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Pilot Guide – Med Havens – Invitation to Ibiza

Pilot Guide – Med Havens – Invitation to Ibiza

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  • Since Eivissa possesses such a large and extensive deep-water port, it enjoys a wide range of boating facilities.
  • Arrival at Eivissa by sea is quite a landfall and rather thrilling on a small boat.
  • The palm-lined stone quays have more than a whiff of the tropical about them.
  • You absorb the balmy October weather, the whispering palms, the blue water and the immaculate craft, and you are in powerboat heaven.

Alex Whittaker visits this bewitching Mediterranean island …

Sailors, soldiers, sybarites, poets, hippies, artists and hard-core clubbers have long been drawn to this Mediterranean island of delights. The scarab-blue sea is inviting, the coast is spectacular, and the towns and villages are enticing. For powerboaters and ribsters like us, the cruising here is among the very best the Med can offer. What is more, it is only a budget airline flight away.


Megayachts and vodka shots

I’ll cut to the chase. As a busy deep-water Mediterranean port, Ibiza Town has attracted more than its fair share of stunning motor yachts. They bask in the bright Ibizan sunshine like interstellar craft from a distant galaxy. This means that in Ibiza Town you can hire a Ferrari or a Sunseeker, spin the wheel in at least two casinos and rave at an über-cool superclub ’til dawn. However, Ibiza Town amounts to much, much more – even more than the extravagant tastes of Russian oligarchs, and the roar of the ravers. Ibiza is not just about excessive consumption and sky-high berthing fees. Indeed, Ibiza Town displays real character. You are in a vibrant port city, and the buzz is tactile. Moreover, it has its own rather refreshing Catalan pace of life. You walk narrow tree-lined streets with balconied houses, bordered by boho-chic pavement cafés. You encounter handsome shady squares with that traditional ‘Spanish colonial’ vibe, towered over by the ramparts of an ancient citadel.

Mooring up in Ibiza Town is about lazy days, visiting the antique monuments, niche shopping, keeping ‘Spanish hours’ and eating late. The palm-lined stone quays have more than a whiff of the tropical about them. However, it is clear at every turn that there is a strong underlying local Catalan culture. It is a way of life that sets its own tone. Catalans have retained their own identity, language, dances, history and poets in the face of all-comers. I am always astounded how genuinely helpful they are with boaters like us, who do not speak their language, but who always seem to need help, advice and assistance! Like their Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Morisco antecedents, Catalans are practical, deal-making pragmatists. Tourists are made very welcome, and the Catalan default mode is ‘laid-back – but on your side’. However, they never allow Catalan culture to be submerged.

While we were boating off Ibiza in September and October 2017, there was a Catalan independence referendum. Although we were on holiday, we found ourselves carried along by this wave of European history. Local people told us openly that they wanted change, and the underlying mood did seem to be in favour of independence.


Eivissa – Ibiza Town

Eivissa in Catalan means Ibiza Town. Eivissa’s fine harbour lies at

38° 54ʹ 09″ North and 01° 26ʹ 42″ East. It is an official port of entry for Spain, and has all the necessary customs facilities. Arrival at Eivissa by sea is quite a landfall and rather thrilling on a small boat. Be aware that there is much maritime traffic in and out of the port. In particular, the ferries – both displacement ships and high-speed catamarans – buzz in and out like hornets. Add to that sailing boat flotillas, port authority boats, fishing boats and all the powercraft flitting about, and it can get a bit frenetic.


Approaches from the south

Coming from the south, the first glimpse of the town’s high citadel low to port will come after rounding Torre de Ses Portes. From here, with the long beach of d’en Bossa to port, it is a straightforward matter of negotiating a number of well-charted rocky îlots leading right up to the port entrance. Note that the commercial shipping lane passes outside all these obstacles. As you make the final approach to the harbour, two significant rocky îlots come up to port. These are Sa Corbeta, lying under Punta Del Calvario to port, and the larger Isla Negra, just before the town’s southern breakwater, which spring off at Torre De Vigilancia . At the end of this breakwater lies Latarnia Morska. This pretty but small lighthouse marks the southern mouth of the main harbour, with Eivissa old town rising majestically to port. The day we entered, an old sailing ship was moored alongside.


