Posted March 22, 2012, 11:20 a.m.
PUERTO TARRACO –FOR THOSE IN THE KNOW! by Kevin Connor Commanding a strategic location in the northwest Med between the Balearics and the Riviera, the Spanish city of Tarragona has always stood out as a reference point for those in the know. The Romans first spotted its potential and christened it Tarraco, Julius Caesar set up home here, culture thrived across the hinterland and the port became a major trading hub. Fast forward several centuries and Tarragona had gained international fame as a sheltered but deep natural port which welcomed savvy seafarers from afar. Fast forward again to this fledgling decade and Tarragona has become a magnet for another discerning clientele, this time yacht captains and crew in search of a fully-equipped winter base or a sun-blessed summer stopover. We toured the marina Puerto Tarraco – its name evoking the city's illustrious past – and discovered a top-tier destination anchored on the principles of excellence and quality. Let's first look at some clear facts and figures. In full operation since 2006, Puerto Tarraco is protected from prevailing winds by a kilometre-long Roman-style rock wall perimeter. The marina boasts a nine-metre draught, 150,000m² water surface, a turning circle of 220 metres, a 140-metre waiting pier and alongside and stern-to berthing for 115 yachts between 24m and 160m LOA, berths which have already welcomed an array of world-famous yachts such as M.Y. Dilbar, M.Y. Mayan Queen and S.Y. Athena. One of the few Mediterranean marinas offering at-berth sewage collection, the list of berthside amenities for large yachts at Puerto Tarraco includes 500-amp power supply, Internet, helipad, availability of storerooms, assistance in mooring and fuel provision. Security is also a priority with 24/7 surveillance and CCTV along all three quays, a perimeter glass fence with exclusive swipe-card access for clients and fire hydrants and extinguishers all around the marina. Last but not least, environmental protection is ensured by Marpol waste and residue collection systems. Owners and crew are always in search of the ideal marina. Their checklist might go something like this: welcoming, knowledgeable and multilingual marina staff; easily-accessible from the sea; free from surge; well laid-out with wide berths allowing for vehicle access and maintenance work; options to chill out, work out and eat out; refit and repair facilities close by; close to airports; and that little extra something that just makes or breaks the whole onshore experience. Let's see how Puerto Tarraco fares on these points. The reception staff, that often overlooked but oh-so-vital collective for first-hand contact and local knowledge, were friendly, ready-to-help yet discreet and, importantly, spoke good English. Commercial Director Javier Fornieles guided us around the site and revealed what lay behind the azure glass façades of the low-rise buildings lining the quays. And what a surprise was in store: spacious private offices all with stylish interior design, fully-equipped kitchens and huge picture windows overlooking the marina. Nearby, the Captains' Lounge is the ideal space to take a well-earned break; watching satellite TV, reading international publications, or simply sharing adventures with fellow captains. “Our clients are number one, that's why we cater for their every need both on board and ashore”, Javier explained. Back outside, we strolled along the Costa Quay towards the stunning 44-metre silver-hulled sail yacht SyL, proudly flying the Spanish flag in her home port. “Shall we speak to the captain?”, asked Javier. We were introduced to José Miguel Echeverría, who comes from a family background of sailing and not only is SyL's captain, but also the Director of Puerto Tarraco. So, a large yacht marina run by the captain of a large yacht. How often do you find such first-hand experience at a marina? “Captains and crew look for so many things in a port. From safe berthing to refit and repair opportunities, state-of-the-art services and activities to make our stay a comfortable and enjoyable one”, he told us in flawless English. In today's choppy economic times, price is also a major consideration for Owners when choosing a winter base and refit and repair work. “Our prices are extremely competitive in the western Med, yet quality is never impaired”, stressed José Miguel. Locals walking their dogs and crewmembers cycling along the marina give the surroundings an air of calm and relaxation. Even so, Puerto Tarraco is fully integrated into the city of Tarragona, with a UNESCO World Heritage Site just a five minute walk away. On the doorstep of the marina is the