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Sailing on the Costa del Sol
Spain is part of the European Union and all EU and American nationals can visit the country for a period of no longer than 90 days solely with a passport. EU national can apply for a residency permit if they wish to extend their stay. Non EU nationals can apply for a further 90 day extension. These regulations do not appear to be enforced as far as the yachtsman living aboard is concerned. It is advisable to clear customs if entering Spain for the first time. The vessel's registration papers and the passports of crew members will be required. A certificate of competence, evidence of the boat's VAT status, a crew list with passport details, the radio license and a certificate of insurance may also be required. A VAT (Value Added Tax) paid or exempt yacht can apply for a "permiso aduanero" . This allows for an indefinite stay in the country and can be helpful when importing yacht spares from other EU countries. Boats registered outside the EU on which VAT has not been paid may be imported into the EU for a period not exceeding six months in any twelve, after that VAT becomes due. This period can often be extended by prior arrangement with the local custom authorities. There is a legal requirement for foreign vessels to fly their own national maritime flag together with the courtesy flag of Spain.
It is worth considering the following equipment when cruising this area. An SSB radio is useful for obtaining weather forecasts. It is very hot in the summer and ventilation is important. It may be worth fitting extra hatches and a wind scoop over the fore hatch will help a lot. An awning or biminy, covering the cockpit, to provide shelter from the sun is a must. A cockpit table is useful as eating outside during the summer months is one of the pleasures of cruising. Mosquitoes can be a problem and many boats screen all openings while others rely on mosquito coils, insecticides and repellents. Sunburn is the other hazard cruisers should be aware of, the sun can be deceptively strong while the boat is underway, plenty of cream and a hat will go along way to avoid the misery of sunstroke.
There is a constant east going current of between 1 and 2 knots flowing through the straight of Gibraltar and between the Costa del Sol and the north African coast. There is some tide to be considered at the western end of the region, Gibraltar sees 1 metre at most. This diminishes the further east traveled. The weather is affected by several systems and is consequently difficult to predict. There is an old saying that in the summer months nine days of light winds will be followed by a full blown gale that is inaccurate. A wind from the northwest is known as the "tramotana". It can be dangerous because it can arrive and reach gale force in as little as 15 minutes. It often lasts for 3 days and can blow in excess of a week. The wind from the east, the "levante" can also blow for several days at gale force. Annual rainfall at Gibraltar is 760mm. The Costa del Sol will experience about 4 days a month of fog. Summer temperatures can exceed 35 degrees C and the winter months see around 15 degrees.
The remainder of this article looks principally at the harbours of the Costa del Sol. There are also numerous anchorages bbut only a few of the notable ones are mentioned here.
Marina Bay is largest of Gibraltar's three marinas with 350 berths. Most berthing is stern/bow to. Larger yachts can lie alongside. Water and electricity on the pontoons. Within the complex you will find a chandlers, launderette and a good selection of restaurants and bars. There is an indoor market less than 5 minutes walk from the marina. Queensway Marina is much quieter than Gibraltar's other two marinas. Security is excellent with all the pontoons being gated. Within the complex you will find several restaurants and bars.
Gibraltar itself was ceded from the Spanish to the British in the early 18th century and for most of it's history since that time Spain has been trying to get it back. There is evidence of this wherever you go on the rock. The rock itself is honeycombed with tunnels constructed at one time or another for the purposes of adding to the defences of Gibraltar. Many of the older tunnels are open to the public and feature exhibitions of how life was for the soldiers of the day. Many of the tunnels are most definitely not open to the public and there is considerable speculation as to what might be seen in these. You can see Rosia Bay where Admiral Lord Nelson's body was bought ashore from HMS Victory following his famous victory over a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson's body was returned to Britain for a hero's funeral but many of the seamen who died alongside him in the battle are buried on the rock at the Trafalgar cemetery. Take a cable car ride to the top of the rock, stunning views of Spain and across the straights to Morocco. Up here you will also find the famous colony of Barbary apes. Rumor has it that only when the apes are no more will the British leave the Rock. A rumor taken seriously by Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War, who on learning of their dwindling population ordered more to be bought to the Rock from Africa.
Puerto de Sotogrande is an attractive marina complex surrounded by apartments, shops, bars and restaurants. The overall design has been inspired by Portofino. There are
sandy beaches to either side of the marina and golf, riding, tennis and squash courts nearby. One of the most expensive marinas on this part of the coast.
One of my favorites is Puerto de la Duquessa. Not too big and not to noisy. The marina is surrounded by apartments, shops, restaurants and bars. The marina offers free medical care to it's users. There are sandy beaches either side of the marina. The village of Sabinillas is 5 minutes walk to the north. Another bus will take you to the village of Casares which clings to the side of a mountain. Marbella, popular with the rich and famous is another bus journey away. Don't expect to see the famous on the bus though, they are the ones in the Ferraris. Hire a car and drive up to the picturesque town of Ronda.