Approaches from the north

Approaching from the north, say from Santa Eulària, there are a number of rocks awash, small rocky îlots and sharp skerries to keep you awake. However, these are not at all challenging in fine weather. As you glimpse the citadel on the hill, a bay, Cala Talamanca, opens up to starboard. Strewn with boats, it can appear to be the port entrance. It is not. You have to proceed, leaving rocky Punta Grossa a few cables to starboard. You will then follow the rock wall and the Botafoch breakwater, no doubt seeing one of the vast cruise liners moored on your right. The distinctive bulk of Botafoch lighthouse lies on a rocky fold to starboard. Coming across such bold seamarks is one of the great joys of cruising on your own boat. At the end of the breakwater, a small and rather inconspicuous green post topped with a light marks the northern mouth of the outer harbour. Turn to starboard here for the marinas. The wall below is painted with a rather hopeful ‘Velocidad Max 3 Knots’.


Marina Ibiza entrance

Once you have cleared the northern breakwater, most of the busy ferry traffic will head directly forward, and thence turn to port around the southern breakwater. From there, at Latarnia Morska, it will run directly over to Ibiza Town quay. This ferry traffic then passes the Ibiza Magna superyacht station, and the new Port Ibiza Town ‘marina’, leaving both to port. These two boating facilities are situated below Eivissa’s magnificent ramparted old town (‘Dalt Vila’) up on the hill. Look right, and Ibiza Club Náutico (Ibiza Yacht Club) lies to the starboard end of the town’s main quay. However, both Marina Ibiza and Marina Botafoch lie to starboard of the northern breakwater. You can steer directly to Marina Ibiza by spotting the port end of its long quay with the huge Lio nightclub on top. Follow that quay by eye to starboard to pick up the Marina Ibiza building and its slick silver-lettered sign. The rather discreet marina entrance lies here, with its fuel berth just beyond.


Anchoring and Posidonia

You cannot anchor between the main breakwater and Marina Botafoch, though we did see a few boats there! Also, the old anchorage below the citadel has now been declared unavailable. Mind you, for powerboaters like us, lingering at anchor off a beach with the other powerboats is a more likely option. However, there is an underwater meadow of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica between Ibiza and Formentera. Marine biologists say that this is the reason why the local beaches are so fine and the water so turquoise. Due to its significance, there are additional local legal restrictions on certain anchorages. However, I can report that when it washed up black on the beach, it was counter-intuitively soft to walk upon with bare feet.


Hazards

Med boating often lulls one into a false sense of security, with minimal tides and sandy bottoms. However, we found that this coast of Ibiza is not as hazard-free as the South of France or the east coast of Mallorca. There are a number of fascinating rocks awash – outliers, skerries, ledges and serrated rocky combs. The key point is that these often occur a bit further from the shore than you might expect. Note that some of these are substantial rocky islands as well as low-lying îlots. My 30-quid Navionics app on my steam-driven iPhone 4 showed them all very clearly, but you do have to proceed with particular caution when the smaller rocks, submerged or awash, encumber a beach or cove. The tide in this part of the Med is minimal. So I consoled myself that most of the rocks shown awash on the chart were likely to be uncovered by the tide, and visibly awash when I passed them! Incidentally, perhaps reflecting the delightful local fatalism, most of these hazards appeared unlit and unmarked. Fear not – an up-to-date chart and normal prudence will see you through.


Pleasure boating facilities

Since Eivissa possesses such a large and extensive deep-water port, it enjoys a wide range of boating facilities. To give you some idea of the scale of things, on foot it takes about 45 minutes of brisk perambulation just to circuit the main harbour. We found that the chief facilities comprised:

  1. Club Náutico Ibiza yacht club, right on the town quay.
  2. Marina Ibiza, a short walk north from the town quay past the Club Náutico.
  3. Marina Botafoch, a longer walk from the town past Marina Ibiza, and stocked with many larger boats.
  4. Ibiza Magna superyacht station, essentially on the old town quay, directly below the Dalt Vila.
  5. Port Ibiza Town, next to Magna, below the Dalt Vila.

