle. They’d respond with something like “well, this isn’t like in America, things go a lot slower here,” and I tried to explain that in America this would have been totally ignored. Here I felt like the madame in a high class mystery case. 007 was on it.
We finally did leave Baiona. It was clear the second bike was much less likely to turn up, so we cut our losses and put the fuel attendant down as the guy to receive the bike should they find it. We bought him some fancy beer and made a big thank-you card. (To protect his privacy, we are not including a photo of him here.) It seemed everyone knew about our case and were hanging on to the story, wondering how it would end. Everyone was asking. And lots of cheers when I rolled down the dock on this bike.
Needless to say, there are no more whimsical bike wanderings as we explore towns together, it’s just not the same with just one bike. BUT, it is still great to have the one to help with laundry and provisioning runs. 🙂 Not taking this one for granted ever again.
Here are some more photos from our time in Baiona…