Tunisia, Cap Monastir: A Popular Live-Aboard Destination

Long-standing Noonsite contributor Wade Alarie and his wife Diane stayed at Cap Monastir Marina in Tunisia during the winter of 2023-2024 and despite the wind and the dust, found it to be a popular live-aboard destination for Mediterranean cruisers.

Published 3 weeks ago

Cap Monastir Marina – Winter Visit

My wife Diane and I stayed at Cap Monastir Marina, Tunisia from mid June 2023 to early May 2024. I found that there is not much written about Tunisia and in particular Cap Monastir Marina – and the purpose of this report is to address that.

Before arriving, we sought out and received tips on what is available and what is not – from individual cruisers. Since then, I started up a Facebook Group called Cap Monastir Marina Cruisers, that is quickly becoming a valuable resource.

Monastir overview. (c) Wade Alarie.

Tunisia Entry Formalities

Most cruisers can stay for 90 days, while American and Canadian citizens get 120 days. For an overstay of a few months, there is a small fine and that should be discussed when in the country (see further notes on this further down). It is easy to reset the visa by travelling outside, even for a day. Some fly out, while others may take their boat out to Malta and back.

On entry, initially your boat can stay in Tunisia for a maximum of six months, unless you decommission or put your boat into storage  This is an easy process (with the boat on the hard or in the water) and must be declared to Customs. With this in place, a boat can stay for up to 24 months (see notes below about this).

On entry to Cap Monastir Marina, we tried to get diesel at the fuel dock but we were not permitted. Starting in June 2023, all new arrivals have to clear in first, before getting fuel. In addition, it is not possible to get fuel “on the way out”, after clearing out – which would be convenient. This can be a bit of a nuisance to arrange when leaving the country, as one must leave the dock to fill up at the fuel dock – and then return to a berth for check-out (same day, or another day).

Tunisia – Immigration/Yacht Overstay?

The following information was found, copied and pasted from the Marina Monastir WhatsApp Group.  Nick went to the Police and Customs Offices recently to clarify the tax/overstay “fine” position regarding yachts and foreigners.

An immobilized yacht may have two years tax free stay in Tunisian waters. After that period, tax will be applied. If your yacht leaves within two years, when it returns a new two year period of stay commences – providing it is immobilized. If a yacht is NOT immobilized, tax will be applicable after 180 days. This applies to all foreign registered yachts. The Customs office deals with this.

The personal tax (if applicable) for Immigration “overstay” is dealt with by the Police. UK and most EU citizens may stay 90 days tax free, whereas some other countries (Canada and USA) may stay for up to 120 days. If you remain in the country beyond this point, an overstay – tax will be due. This is paid before you leave. It cannot be paid in advance or in instalments.The tax is 20 TND per person per week (or any part of a week) after 90 days (or 120). If anyone has been here for more than 180 days without a break (that is important) when you leave you cannot return for 181 days. (Even though, in theory, the yacht can).  When you return, “the clock” restarts and you then have a further 90 (or 120) days.

An abandoned yacht in the marina. (c) Wade Alarie.

Tunisia Exit Formalities

To leave the marina, bound for another Tunisian port, you simply need to advise the Coast Guard (on site next to the fuel station) the day before and leave.

To leave the marina and the country, you advise the Coast Guard first (the day before is OK) and then go through the clearances with the Police and Customs in their office (in the marina) and then they actually
come to your boat, have a look inside – and then watch you leave. “If” you put your boat in “storage or immobilization”, then you need to pay another 5TND to put it into service, before leaving.

Wintering Hotspot

There are many cruisers, of all nationalities, who come back to Monastir every winter. Whether they return for the economy, or the atmosphere – you will have to ask them. Every Sunday afternoon is a cruiser’s BBQ, using the marina provided “Yacht Club” as the basis. The marina provides the venue, the BBQ grill, and the tables/chairs. Cruisers provide the BBQ coals, and do the setup/cleanup.

Of 76 countries we have visited so far on our circumnavigation, Cap Monastir Marina stands out as the windiest and dustiest location – by far. The water pressure at the marina was usually too weak to adequately wash our boat, so we bought a pressure washer – and that worked just fine. We had to wash our boat nearly every week, and we could never adequately wash the mast, shrouds or halyards that were too high up to reach.

Cap Monastir Marina Details

Cap Monastir is a good marina, in “fair” condition – although it is known to be very full to maximum occupancy in the winter. Berths are assigned and adjusted to get the maximum number of boats into the space. If you arrive in September, it could be very difficult to get out in March since your neighbours have been squeezed in around you.