Marina Ibiza

The marina is situated at Paseo Juan Carlos l, no. 20, 07800 Ibiza. This is just round the corner from the harbour, north from the main town quay (Tel: (+34) 971 318 040; Fax: (+34) 971 199 355). The marina website lists their full facilities (www.marinaibiza.com).

We concentrated on Marina Ibiza because we had come to Ibiza Town expressly to check it out. Our investigations soon confirmed that Marina Ibiza best suited our particular preferences as UK-based powerboat trailer folk. The marina is so large it has two basins, north and south. It may be hailed on Channel 16 or Channel 9. Conveniently, the marina has its own ‘Welcome Quay’. It provides Wi-Fi for all berth holders, and it is also possible to get a TV signal piped to your berth. The marina has CCTV and 24-hour security, which we saw, though we could wander about without needing any pass codes. As you have a right to expect, the marina has excellent showers, and the immaculate toilets are distributed over three sites. Because the marina is so extensive, we saw a young lady driving a large ‘golf cart’ to transport some VIP boaters around. The marina even has a large three-storey boat rack, and a hardstanding area – confusingly mistranslated as a ‘dry dock’. We were also quite surprised, and not a little impressed, to note that the marina has its own first-aid station, and even a treatment room. Another surprise was the marina’s boat ‘bailing out’ service – handy if you are remotely managing your boat from the UK. Although it is not conveniently situated on the town quay like the smart Club Náutico Ibiza, the walk into town from Marina Ibiza is much shorter than from the competing Marina Botafoch, which is situated to the north. However, bear in mind that there is a ferry across the harbour to Eivissa old town from Marina Botafoch and Marina Ibiza. We discounted the fine Club Náutico since it better reflected the needs of sailing craft owners. We were told that its 30 visitor berths were hard to come by in high summer. Besides, when we visited the Club Náutico clubhouse, we were received with such kindness that we felt we could drop in whenever we liked, even if our boat was tied up elsewhere.


Top tip

Always take your RYA membership card with you to a foreign yacht club. It sets their minds at rest that you are trustworthy fellow boaters, and we have found it opens many doors!

Marina Botafoch is a fine marina, with good facilities, and close to the Talamanca beach, but we were told it would be dearer than Marina Ibiza for our vessel. Its relative remoteness from the town put us off, though the beach was closer. However, as unashamed sybarites, we thought it a less impressive environment. The clincher for shallow-minded throttle benders like us was that classy Marina Ibiza really is quite a few degrees Kelvin cooler in the fashion stakes. Marina Ibiza restaurants are chic, the shops stylish and the ambience tasteful. The aforementioned large and impressive Lio is a club/restaurant/cabaret and is smack on the marina quay. Next to it, on a short promontory, is the very fashionble Calma restaurant – an immaculate place to dine. Towards the marina offices we found our favourite watering hole, Cappuccino Grand Café. Downstairs it is a welcoming, informal, boater-friendly café-style establishment with surprisingly edible prices if you use your loaf. For example, a ham and cheese toastie cost 6.50 euros. However, the ‘Full English’ of eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sausages and beans was a rather intimidating 15.60 euros. Mind you, it did include huevos ecológicos – ecological eggs! Upstairs, on a truly lovely terrace each evening, Cappuccino delivers an upmarket eatery with world-class views of the old town. There was yet another restaurant-cum-lounge, the Blue Marlin, near the marina’s funky ‘pop-up’ stores area, but we did not get a chance to try it.


Retail therapy

There are a number of appealing upmarket shops on the marina. Although we would probably never buy anything here, these elite emporia all looked satisfyingly expensive. It was just on 30 degrees centigrade and one window seemed to be sporting fur coats. Alongside such not-quite-essentials, there is a very useful general store. This ‘Super-Oh’ shop usefully combines newsagent, cash dispenser, off-licence and food store functions. It also saves that brisk 10-minute walk into town. I noticed that one sleek boat sales and charter business on the marina, Mangusta, has some exquisite models of superyachts in its small but perfectly formed windows.


