Marinas

Crew Share Their Favorite Marinas

30 April 2021By Claire Griffiths
IGY Isle de Sol, St. Maarten
Courtesy of IGY

Written by

Claire Griffiths

Claire Griffiths is Dockwalk’s contributing editor in the Mediterranean. She fled to the sunny south of France from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Claire has a background in journalism for national and regional UK press and a career in political and corporate PR prior to that. Claire’s hobbies include eating, sleeping and dancing at inopportune times. She tries to avoid sheer drops and Olympic bobsled runs. Email Claire at claire@dockwalk.com

Crew are arguably the ones who can best pick a good marina. After all, they spend a lot of time in marinas around the world and can ably judge marina amenities, services, and crew friendliness. These captains and crew shared their favorite marina picks in different categories, showcasing a vibrant and colorful picture of world cruising destinations. See if your favorite made the list.

Port Vauban, Antibes
Courtesy of Port Vauban

Favorite Home Berth

“Antibes is home to us and although it can feel a little too familiar at times, it is a beautiful spot and always a fun place to be,” says Chief Stewardess Letty Le Moignan of M/Y Sarafsa. Capt. Daan de Witt of the 1929 71-meter M/Y Haida 1929 says Falmouth Harbour Marina in Antigua for a Caribbean winter is a winner for him, and if he’s wintering in the Med, he’ll pick One Ocean Port Vell, Barcelona. Come summertime, he’s usually on the move, but if he had to choose a summer berth, it would probably be Genoa.

Chief Stewardess Kelly Harrison of M/Y New Hampshire opts for Barcelona’s OneOcean Port Vell and/or MB92. But she admits she’s biased as she and her partner have just bought a house in BCN and love it there. “But aside from loving the city, it’s fantastic how the marina organizes events for the crews based there,” she says. “There are so many available companies and the facilities are great for winter works.” The crew on board New Hampshire also love Antibes IYCA. “We [had been based there last] winter and the security and port office are so lovely and helpful,” she says. “We [felt] safe and protected from the weather elements that come through winter periods and I know that’s a big plus from our officers’ side of things.” In the U.S./Caribbean side, it’s definitely Rybovich Marina in West Palm Beach, Florida, for Harrison for their “amazing” crew facilities and set up. She adds, “Isle De Sol in St. Maarten — now there’s a fun place for the Caribbean season.”

Capt. Tristan Mortlock of M/Y AWOL also votes for Antibes because it’s well-sheltered, with good ship chandlers and contractors in the area, very close to Nice airport, and only 90 minutes from the ski slopes for the winter months. “It’s a favorite for most crew as it has a nice yachting community all year round,” says Mortlock. Meanwhile, Capt. Herve [LB2] of M/Y Don’t Ask has no plans to move anytime soon from his home berth at Beaulieu sur Mer, where he’s been since 2006. He loves the shelter, and the family-type atmosphere among the boats.

Capt. Richard Dadillon of M/Y Winning Streak opts for the Old Port of Cannes, Quai Laubeuf, simply because it’s protected from all winds. And Capt. Gary Morton of M/Y Aubrey agrees. “My favorite home port has changed over the years. Since getting married and having kids, it is Old Port, Cannes, because it’s easy to get to from where I live and has good transport links for crew.” Before, as a “young gun,” he had a soft spot for Portals Nous in Majorca, where the atmosphere was chilled.

Rybovich, West Palm Beach
Courtesy of Rybovich

Best Crew Amenities

Since crew can end up spending a lot of time on the dock, marinas that cater well to them leave an impression. On board M/Y Sarafsa, the winner was Florida with Epic Marina, Rybovich Marina, and Bahia Mar all getting a mention. Harrison also gives a thumbs up for West Palm’s Rybovich with its crew gym, crew bar, and shuttle service to and from town and the shops. For Capt. de Witt, it’s Port Vell with the gym and the Club Nautic with an indoor 50-meter pool and squash courts plus the city of Barcelona on your doorstep.

But Loano, Italy, gets top mention from Capt. Dadillon with the swimming pool and Jacuzzi plus lounge bar. “It really depends what you're looking for,” says Capt. Mortlock. “In the summer, for example, the crew and I really like Porto Montenegro as the staff are really helpful and they take good care of us; they put on frequent events and barbecues and the staff are always warm and welcoming.”

Capt. Gary Morton reckons it’s the Greeks and Spaniards who come top of the “most welcoming” league table and adds, “I choose Port Vell, Barcelona. It’s a very safe port, with restaurants in and around the port. It has a fantastic crew lounge, with staff on hand to answer any questions, it’s got good Internet access, a gym, and a spa. I spent a winter there a few years ago and they had people organizing things for crew to do all winter — [like] trips to places, or beer and wine nights.”

Port Vell marina, Barcelona
Courtesy of Port Vell

The Best Locations

While you might not have an option in where you end up staying, location really is everything. While this might be a bit of a loose and non-specific question, crew still offered up answers: Barcelona got Chief Stewardess Le Moignan’s vote because it’s right in the city and not far from the airport (with a cheap taxi fare).

For connecting flights to get home, Port Vell is quite good, suggests Capt. de Witt and so too are Antibes and probably any of the marinas in Fort Lauderdale (although he hasn’t actually been there for 15 years). “For going skiing in the winter, Antibes is probably the best,” he says.

