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Gibraltar: Turned Away

By Sue Richards last modified Mar 04, 2015 12:35 PM

Published: 2012-01-16 14:43:12
Countries: Gibraltar , Spain

Posted November 2011

Just a word of warning for those wishing to visit Gibraltar by yacht.

We had a friend who tried to take his catamaran (a Lagoon 570 - UK registered) into Gibraltar in a force 9 for shelter. The marinas refused him and the port authorities threw him out and told him to go to Spain (La Linea).

As we intended taking our cat (a Wauquiez Kronos 45 - UK registered) north from the Canaries to the Med this October, I thought it wise to book ahead. So I contacted all three marinas, only Ocean Village replied and asked us to use the online booking form. Nothing happened after the booking was made. So I again contacted the marina manager to find out about the booking. Nothing happened. The day before we left to go to the boat I tried to phone, no answer. In desperation I re-e-mailed the manager and asked him to text me if there was a problem with the booking, nothing.

After a six and a half day passage we arrived at Ocean Village Marina on 13/10/11 and tied to the adjacent fuel berth (CEPSA quay) at 2100, while two of our crew dinghied over to the office to find our berth. The night staff had rung the Port Authorities to inform them of our arrival. Then a port boat with staff in work clothes (no uniforms) landed up and told us to leave. We tried to explain that we were waiting for our berth to be allocated, but they told us to leave the port and go to Spain. Then the crew returned to tell us the marina knew nothing of us and no we couldn't have a berth. So we left for Spain.

We had a very pleasant calm night in the anchorage at La Linea and proceeded to the marina for a short stay the next morning. The Marina and it's staff at La Linea could not have been better, the people of Gibraltar could not have been worse.

I am sure Ocean Village are generally an able marina, but their incompetence to communicate was outstanding, by VHF or e-mail. We were also very suspicious at the speed the Port Authority appeared. What was even more annoying was that I had an e-mail waiting when I got home to confirm my reservation (at the marina), dated after the requested date.

The worst thing about it all was the unhelpful and forceful attitude of the port, especially as yacht arrival reporting is now the responsibility of the marinas and has been for some years.

Nick Thwaites

Karl Bissett, Manager of Ocean Village Marina, responded to Mr Thwaites email with the following comments:

This gentleman starts off by saying that after the booking was made he phoned and emailed the marina manager several times with no reply. Our office is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so I find it very difficult to believe that he had no reply when he called.

I personally emailed him in reply with confirmation of his booking and I personally pencilled it in our bookings book.

He also mentions calling on VHF channel 16, with no reply, this is the Port's listening channel and is always answered, he does not specify which channel he called Ocean Village on (we are on channel 71).

The episode he describes (we think at the fuel berth) with the Port boat has absolutely nothing to do with the Marina. Because of Health & Safety Regulations, no yacht is allowed to berth at the fuel berth for longer than is necessary and it might well be true that the Port Authorities has asked them to leave the fuel berth. We cannot comment on what may or may not have happened as we were not involved at all. It would seem that we are blamed for the action of others.

We find it very difficult to believe that the marina staff at the marina office, who are on duty until 9.30 pm, would have turned them away without consulting the bookings for that day, given that this is our core business and we have been operating for years.

We would just like to say that we welcome all visiting yachts with "open arms" and always have done. We would prefer visiting yachts to book in advance either by email or phone, this makes it easier for us to plan ahead but we are well known for fitting yachts in even when they turn up with no booking. Most of our staff have worked in marinas for many years and know that yachtsmen and women arrive very tired and in need of services offered and we take pride in the services we offer.

Yours sincerely
Marina Manager

Posted January 2012

Ref: Gibraltar "Turned Away"

I note the response of Karl Bisset in defence of the treatment received by a visiting yacht in this article.

We did visit that same marina in 2008 following a serious incident at sea which warranted official note by the marina and follow up response. I did report to the Marina and Police and wrote to Karl Bisset to follow up some weeks later expecting a reply which had important insurance implications. The marina neither bothered to respond to that matter nor acknowledge it.

Gibraltar suffers from a lack of regulatory enforcement. The Marina has delegated functions of an authority. I do feel it is rather indifferent to what kind of treatment is metted out to vistors.