Fuel berth

At the rather nifty fuel berth, sharply styled runabouts (worth a third of a million quid each) gulped down the petrol and diesel all day. I noted that this upmarket fuel was still cheaper than in the UK. In October 2017, Marina Ibiza diesel cost 1.34 euros per litre, while petrol cost 1.42 euros per litre.


Mooring rates

Unfortunately, the Marina Ibiza website does not have an online mooring rate checker. Instead you have to fill in an online form to get an emailed quote back for your boat. Normal Mediterranean low/medium/high seasonal rate bands apply. Be warned: the prices are eye-watering, and those quoted do not include port fees or IVA (VAT). It seemed like a case of ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’. Competition for berths is fierce in high season (temporada alta). Note that temporada baja (low season) is from 1st October to 30th April – this was the time when we visited.


Slipway, storage, travel lift

The slipway on the Zona Técnica next to the Club Náutico would be our trailer boating choice. It is close to the ferry terminals, wide, immediately adjacent to the main road and has adequate room to manoeuvre. It also has its own toilet block. Just note that you cannot simply arrive and sweep in, since the electric gate may not be open. Best advice is to ring ahead and sort out your arrival via the Club Náutico (Tel: (+34) 971 313 363). There is a travel lift at the Club Náutico, and another 10-tonner at Marina Ibiza.


VHF

  • Marina Ibiza maintains a continuous radio watch on Channel 9 and Channel 16.
  • Club Náutico: VHF Channel 9.
  • Ibiza Magna and Port Ibiza Town: Each on Channel 16 and Channel 9.

Communications

Spanish fast cat and displacement ferries from the mainland (Valencia and Barcelona) can bring you, your car and your boat trailer to within a few hundred yards of Marina Ibiza. For crew changes with budget airlines, Ibiza international airport lies just outside the town. Local taxis are reasonably priced, and because of all the clubbers, there is an all-night bus service around the island in high season. Local ferries are also quite cheap – see below.


Local boat support services

Naturally there are a number of dedicated marine services operating from the marina, which will handle storage, maintenance and gardiennage. I confess that I could not find any that appeared to be obviously at our end of the market. I did note the following:

Smooth Sailing Ibiza:

charter, sales, concierge etc., plus maintenance.

www.smoothsailingibiza.com

Michl Marine:

High-end sale, charter, yacht management and concierge services.

www.michlmarine.com

Varadero Ibiza:

Huge range of services, and the biggest travel lift on the island. This company looked the best bet, and just for example quoted 545 euros to antifoul our 8m boat.

www.varaderoibiza.com


Boating by other means

If you have decided to fly out with just your bags and Platinum Card to hire or charter, then Marina Ibiza is replete with such options. As ever, for ‘self-drive’ you will have to check out the minimum competence requirements in terms of your own certification. I have always got by with the normal Powerboat Level II (Coastal) Certificate, plus my trusty International Certificate of Competence (ex-HOCC). These are both RYA qualifications that you can get in the UK before you go. There are many local high-end charter businesses that will also supply a boat with a skipper – not to my taste, and frankly, well beyond my pay grade. One or two businesses did offer boats at our end of the market, i.e. sub-30-footers:

SunMarine:

SunMarine have a Solemar Zeus 8.7 RIB and a Monterey 278 for drive-yourself weekly hire. No prices are published, only available on application.

www.sunmarineibiza.com

Náutica Ereso:

Náutica Ereso have a Zodiac 760 RIB, a Kardis K30 Mojito RIB, a Sessa Key Largo 28 walk-around cuddy and a Monterey 278 Ss. No prices are published, only available on application.

www.nauticaereso.com

Ibiza Boats:

Ibiza Boats have a Sea Ray 285 Sunsport Cruiser and a Sessa Key Largo 28 on their books, both quoted at ‘from 550 euros per day’.

www.ibizaboats.info


Chandlery

Náutica Ereso also own the large chandlery on the main town quay. It would certainly meet all your powerboating needs.