Puerto de Estapona is a medium sized marina with the usual development of restaurants and bars.
Puerto de Jose Banus, the marina of the rich and famous and the prices reflect this. Whitewashed, Andalucian style building surround the marina, hosting boutiques, bars, restaurants and night clubs. There are several Yacht Charter and Yacht Brokerage operations within the marina complex. Marbella is 15 minutes away by car or bus. Good beach to the west of the marina which belongs to the hotel and allows berth holders access. This can be arranged at the control tower. Many golf courses in the area.
The small marina at Puerto de Marbella is surrounded by tourist developments. The marina can be noisy at night during the summer months. Wind from the east, south and southwest can produce a heavy swell within the harbour. Be prepared to double up on lines. Beaches on either side of the marina but these get very crowded during the summer months. The town itself is well worth exploring. Don't miss the famous Orange Square which can be found at the heart of the city centre.
Puerto de Cabopino is a pleasant, small harbour surrounded by Andalucian style houses which makes a nice change from the normal high rise developments. Good shelter within the harbour. Limited space for transient yachts and it is recommended that you call ahead to confirm there is a berth available. Marina charges are on the high side. Cabopino beach, with it's fine sand is reckoned to be one of the best on the Costa del Sol
Good shelter can be found at Puerto de Fuengirola. The nearby town is both noisy and very busy during the summer months. All provisions can be obtained in the town. There are good beaches on either side of the marina but these get very crowded during the summer months.
Puerto de Benalmadena is a huge marina with over 150,000 square metres of water. There is good shelter with the only swell being experienced in a W gale. Whilst the surrounding area is the usual overpowering high rise blacks the marina itself is quite attractive. It was named best marina in the world in both 1995 and 1998. There are over 200 commercial premises including boutiques, night clubs and the usual numerous restaurants and bars. There is also a sea life centre. There are good beaches on either side of the marina. Malaga airport is just 8 km away.
Puerto de Malaga is the major commercial and fishing port of the Costa del Sol. The only facilities for yachts are at the Real Club Mediterraneo de Malaga and there is little room for visitors. Malaga, known as the "City of Flowers" is both interesting and charming. It can be reached on foot from the port.
The small harbour of Puerto del Candado is found 3.5 miles E of Malaga. Suitable for vessels drawing 2m or less. With strong winds from the W - SW considerable swell builds up and the harbour becomes uncomfortable. Harbour charges are low
Puerto de Puerto Caleta de Velez is a quiet fishing harbour 22 miles to east of Malaga. There are beaches on either side of the marina.
The anchorages of Fondeadero de Neja and Cala de Miel are both worth a visit. Cala de Miel has a fresh water spring.
Marina del Este is a purpose built marina set amongst a huge housing development in a beautiful area. Wind from NE - E produces a limited amount of swell within the marina. Harbour charges are high in the summer months. There is a small beach close to the harbour and a pool at the yacht club. There are prehistoric caves to be seen at Nerja. The city of Granada and the famous Alhambra can be seen in a days trip. As can the Alpahurras valley, with it's charming villages, towered over by the magnificent Sierra Nevada.
Once a small fishing port, Puerto de Motril has developed into a commercial port serving the inland city of Granada. Beaches on either side of the harbour.
The harbour of Puerto de Adra was founded by the Phoenicians and has been in use ever since. Today it is both a commercial and fishing port. The continual movement of the fishing boats makes for much disturbance. Facilities are limited. Harbour charges are high. Beaches on either side of the harbour. Adra town is small and has little in the way of development for tourism.
Puerto de Almerimar, a very large marina with the capacity for over 1,000 boats. Excellent shelter from everything but strong SW winds when some swell can build up towards the entrance of the harbour. Prices are low. Astonishingly so compared to some other marinas on the Costa del Sol. Sandy beaches on either side of the marina. This part of the coast is covered with plastic greenhouses, it has to be seen to be appreciated both for the vast number of acres under cover and it's ugliness.
Puerto de Roquetas del Mar is a small fishing harbour. Strong winds from the SE - NE make the harbour uncomfortable.
Good shelter can be found at Puerto de del Aguadulce except with wind from the ESE which can cause some swell making conditions uncomfortable. The marina can cater for some 150 boats. The complex includes a swimming pool and squash court. Sandy beaches to the S with waters clean enough to merit a blue CE flag.
The Puerto de Almeria is a commercial & fishing port. Yachts use the Club de Mar del Almeria. There are several large rusty industrial structures close by a dominating the view and giving the place a rather grim feel. Overall the shelter is good but strong winds from the E produce swell that makes it uncomfortable within the marina. The Alcazaba in Almeria, a Moorish castle, is well worth a visit.
About the Author: Ken Jones runs a Sailing Site.
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To find other Marine Services on the Costa del Sol visit the Marine Directory.