Ecuador’s Puerto Lucia Provides A Perfect Base En Route to the South Seas
Like many other sailors planning to start a South Pacific voyage at the most favourable time I had been looking for a safe place to leave my boat in between seasons that would not be too far from Panama. Most marinas in Central America didn’t appeal to me as the weather can be hot and humid. Finally I heard of a new marina in Ecuador (Puerto Lucia Yacht Club) at a place called La Libertad, close to Salinas. It seemed to be the perfect place as the weather is reasonably dry, with the added advantage of being located in the South Pacific itself! After an uneventful transit of the Panama Canal, good northerly winds gave me a fast passage to Ecuador, which was better than expected as I managed to cover the 735 mile in only four days – all on my own. In the last minute, my crew didn’t show up in Panama, so I decided to have a go at single-handing, even if this stretch may not have been my first choice. The direct route crosses Colombian waters, so I made a detour and stayed at least 60 miles offshore. At this distance most shipping was coming or going to Panama, and it was only on the last night, when already in Ecuadorian waters, that I encountered several fishing boats, and the local menace: lots of long fishing lines poorly marked by buoys which could be hardly seen or avoided at night. In fact, I got caught up three times – twice I managed to get the line off, but once had to cut it as it was entangled in the rudder.
Puerto Lucia is easily identified by three 8 storey apartment blocks, the one in the middle having a distinctive white roof in the shape of a pyramid. The marina entrance is at 2°13.01 S, 80°55.28 W. A sharp turn to the right after having cleared the breakwater takes you to a fuel dock which is also the reception dock. Next to it is the travelift pen. The marina is not large and has floating pontoons with water and electricity on its northern side, and moorings on its southern side. There is also a hard standing area for about 40 boats. A flat fee, regardless of length, is charged for the travelift (50 tons). The price for the up and down operation is $168 (this includes a 12% sales tax). The marina is part of a private club, so marina users only have access to a bar and restaurant (La Gaviota), the rest, such as the swimming pool, is off limits, but I understand that arrangements can be made to use it. There is internet access at the club reception. There are showers and toilets, but for the time being no laundry. Laundry can be handed in at the club reception and costs $1.21 per pound, wash and fold. A new price structure is being introduced, and long-stayers are offered a discount if fees are paid in advance. Details can be obtained from the marina website http://www.puertolucia.com.ec/ or by sending an email to the marina email@example.com
La Libertad is a small town with all amenities. A new supermarket El Paseo is only 5 minutes from the marina gates, and it is extremely well stocked. As the US dollar is now Ecuador’s official currency, it is a great advantage being able to use dollars but at third world prices. Supermarket prices of all basics foods are very reasonable (1 dollar for a dozen eggs, $1.50 for a pound of steak, 38 cents for a can of local Club beer). El Paseo also has a well stocked hardware section with a wide range of imported tools. Better quality meat is available from the Supermaxi supermarket on the road into neighbouring Salinas. There is a very good fresh produce market in La Libertad, with good quality local produce, both fruit and vegetables. Gas tanks can be filled locally and this is best done via the marina office (contact Nelson). Diesel in the marina costs about $1.25 per US gallon.
There are several ATM outlets in town (and one at El Paseo itself) and the best is at Banco de Guayaquil, in Calle Principal, as it dispenses up to $500 per day.
Formalities are simple: there is an Immigration office in La Libertad, on the corner of Calle Principal. Visas are free and are granted on the spot. There is a departure fee of $15. All other formalities are completed at Capitania Maritima on El Malecon (waterfront) in neighbouring Salinas, a thriving sea resort. There are various fees to pay, usually on departure, such as $10.30 for a radio fee, and 73 cents per ton for a lights and buoys fees (this covers the whole year). For my 43 ft boat I paid altogether about $25. When clearing out one should NOT mention Galapagos as an intermediate destination, but the Marquesas. Legally, only emergency stops are allowed in Galapagos, so one cannot "foresee" such an emergency, but as everyone knows stopping in Galapagos is no longer a problem.
Taxis are plentiful and cost very little ($1.50 for a ride into La Libertad, $6 for a round trip to the Capitania in Salinas). The marina reception will call a taxi on request.
Security in the marina is excellent as there are guards on 24 hour duty, and there is strict control at the main gates that lead into the club and marina.
Guayaquil, which is Ecuador’s largest city, is 150 km away – which takes about 2 hours by car. The marina can arrange for crew to be met at the international airport. A local airline Icarus operates small prop planes from Salinas to Guayaquil at $99 return fare. They also fly to the capital Quito. This is indeed a good place to leave the boat while visiting the interior, not just Ecuador’s Sierra (mountains) or Amazonia, but also neighbouring Peru, such as the Inca remains at Machu Picchu, or even the Galapagos for those who are not planning to sail that way. Guayaquil also has frequent flights to the US (Miami, Los Angles) and to Europe (Madrid, Amsterdam), as well as most Latin American capitals.
A Canadian sailor, George Stewart (email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) has swallowed the anchor, married a local girl, and now operates a thriving business offering a range of services: engine repair and maintenance, varnishing and painting (including Awlgrip and osmosis treatment), electrical repair, carpentry. He has built up a good team of skilled workers and his prices are very reasonable ($25 per day for interior varnishing, or anti-fouling). He can also deal with some electronics repair and will get parts from either Guayaquil (if available) or within a week from Miami.
In conclusion, Puerto Lucia Yacht Club will make a perfect base for anyone intending to continue into the South Pacific as it is both a convenient port for visiting the surrounding area, or for leaving the boat in a safe place for a longer period. The marina had attracted some criticism in the past, mainly due to inherent teething problems only to be expected in a brand new place. However, by the time I left for the Galapagos in March 2003 all the serious complaints have been addressed and the management assured me that they are looking forward to welcoming cruising sailors to Puerto Lucia Yacht Club.
Jimmy Cornell, Aventura 3, March 2003