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Puerto Lucia, La Libertad (Salinas Bay) - Cruisers' Impressions

By Sue Richards last modified Feb 18, 2019 11:52 AM

Published: 2019-02-11 00:40:00
Countries: Ecuador

Annie Naismith says:
Feb 11, 2019 02:22 PM

From S/V Tappan Zee, Tom and Annie: We spent 6 months at Puerto Lucia Yacht Club from May to October 2018. Over all it was a good experience. There were plusses and minuses. On the negative side, we did not feel comfortable leaving our boat in the water as we traveled inland since the surge was bad enough to break dock lines and we saw more than 1 mooring line part on the med moorings. Also, Puerto Lucia is built on a natural oilfield and crude oil bubbles up in the marina, which smells and coats anything in the water. After two weeks, we chose to haul the boat to the yard and lived on the boat at the far end on the hard, away from the working side of the yard. 
Stewart Yacht Services, which works in the yard, is a great asset both for advice and boat projects. We had our non-skid replaced and some expert carpentry done at very reasonable cost. However, import duty in Ecuador is 100% on many items so obtaining supplies can be a challenge. The yard staff was helpful and friendly as were the employees of the Yacht Club Complex. The Club is surprisingly large with several high rise condos and separate exercise building and multiple, but shalloe, swimming pools and we felt perfectly safe day and night on site. Safety off site was good during the day and we took cabs at night. We were pickpocketed on a bus once. 
A note on visas because there is little written instruction available. Our experience was when we checked in our visa stamp (called a Tripulante Maritimo) was identified by a ship’s image and was linked to the vessel and was valid as long as the vessel was legal (1 year). When we flew to Peru and back to Ecuador our ship-based visa was canceled at the border and we ere given a 90 day tourist visa (a T-3 visa) with an airplane image on the stamp. We did not understand the cancellation until we were informed by a lawyer’s office, but if we had overstayed the 90 day limit there is a hefty fine. One can apply for a tourist visa extension but it has to be done prior to expiration. 
On a related topic, the employees at the marina yard office managing our stay were friendly, but there were language issues and a lack of documented procedures that allowed for a certain flexibility in prices and requirements between boats for visas, official visit costs, etc. When we asked questions in both English and Spanish we were told “There is no problem”. For example, only upon presenting an email obtained previously with quoted yard costs were we able to avoid a liveaboard fee not included in our quote. The quote was honored. We were happywe had it in writing. 
The weather in May when we arrived was sunny but by mid-June until we left in October it was rare to see the sun as the cold Humboldt Current cooled the Pacific and the shore. Temperatures were around 20 celcius and humidity was 85%. However, there was no rain, serious wind, or storms. For the first time we had mold issues on board with the high humidity. Residents told us in October that the weather would soon change and tourist season would arrive. 
Access to shopping is great with a mall within a 10-minute walk and easy and affordable buses and cabs. La Libertad has a wonderful market with fish, vegetables, and meats. There are frequent buses to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s 2nd largest city and main commercial port where we had our anchor regalvanized, Viking liferaft repacked, and dive tank pressure certified. Guayaquil is also where the main airport is. The mountain city of Cuenca is charming with a thriving community including expats.

January 2019: S/V Rum Doxy

Check in at Puerto Lucia is still handled by marina staff for a fee of $150. They will bring Immigration and Customs to the boat and handle Port Captain formalities themselves. In addition to passports and zarpe from last port, officials will want to see a Health Certificate issued withing the last 6 months. If you do not have a Health Certificate the boat will need to be fumigated at a cost of $150. The pest control company will come to the boat, once it is tied up in the marina, and fog the entire boat, including all lockers.

The customs officer in Salinas is currently requiring a "matriculacion" certifying that the captain of the vessel has completed some sort of training course in sailing competency upon check in. This can be in the form of a diploma or certificate from a sailing academy or any other training institution. If you do not have something like this, as very few cruisers do, it would be best to use your imagination, creativity and perhaps a color printer to provide customs with some sort of document as there is a $100 fine for not having one, payable in cash, no receipt. I do not know if this is a requirement at other ports of entry or simply the work of a single ambitious and enterprising agent in Salinas.