Cap Monastir Marina Overview. (c) Wade Alarie

The marina location is very nicely situated in the town so this is handy for shopping, connecting to the Tunisian Rail system and getting in and out of the city. The marina itself has reliable electricity and neither this or the water supply is metered. Electrical outages do happen (perhaps once per month) for an hour or two, but they are quickly repaired. There is no standby generator. Some boats are on floating docks, but most are on a fixed concrete dock, or wall. The tidal difference is only about 18 inches, hardly noticeable. Many cleats or rings are broken on the docks, but the staff do their best to make it serviceable.

Boats that are on floating docks and concrete fixed piers are protected by gates, where you must use a magnetic key fob to gain access. We were on a wall at the north end, near the travel lift, where there was no controlled access, but there was a security guard nearby. There are surveillance cameras and security guards, but the entire marina is a very popular place for tourists and locals who like to casually stroll along and look at the boats. Occasionally, someone might step on the boarding ramp, or even on deck – in order to take a photo.

Cap Monastir’s 50T travellift. (c) Wade Alarie.

There are many bars and restaurants situated right in the marina complex. About 2.5 kms away is the Port De Peche, with a larger travel lift and hardstand. This is great for hauling out and working on your boat, although the bathrooms are extremely spartan. It is a very cheap place to haul out and work on your boat, or pay contractors to do it for you.

Port a Peche 250T Travellift. (c) Wade Alarie

The Captiainerie’s (marina workers) do a pretty good job of positioning your boat and tying up the lines, but, be warned – when required, they are moving boats around all the time (trying to pack more customers in), often with no owner or crew onboard. If your boat is unattended, be sure to ask that a known cruiser (preferably a neighbour) keep an eye on things. They were moving around a big tourist wooden “pirate” ship with only a dinghy and an 8HP motor (no owner or crew onboard). Even with only a slight wind of 5 knots, things got out of hand pretty quickly and the pirate ship was stuck, wedged on the bows of several boats (ours included). Minor damage to several boats (ours included) happened in minutes.

Also, when you are away, you might get a boat moved next to you that is doing what is normally considered forbidden in other marinas. I saw two French yachts compressor spraying (one white and one red) their hull and decks while Med moored, obviously very close to other unattended boats. They did not put out any protective covering for their neighbours either. The marina does not police this kind of activity and leaves it up to the customers to sort it out.

If you want your cooking gas tank refilled, just bring it to the office and one of the staff will fill it for you. Yes, someone has to bring it to the right place to get it refilled, but the cost is trivial and we should be grateful that the marina provides this service.

The shower/toilet blocks are co-ed (same room for men and women), old but well cleaned (twice daily). There are two toilets, each with a seat. There are four shower stalls, some with hooks to hang your clothes. In the common area, there is a single bench to sit and change. This is a very strange arrangement and one that is infrequently used by cruisers. In addition to the few cruisers that use the facilities, it seems that many of the hotel guests and SCUBA divers use it to wash sand and salt off their bodies. It is a key-locked facility, with plenty of hot water.

There is a very poor marina offered WiFi connection in the “yacht club”, but recently, the marina established a very good Orange hotspot near the security post on Pier 9. We were along Pier 9, near the travel-lift, and could connect to this hotspot (and Orange MIFI) with our booster antenna. The Internet was solid, and very fast – and free.

Marine Services/Contractors

Most cruisers bring in their own paint and anti-fouling, although that appears to be readily available locally – but maybe not the brand you would normally use. For example, I don’t think Coppercoat is available, but many other brands of antifouling are on the shelves. Contrary to what I was told, Sikaflex can be found.

Adel’s Welding Shop. (c) Wade Alarie.

There are many contractors who operate inside the marina, or nearby the Port-a-Peche (fishing harbour). The marina has no relationship with these contractors and you make your own arrangements.

  • Mohamed (WhatsApp +216 98 514 685) is a very good contact. He used to work in the marina full time, but now works full-time at Monoprix (a grocery store chain) but offers airport trips, cleaning, “guardianage” and sourcing items to cruisers in the area.
  • Mehdi is a sailmaker/canvas maker on site (WhatsApp +216 27 717 727), and his shop is inside the marina complex. We had him clean and store our sails, and also replace the leather covering on our stainless steering wheel.
  • Youssef (WhatsApp +216 98 570 350) (English speaking) did some work on our alternator.
  • Sabri (WhatsApp +216 93 740 406) (French speaking) did some work on our engine.

Sailmakers:

In addition to Mehdi (in the marina – contact details above) there are actually two real sail lofts and sailmakers working out of the Monastir area. They both build and repair sails for both the local and offshore
market. They actually have quite a bit of export business.