Redmond Barry

Emanon says:
Mar 04, 2015 12:02 AM

It's odd how often I read in the comments on places I know, the very opposite of the thoughts I made up for myself. Everyone is entitled to having their own opinion, of course, but in this case I thought I'd give it a moment to right a few wrongs - or at least I feel they are - in the comments above. Marina Bay (Called Ocean Village in all articles) is a place I used to live in my boat for 3-4 years. The fact that the first critic claim there's 3 marinas in Gibraltar is because she don't even know that Ocean Village is situated in Marina Bay and the old(M.B) and the new part(Ocean Village) are two sides of the same pier with the same office. When you refer to a place you only know from the internet that's an honest mistake. There's only two marinas in Gibraltar - it's the Marina Bay(incl.Ocean Village) and the one in Queensway Quay. Yes there's a third in that general area - only that would be in Spain - The breakwater entrance to Marina Alcaidesa(La Linea) is another 800m from the entry to Marina Bay/Ocean Village, on the other side of the runway. In the article above they intentionally forget to mention that, and make it sound(for the unaware) like it's a long journey, to another country and all of that..
An experienced crew would have no problem getting the information to continue these 3 minutes on the VHF instead of going straight in to a full marina(this place is popular, and can be crowded in the high seasons) and demand a spot - in an emergency or not - for a 57 foot catamaran (!) I wonder what kind of magic or empty marinas these guys are used to, or to be honest they don't sound like they have been to many at all - as they don't even manage to find the channel to a port on a chart/website and later not to notice from the CEPSA fuelstation(wich is next to the port authorities - they'll be looking in through the window in the harbour masters office, probably someone called him up in case he didn't notice a 45ft catamaran!) the BIG sign saying welcome to Marina Bay and the even bigger letters VHF 71. I've prsonally called them up on this channel - like all yachts must do in EVERY marina, to enter - 100 times and never got a noreply. You can always fail to do this, and enter anyway, but it would be considered rude or unprofessional by the people that receive you. Of course I don't fool around uneccesary on channel 16, I've got the radio licence course anyone operating a VHF is obligated to have completed. In this case the article writer make it sound like a real emergency, or a F9 (wich judging from the rest of dubious exagurations and wrongful accusations, I for one find hard to believe), but unless they have a mayday or at least a pan they don't need to use channel 16 in this case. If they wanted to speak to the marina, they use the marinas dedicated channel. Failing to do so and trying to call up a berth on the fly(a marina) on channel 16 again and again, will only make real navigators and the harbour master that probably listened to their futile attemps, shake their heads and make up an opinion about the people on board, that can not understand why nobody answered. I promise you if you have a real emergency, even if you don't know how to use a VHF, in this area you don't have to call twice on 16 to get an answer and the assistance you need. But when you call a marina.. how is anyone to know you are in trouble.
It's a little bit of the same thing with the email - who on earth keeps mailing to an adress they got no reply - then you check if you got the right adress. I've mailed this office and in particular the person named above twice - Mr. Karl Bisset - so many times through the years, both professionally and after a while as a friend, cause he really was that friendly and helpful - and also a couple of other mail-adresses that will end up in the same office - and I never in 4 years, starting before I even got there - experienced to not get a quick reply. I fail to see what kind of incident that would be noted to a marina, and not just the police, and I think the last guy commenting here also presents a wrongful image both of the marinas authority and of K.Bisset as a guy that ignore emails or refuse to help a stranger if asked in a proper manner.
As a long time resident here I must say I have a quite opposite impression.
Back to the marina bookings that is automated on any website, I never really trusted, and they usually have inflated prices anyway compared to communicating on the phone with a real person able to make decicions(in office hours, of course, although in Marina Bay there's ALWAYS someone in that office where the phone is - I know this for a fact) or directly with the correct email.
All in all the reason I left was not the marina itself, wich is nice and normally very well sheltered, or the staff that were very nice, intelligent and friendly people. It was the influx of drunk, stupid (mostly english) "sailors" that took up residence in the pubs in the morning, and commenced to rave around and hustle and whine about what's wrong with everybody else, not being capable of seeing their own behavior or errors, that actually got so bad I started looking for a better environment.
It's up to you that read this to make out who falls in what category.
Of course I am biased too, like any human being and commenter before me I make up my opinion from my own experience, but in contrast to them, I won't have to add anything untrue or false to make my point.
By the way the "great anchorage" suggested and recommended above (outside Alcaidesa Marina, La Linea) is full with BIG signs , again, for those who notice, that says it is forbidden, and anyone that chose to ignore it WILL be asked to leave by guardia civil..
No matter what anyone say(including myself) I recommend trying out places and marinas for yourself, with an open mind and positive and nautical attitude, instead of basing your whole belief on others impressions, before you get there.
Good sober sailing to everybody.
Lee Kim