I am told that most Ecuadorian sailors do have some sort of sailing certificate, which may be the inspiration for this requirement. Customs has been informed by locals and visitors alike that no other country has this requirement for foreign sailors and that very few foreign sailors possess such a certificate, but, as of December 2018, the requirement is in effect.

Berths at PLYC consist of med mooring to a floating dock with the bow fixed to a buoy. One should be prepared for considerable surge, particularly in the northern hemisphere winter months as there is not much protection from north swells.

Fees for one month for our 46' cat were $1370. A liveaboard fee of $8/day/person is assessed and water and power are metered and billed separately. Security is very good and hot showers, water and power are available, but you will need a long hose and power cord as the water and power source is on the muelle, not on the dock.

There is a large supermarket and mall within walking distance for provisioning.

Mike Reed
S/V Rum Doxy



April 2015: SY Mary Ann

Having spent about 3 months in Bahia de Caraquez (see separate report), we had to go to Salinas to haul out, to do some repair on our bow thruster (which was banging badly at sea), get a new anti-fouling, and do various minor jobs. We stayed 10 days in April 2015.

Following the great experience in Bahia, we expected Salinas to be along the same lines of friendliness, and quality of service. What a shock!!!

Upon arrival, we called on VHF 19A, as required, received an acknowledgement (“Mary Ann, adelante”), and requested permission to come in. No answer. Several unsuccessful tries later, we decided to make our way towards the marina entrance. Before being allowed into the marina (we had made a reservation), we were forced to anchor in a very narrow spot just outside the marina, in order to first come into the office. There, about 15 different papers needed to be signed, credit card produced, and then we were told to proceed to the “med-moor” marina. We obliged, only to find out that the massive swell inside made tying up impossible, and after a very painful attempt with lots of screaming and lines around the keel, we decided to abort and go anchor outside.

Two days later (no VHF response from the marina), we proceeded to enter again (with the kind assistance of Marisol, the co-owner of Steward and Yates – more about them later), to again be asked to anchor in that same narrow spot to sign some more papers and pay for the travel lift (why not the first time???).

The haul out dock is extremely narrow, the sling very greasy, and it is almost impossible to haul out on a large yacht (Mary Ann is 54’) without banging on the sides. The rig is also very short, which means one needs to take off the fore or backstays.

Once on the hard, the hardship with the marina doesn’t end: Dirty toilets, unfriendly office staff (the marineros are friendly), 3 day wifi tickets (even if you book for a month, you only get 3 days, and need to walk to the main office to renew), and security arrangements which make Fort Knox look like a walk in the park. No visitor allowed unless the office has been alerted with name, ID, car number (and even then it’s 
almost impossible to get a car in), etc… We had a company in Guayquil pick up our liferaft that needed servicing, and the process was like a Kafka novel. Total paranoia going way beyond understandable security requirements.

The marina is part of a real estate come hotel development, very exclusive for Ecuadorian standards, and indeed the facilities as they relate to the hotel are nice: swimming pools, sauna, gym, etc. (available to cruisers). There is a restaurant, where you first have to provide your credit card before you can sit down, and where we had to wait for 45 minutes for 2 beers, sign some more papers, and where the food is seriously ordinary, but at 5 star prices. We only went there once.

Now to cost.
Hauling out + 6 days on the hard: 1485 USD.
Three days in the marina: 420$, plus water and electricity, plus a charge of 20$ to connect us to the electric box.
Additional day at 170$
Free Wifi that works on and off.

All this for a marina that is extremely poorly sheltered, with some constant swell, and at times is not tenable.

Agency fees were about double what we paid in Bahia de Caraquez, although we were on a “domestic” zarpe (350$ after a lot of bargaining).

One very sad part of this, is the fact that there is an excellent company doing boat work on site. Steward & Yates, co-owned by Marisol Stewart and Jeremy Whalen, is capable of doing pretty much everything on a boat. They have a very good mechanic, electrician, they design and machine parts, will handle hydraulics, do superb paint work and will source parts in Guayaquil or elsewhere in the country. The jobs done on Mary Ann were done on time (with a very tight schedule), with very high quality work and a friendly attitude. Cost, like in Bahia de Caraquez, is relatively low, with a specialist fee of 20$/hour, and general workers at 60$/day (and they really work hard).