Impulsion Sails
https://www.facebook.com/impulsionsail

Home

Seamtech Industrie
Sidi Abdelhamid – Route de Monastir
4000 Sousse – Tunisie
Phone. : (+216) 73 322 446
Fax. : (+216) 73 322 447
[email protected]

Marine Supplies / Chandleries:

There is “a chandlery” at Monastir – a large, but poorly stocked, shop in the centre of the Port a Peche. He carries marine hardware, paints and sealants. Several of the hardware stores in the proximity of Cap Monastir Marina also carry marine paints, sealants and marine hardware. In addition to Monastir, several cruisers have travelled to Tunis to one of the chandleries there (links below) which are nowhere near what you would expect in Malta, but at least better than Monastir.

Port a Peche chandlery. (c) Wade Alarie.

Getting packages into Tunisia:

We did not have anything sent in to Tunisia, either by post or by courier. However, we did meet cruisers who used Tunisian Post for letters and documents. Also, we heard several first hand reports of cruisers who had items shipped in to Tunisia by DHL using “Yacht in Transit”. They paid no tax. We heard that DHL has a “handling agreement” with Tunisian Post and their packages continued from the airport at Tunis to the main post office at Monastir. The cruisers followed the tracking online, and went to the main post office to pick it up.

Many cruisers have arrived at a Tunisian airport with “boat parts”. If you brought your boat papers with you, you can easily import these “boat parts” duty free by declaring them as “Yacht in Transit”, and showing your boat papers. The Customs officials may simply waive you through, or seal the packages with wire and tell you to proceed to Cap Monastir Marina where the Customs officials there will remove the seal and finish the paperwork.

Local Services

Transport:

Mohamed (from Monoprix) (WhatsApp +216 98 514 685, English and French spoken) offers a private car service to/from the Tunis airport at a reasonable price (60 euros per trip). It is also
very fast and cheap to take the train to Tunis, but that only leaves once per day at 0630 and may be inconvenient.

We successfully used VTours for airport transfers from Monastir to Tunis and Hammamet. You can choose a private car, or a 14 passenger minibus. The service is excellent, and well priced.

We used Najd (English and French spoken) (WhatsApp +216 54 493 332) for many touristic side trips. He has a large, clean passenger van with good AC.

Banking and Currency:

Tunisia forbids the export of it’s currency. Tunisian Dinars are easily obtained at many ATMs, but you have to try several to get one that will discharge enough to meet your requirements with low or zero fees. We used the STB bank ATM, with zero fees for us. This will vary with different cruisers from different countries.

Medical and Dental Services:

Many cruisers have used Dr Raafet  – General Practitioner, (WhatsApp +216 99 709 099) for their immediate medical needs. He will also come to the boat if needed.  We knew an Australian cruiser who developed serious abdominal pain and Dr Raafet came to visit him on his boat, Sunday evening at 10pm. Dr Raafet brought him, in his own car – to a private hospital. Over the next few days, many tests were conducted and they determined the source of the problem and the cruiser had surgery and returned to his boat a week later.

We also used Dr Feriel Bayou- a Dermatologist ( +216 73 447 505 – 94 127 485) and Dr Najjar – a Dentist (WhatsApp +216 552 97 297).

Ramadan in Tunisia

We have spent Ramadan in many different Muslim countries (Malaysia, India, Egypt, Turkey) and one difference we noticed was that you could not actually buy alcohol in the normal outlets (the grocery stores) during Ramadan (ninth month of the Islamic calendar). Another thing we noticed is that the restaurants and coffee shops surrounding the marina become a “haven” for the locals who don’t follow Ramadan. It seems to be normal Arabic culture for men to sit around in coffee shops during the day drinking coffee/tea and smoking. In all Arabic countries that we have visited, this cultural practice is suspended during Ramadan. But not in Monastir, where you can find hundreds of locals sitting all day long in the coffee shops and restaurants in the marina complex, avoiding the scrutinization of their friends and neighbours. The number of locals blossoms during Ramadan, over-whelming the small number of cruisers.

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About the Author

After three years in Alanya Marina, Turkey, Wade and Diana Alarie started heading westwards in 2023 bound for Greece, Crete and Malta before their extended stop at Cap Monastir Tunisia for the winter of 2023/2024.  Wade is well known as moderator of the Red Sea Passage Facebook group, a job he has done for a number of years and dedicated to making the Red Sea Passage to or from the Mediterranean a much safer one for cruising boats.

Wade and Diane on a camel safari in Tunisia.

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Other Noonsite Reports by Wade Alarie:

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Related Links:

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.

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  1. June 1, 2024 at 1:05 AM
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    Just Peachy says:

    Great Info Wade- thank you.
    We will be there next winter.
    Just Peachy