Mega beaches

Fine Talamanca beach is within walking distance of Marina Ibiza. You can amble there past Marina Botafoch to the north, but we reckon that you would have to travel light. On the way you might choose to stop for refreshment at the Flotante, a so-called floating bar/restaurant. It isn’t actually afloat, but it can feel like it after a few glasses of sangria! If you have younger crew, this beach is the closest place to the marina to hire pedalos, boards and jet skis. Over the harbour, to the south (beyond the old town Dalt Vila citadel), lies a truly superb beach. This is the celebrated Playa d’en Bossa, the largest beach on the island. It too has all the paraphernalia of beach life likely to appeal to folk like us, so it is a diverting place. Superclubs like Ushuaia and Hi Ibiza are close by, so the night shift of clubbers and ravers use this beach as their stomping ground.


Coastal boat trips

There are many cheap local boat trips up and down the coast from Ibiza Town. Handily for us, these go from beach to resort to port in each direction, so are ideal for a quick recce. There are also slower displacement ferries, as well as fast cats, to Formentera. Indeed, one German 6m powerboat owner I spoke to told me he followed the Formentera ferry there and back one settled day! I took a few of these local boats to confirm my intended powerboat routes, and also to check whether my charting and passage planning were proving accurate. Local trip boats need a bit more draught than our 25ft sports cruiser, so we were assured that the routes they took would suit us. Highly recommended.


Meteo

The usual drill for Med boating applies: check the marina’s Capitaneria office meteo sheet every morning (usually posted on the door or window). Back that intelligence up with your favourite online sailing weather app, and if possible, speak to local boaters. Generally, mornings are best for passages since the Med can get a bit lumpy in the afternoon. Luckily there are some snug calas and small ports up and down this coast to offer shelter if you need it.


Closing down

As a final note, we were in port in early October when the famous fashionable Ibizan clubs like Pacha and Heart were holding their celebrated season ‘closing’ parties. The late-night streets were full of the beautiful people, some astoundingly minimally attired. Indeed, those two most famous clubs are situated just over the road from Marina Ibiza – handy for revellers stumbling home to their boats just a few paces away. Even if you are not there for the ‘closing’ ritual, you will find the October weather, winds and sea states very agreeable. The days were bright and hot, but the air temperature did not exceed 30 degrees. The water was 23 degrees! There was almost no rain, and the nights were exquisite. Eating out at a beach restaurant in your shirt sleeves is a Med pleasure that never palls – especially in the autumn. Flights and hotel accommodation were cheaper at this end of the season too. So if you weigh it all up, Ibiza at this time of year has a lot to offer powerboaters. You absorb the balmy October weather, the whispering palms, the blue water and the immaculate craft, and you are in powerboat heaven.


Cruising distances

Cala Llonga:                                     4nm              

Santa Eulària:                                   6nm

Sant Antoni de Portmany:            26nm

Formentera:                                     11nm

Mallorca:                                          70nm

Dénia:                                                93nm

All distances are approximate.


Charts

We used our trusty and cheap Navionics Europe iPhone app.

Also on Android.

About £35.


The Pine Islands

Ibiza and Formentera are the largest in the Illes Pitiuses group (Pine Islands in Catalan), forming part of the western Balearic archipelago.


Ibiza quick facts

  • Ibiza is the third-largest Balearic Island.
  • The port of Ibiza was founded by Phoenician traders in 645 BC.
  • Ibiza backed Hannibal and the Carthaginians in the Punic Wars with Rome.
  • Rome treated Ibiza with mercy and it became a sleepy Roman province.
  • Later, and briefly, the Vandals and the Byzantine Empire ruled Ibiza.
  • The Moors conquered the island in 990.
  • The Aragonese King James I conquered Ibiza and expelled the Moors, beginning the process that made Ibiza part of Spain.
  • Modern Ibizan culture is Catalonian, not Spanish.
  • Many modern Catalans wish to secede from Spain.
  • The correct Catalonian name for Ibiza Town is Eivissa.
  • The island of Ibiza is six times smaller than Mallorca, and 10 times larger than Manhattan.
  • Its benign climate is legendary – in the upper 20 degrees centigrade in the summer. Winters are mild.
  • On average it snows but once every 10 years in Ibiza.

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