I would recommend Stewart and Yates any time, but sadly it means going through the Puerto Lucia nonsense and indecent pricing…

SY Mary Ann


July 2014: SV Baringo

We would like  to recommend the above yacht club as we have just left our sailing boat there for 7 months.

We used Stewart Yates and Servicios to do work on the boat and Jeremy and Marisol who run the company now were very pleasant and helpful. The work was done to a high standard and finished on time. No job, however small, was too much trouble. The decks were sanded, the topsides polished, the bimini renewed and the spray hood repaired, woodwork varnished and our dinghy was repaired with a new transom. The cost
was reasonable and we did not feel cheated .

We can recommend this as a safe place to leave a boat for a prolonged period and a good yard to get any work done.

Julia Billingham and John Sanderson
S/Y Baringo

June 2014: SV Legacy

Legacy (40') was in Puerto Lucia in May 2014. $350 a week at a floating dock . Big surge in the marina $5.02 gal of diesel, well guarded marina with sporadic Wifi ( better at the restaurant) if needed for an extended stay , haul out the boat$400 +/- 1000 a month . Agent will charge between $200 and $700 depending how you cleared the previous country. We came from the Galapagos with a zarpe to Callao, Peru, We paid $200 .The marina will not let you in if they don't get the OK from the agent (Julia Yturralde)as you are anchored in front of the marina while you do the process.

February 2013: Further update from Anthony Swanston

It really does rain here in January and February!

There is no longer a cruisers' lounge and book exchange at the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club. There is a free internet terminal and connections for 2 laptops adjacent.

Anchoring for any length of time at the entrance to the marina will incur the same charge as berthing inside.

February 2014: Michael Bland, SY Salamander of Hamble (UK)

We have had some experiences that differ somewhat from the articles already posted. Our route has been Bahia de Caraquez, Pt Lucia, San Cristobel, Santa Cruz, Isabella, Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa.

Agent: Mr. Roque Proano is no longer the agent at Puerto Lucia, the agent is now Julia Yturralde:

Boat Yard: We had a fair amount of work done by Stewart Yacht Services and were very happy with the quality, cost and timing. The work we had done included: Bottom stripped and repainted. GRP repair, stainless steel work for solar panels and anchor roller, anchor chain galvanised, fabricate awning to cover coach roof,  fabricate dingy cover. These were all completed in one month. All work was done to a high standard and to quoted cost and time. The boatyard manager Jeremy Whalen was on hand and kept us up to date with progress. We would recommend them to anyone needing boat work done in the area.

The marina staff were friendly and efficient and we found the wifi to be good most of the time. The marina and agent fees are expensive though.

Anthony Swanston of SY Wild Fox
Visited Puerto Lucia early January 2013

Here is an update on Puerto Lucia Yacht Club.  The big change is the lack of visitor space at Salinas Yacht Club and the disappearance of clearing facilities there.

It rained here last night for 20 full minutes.  The first rain in two years.


As you approach this area call the Port Captain on Ch 16.  There is very little likelihood that you will get a response but it is protocol to call.

The peninsula here runs NW to SE and is built up all along its length.  The SE corner is called la Libertad and is a fishing village with many fishing boats anchored off.  Do not be tempted to anchor here! The village had an abundance of small shops and an excellent fruit and veg market selling produce which has not been refrigerated.

The NW end is called Salinas and, essentially, is a resort town and home to the exclusive Salinas Yacht Club. Bursting at its seams with 2,500 members visitors are not welcome and you may not use either their marina or their dinghy dock.  In theory you could anchor outside the marina but the only place to land and leave your dinghy is on the very public beach.

In the middle is Puerto Lucia, a private development of condos, gym, swimming pool, hotel, restaurant and marina – it welcomes visitors but it is as well to book in advance.  Noonsite’s waypoints are good – look out for the condo block with the pyramid on the roof and you cannot go wrong.  Anchor at the entrance to the marina and call them on 19 Alpha.  If you do not have Alpha channels you will need to call them on your  mobile ‘phone - 278 3180.  One of the Marinieras will come to fetch you in a dory. Do not be tempted to go alongside the fuel dock as it is frequently used by fishing boats to load supplies, fuel and bulk ice.