quaint fishermen's neighbourhood of El Serrallo. Pastel-coloured houses are the backdrop to some excellent restaurants. After a mouth-watering lunch featuring freshly-caught seafood and a delicious local Priorat wine, we returned to one of the bars within Puerto Tarraco to get a much-needed caffeine boost on a rooftop chillout terrace overlooking the harbour. We needn't have left the port to eat, though, here there are several top-class eateries catering to crew and captains alike. A good idea now would be to sneak off to have a siesta shaded from the warm Mediterranean sun – Tarragona enjoys up to 320 days of sun a year and the winter temperature rarely dips below 15ºC yet soars into the nineties in midsummer. We wondered what guests and crewmembers could do within Puerto Tarraco and were surprised to hear that a siesta is far from the only option. The 'Fitness Area' lets you burn off those calories on treadmills or an ultra-modern cross trainer. Otherwise, relax at the hands of an in-house masseur. For the more studious, the port will happily organise Spanish language classes for crew. Moving on to refit and repair...another tick for Puerto Tarraco on the checklist of marina requirements. A 275-ton travel lift looms over the Lleida Quay and yachts can hire experts in carpentry, painting, electronics, engineering, hydraulics, upholstery, rigging and composites. Once again, the invoice is easy on the pocket with value-for-money and efficiency being cornerstones of the services rendered. What about daily needs? Yachts berthed at Puerto Tarraco are well provisioned by local companies. New Zealand born Charlotte Armitage, Director of Armitage Chacón, said, “We help large yachts at Tarraco with general services and crew uniforms. Captains often comment on the affordable berthing rates and how the friendly marina makes an ideal winter base”. Whether you berth at Puerto Tarraco for a winter refit or stop over whilst cruising the Med, you won't be disappointed by the history, culture, sports facilities, natural beauty and beaches at a stone's throw from the marina. UNESCO declared the city of Tarragona a World Heritage Site thanks to the wealth of Roman remains such as the amphitheatre, city walls and circus. Lying to the north of the city are the UNESCO-recognised Roman aqueduct popularly known as the Devil's Bridge and the Cistercian Monastery of Poblet. Just 10 minutes away is the birthplace of genius architect Antoni Gaudí, whose Modernist buildings line the streets of Barcelona. By the way, if you jump on a fast-speed train or take a chauffeur-driven Puerto Tarraco limousine, you can explore the delights of this world-famous city in an easy day-trip. Fancy something a bit sportier? Winter sports lovers can ski or snowboard to their hearts' content in the world-class resorts of Andorra or Baqueira-Beret, around two hours' drive from the marina. Rock-climbing, hiking and mountain-biking in the nearby Prades Mountains or Sierra del Montsant are popular activities amongst crewmembers staying at Puerto Tarraco. Golf enthusiasts can play a round at the Greg Norman-designed course within Port Aventura, itself one of Europe's largest theme parks. Planning on being here in the summer? Then, you can try your hand at the wealth of watersports on offer in Tarragona: scuba diving, windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, the list goes on. Or take time out to discover endless golden beaches nearby (appropriately, the area around Tarragona is called the Golden Coast). Maybe a bit of nature? Just down the coast is the breathtaking Delta d'Ebre, one of the largest wetland areas in the Mediterranean and the winter stopover for thousands of migratory birds, who like us yearn to escape from colder climes further north. We're not the only ones in the know! Do you need to be well communicated? Dozens of daily flights can whisk you from Reus international airport – 8km door-to-door from Puerto Tarraco – to Palma, Sardinia, Venice, Paris, London and other European hubs. Rail connections are aplenty and the high-speed AVE train takes just 150 minutes to reach Madrid. All good things come to an end. We left Puerto Tarraco and got to thinking about yachting in this new decade. Whilst Puerto Tarraco ticks all the points on our checklist of marina requirements, time is also ticking before large yachts return to the Med for the 2010 season. Our trusted friend Spain, this time in the form of Puerto Tarraco and the city of Tarragona, once again proves the excellence to be found in this corner of the Mediterranean. Why don't you try out Puerto Tarraco and become one of those in the know? Contact:- Javier Fornieles: [email protected]