Head Mariniera is Andreas speaks enough English to get by.  He is more than helpful.  The office staff speak no English.  Galo the manager does but is not always there.  If you are clearing in you will need an agent.  At the time of writing the only one is Roque Proano.  The office will arrange for him to come to see you.  His English is very poor.  Get him to write down every charge and itemize what it is for.  Do not believe that he can collect a $310 visitor’s tax for the government.  Get an official Factura (receipt) for everything.  His fee will probably be $300. The initial permissions will be three months each for you and your boat.  After that it becomes more complicated.

My 38 foot boat cost $1,000 on the south side ($2,100 if I had been on the north side) for a month and an additional $205 for living aboard.  Hard standing was $780 for a month, the haul out $500 and lifting two masts $200.

In the marina you moor Med style.  The pontoons on the north side all have short fingers.  On  the south pontoon there are three fingers if you are lucky enough to get one.  The pontoons are dated but perfectly serviceable. Water and power comes from the shore over the pontoons and ever helpful Andreas (a few dollars helps here) will get you hose and power extensions and 220 volt if that is what you need.  Wifi was reliable for all of my stay but perhaps not strong enough for good Skype calls.

There is surge in this marina (less on the cheaper south side) and so most boats put out long shore lines (to reduce snatch) which lie on the pontoon one minute and with the surge spring up to chest height the next.  This is fine if you are a commando but is quite dangerous if you are a cruiser returning from the pub late at night.

The showers adjacent to the south pontoon are cramped, sometimes not serviced for days on end and sometimes even locked.  Walk around the building keeping it on your starboard hand and use the showers and loos for the swimming pool.  For a third alternative walk over the footbridge to the gym (closed Monday and Tuesday) and use the facilities there. As a marina berth holder you may use all of the “club” facilities except the tennis courts. In the “club” restaurant you cannot use cash – a credit card is used for everything.

Anchoring off instead of coming into the marina presents the same dinghy problems as in Salinas but the small beach immediately to the west of the marina may be an option.  Look out for rocks and reefs.

A ten minute walk gets you to el Paseo shopping centre.  Across the road is an excellent and cheap  lavanderia.

There is next to no social life here and little to do in the general area.  But it is a good place to leave a boat to travel especially to Peru.  For $3.30 you can get the bus 130 km to Guyaquil and fly from there. Another reason to visit is to get work done by Stewart’s Yacht Services (please see separate report).  Interestingly, if you are heading to the Galapagos from Panama coming here first instead of going on the rhum line only adds 130 NM to the passage.

Anthony Swanston
SY Wild Fox


Pete Burch of SY Samba
Visit dates 29 November 2011 - 5 January 2012

Our main reason choosing Puerto Lucia as our stop in Ecuador was to have Samba's antifouling redone. We wanted to travel inland, and having investigated the haulout options in Panama City (Balboa Yacht Club had 2 month waiting list, Flamenco Marina was ludicrously expensive) decided that despite various rather negative reports on Noonsite and from other cruisers, we would go to La Libertad and entrust Samba to Stewart Yacht Services - there is no option to haul in Bahia de Caraquez.

On arrival we were permitted to come to the dock before the Agent, Roque Proaño had come aboard. From other marina users, we understand that this is exceptional, and that some vessels have been made to wait at anchor for 24 hours or more. Señor Proaño's fees were high (for our 43' sailing vessel: USD 379 for clearance into Ecuador and ongoing zarpe to San Cristobal, Galapagos) but they were as quoted. Likewise, the port fees are high, but they were as quoted to us by the marina manager prior to arrival - there were no unforeseen extras or price hikes.

Here are a few comments about our experiences in Puerto Lucia that might be of use to other cruisers considering visiting this port

The good:

We were very happy with the work that Stewart Yacht Services did for us (minor underwater repairs, antifouling, polishing, floorboard varnishing.) We were confident enough to leave the work to them and travel inland - Marisol Stewart kept us posted with photographs of progress. The work was completed to a high standard, on time, and to the agreed budget (basic labour costs are USD 60 per day).

Cruisers would be wise to bring as many materials with them as possible - whilst Stewarts holds stock of essential items, importing goods into is apparently expensive (yacht-in-transit status is not recognised by Ecuador, duty can be between 80% and 130% and what rules there are applied inconsistently...), complicated, time consuming and exceedingly stressful.

Note that George Stewart has now left the company that bears his name, and for us his personal reputation was one of the reasons we opted to have work done at Puerto Lucia. Note also that Stewart Yacht Services do not accept payment by credit card.

The mariñeros - the dock workers - are excellent: helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. We were advised to haul out at high tide (the insides of the hoist dock are rough concrete pillars) as the surge (see below) makes it hard to hold the vessel centrally in the dock whilst the slings are tightened. Stewart Yacht Services provided 4 line handlers / fender operators to help us with this operation - along with the mariñeros ashore they were essential for this rather nerve-wracking manoeuvre. There are several hoist operators at Puerto Lucia - we were advised to ask for Andreas, he speaks pretty good English and handles the machine with effortless competence and confidence. Launching is more straightforward - two mariñeros ashore were sufficient to stabilise the stern whilst the bow was still retained by the slings.

Material security in Puerto Lucia is very good. We were not in the least worried about theft whilst away from the boat.

The average:

The pontoons, although secure, are showing signs of age.

There is a significant surge in the port that puts a heavy strain on lines, cleats and moorings (the majority of the berths are for Mediterranean style mooring - given the surge the short finger pontoons are not an attractive option). One cruiser reported that a forward mooring buoys had failed on them - fortunately they were attached to several. I would not be happy to leave a boat unattended afloat for any length of time.

When we arrived there was significant hydrocarbon pollution in the port - diesel from the bunkering operation that supplies the fishing boats, and patches of crude, presumably from the nearby oil terminal.

Previous cruisers have commented on the safety and quality of the electrical installations - we did not connect up, but after visual inspection would consider those on the south pontoon to be adequate, and those on the north pontoon to be lethal...Electricity and water are both metered and additional to the berthing fee.

The sea birds of the Santa Elena peninsular enjoy relieving themselves on unattended boats - when we returned after 4 weeks we found Samba covered in an appreciable quantity of guano. Additionally, the sight of a large frigate bird perched on ones masthead wind instruments is not reassuring - in retrospect we should have removed these prior to hauling out.

The bad:

Puerto Lucia charges an additional fee for each day you spend aboard either ashore on in the water. For us (2 adults, 2 children) this was USD5.50, and we understood that the fee was to cover use of the washrooms and wifi. We were thus very disappointed that the wifi didn't work for much of the time we were there and the washrooms remained uncleaned for days on end (unpleasant in a country where used loo paper is disposed of in bins). Repeated requests from us to rectify these problems were met with apathy bordering on rudeness from the staff in both port and hotel offices - eventually the washrooms were cleaned but the wifi was never fixed. Note also that even when the wifi works, Puerto Lucia blocks all SMTP / POP mail connections - the firewall also appears to restrict some access to popular blogging sites.

You cannot pay with cash for any of the services at the hotel - for us this meant the laundry and restaurant. It also doesn't appear to be possible to set up a tab - each transaction, however small, is debited individually to your card. When attending the restaurant in the hotel, you are obliged to provide your credit card BEFORE eating - in a town where the level of security and trust is such that business with small shops tends to be conducted through a burglar-proof metal grille, I was somewhat concerned about the risk of the card being cloned.

The towns of La Libertad, and that which we saw of Salinas, are dusty, dirty, litter-strewn building sites. There is nothing to recommend them on either aesthetic or environmental grounds.

There is, however, a frequent and direct bus service to Guyaquil, and thence to the rest of the country which is magnificent.

Pete Burch
SY Samba

Related content
Puerto Lucia (La Libertad)
Annie Naismith
Annie Naismith says:
Feb 11, 2019 02:35 PM

A little addition to Rum Doxy’s info from our 2018 experience on S/V Tappan Zee: The health authority specifically asked for our yellow card showing yellow fever innoculations. Also, when the marina yard office asked for captain’s experience certification, I was unprepared for the question. However, the boat’s State Registration certificate ( which I had on hand) is issued by the Washington State Department of Licensing and it had my name on it, so that was accepted for the purpose. Annie