“There are so many great locations in all sorts of different places, but … during the winter, I would say Antibes is really great for the winter periods when it comes to hitting the snow for a day or a weekend,” says Harrison. [LD1] “It’s located close enough to an airport to fly in and out of and has great public transport (when [there’s] not a strike!).” [LD2] Capt. Mortlock agrees, and adds it’s good if you need any work done on the boat.

If you’re looking for the best urban location, Barcelona gets the votes from Le Moignan, Harrison, de Witt, and Mortlock. De Witt also votes for Genoa and Harrison reckons Viaduct Marina in Auckland and Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, New York, definitely need a mention. Dadillon is sticking to what he knows (and loves) and raises a hand for Old Port, Cannes. Capt. Mortlock lifts the star-spangled banner for “Pier 66 in Florida has to have it all! My God, it’s all there — beaches, cinemas, restaurants, transport, and twenty minutes from the airport. It is very convenient.”

Port Denarau, Fiji
Courtesy of Port Denarau

But if you’re a fan of getting away from it all as often as possible, what would you select as your favorite remote location? You don’t really need to go any farther than Cannes Port Canto to get a feeling of being away from it all with its remote setting at the “other” end of la Croissette, suggests Capt. Dadillon. But Capt. Morton swings his net wide and says, “I’m a Fiji boy at heart. Give me Port Denarau, Vitilevu, [on the] west side of the main island. Denarau has only been going for ten years now. I’ve been there a number of times and guests love it. It’s the gateway to the Pacific islands. And you can’t get much farther away from here than that before you come back on yourself. It’s an in-house rich person’s six-star resort and guests love it. Any divers or fishermen — it’s certainly a place to be based for a season. You need more than a few weeks.” Harrison agrees with Capt. Morton that Port Denarau Marina in Fiji is special. “You can take a ferry over to little neighboring islands or a taxi over to the local beaches to watch the sunset. It’s incredible, I fell in love there,” she says. She also loves St. Lucia’s Capella Marina in Marigot Bay. “We and the guests could use the resort facilities and explore the island’s incredible beaches and climb the Pitons. It had gorgeous hidden waterfalls and remote beaches to set up beach barbecues away from all other eyes.”

Le Moignan suggests some of the Greek islands and also around Turkey where you can find good facilities, as well as a location that’s remote and beautiful. Capt. de Witt would head for Christophe Harbour in St. Kitts, and Harrison of M/Y New Hampshire opts for Yacht Haven Marina in Thailand, although it has been a long time since she was last there.

“I haven’t been there in almost fifteen years but have great memories of Marina Formentera in the Balearic islands,” says Mortlock. “I was only working on a twenty-meter boat back then, but it is a stunning island, with incredible beaches with perfect water.”

To get away from it all, Le Moignan points to Sardinia — along the southeast coast. Capt. Dadillon says Saint Florent, Corsica, and Plages de Saleccia, while Mortlock is keeping mum about his best loved hush-hush haunts. Capt. Morton is thinking Dubai — although not strictly remote, it is far away. “I took a boat to Abu Dhabi before Christmas and we ended up in Dubai and walked the marinas and their facilities blew my head. They’re doing some special stuff out there.”

Phuket Yacht Haven
Courtesy of Phuket Yacht Haven

Best Eco-Sympathetic Facilities

Environmental concerns should be applauded and encouraged, and the more yachting can do, the better. On that note, crew weighed in on the best marinas who seem to be making a green effort.

The votes split several ways here. As Le Moignan says, “Possibly Turkey, [as] they seem to be the most thorough and professional when it comes to eco-friendly awareness.” Chief Stewardess Harrison voted for Loano in Italy where they had “really great recycling separation bins.” Capt. Dadillon opts for Old Port of St. Tropez, and Capt. Mortlock goes for Porto Montenegro, where they have a very easy to use sewage treatment system, the waters always appear very clean, and the garbage service is impeccable. “I’m going to choose Sunset Beach, Miami,” says Capt. Morton. “Because I think they started the pump-out side services more than twenty years ago. When I was there some folk formed a syndicate and they started a man-made reef and the knock-on effect was soaps and discharge were absolutely forbidden and properly policed. Most marinas sweep up any trash in the marina water nowadays and most coastlines forbid black and gray discharge.”

The Best Nightlife

Of course, crew and guests need the occasional night out. Le Moignan votes for Croatia, Barcelona, Miami, Key West, Antigua, or Ibiza, depending on what the guests are looking for. OneOcean Port Vell gets a mention (“and Ibiza, obviously”) from Capt. de Witt, and Harrison jumps in with Tourlos Marina in Mykonos. “We had young adults on board when we were there in back in 2012 and we would always be sending them off to awesome beach clubs to experience a real ‘holiday vibe’ party,” she says. Morton also votes for Ibiza. “We park outside Pasha! You can hear the club bouncing all night long. It’s not great for the crew trying to rest, but if you’ve got young guys that just want to club, this is it. If distance and fuel are no object, that’s where we take them,” he says.

“St. Tropez all the way!” says both Captains Mortlock and Dadillon. “We’ve been taking clients to St. Tropez for years and years for the ultimate party night and we’ve never had a single complaint. Guests simply love the St. Tropez vibe,” says Mortlock. You can’t go wrong with that.

Rybovich, West Palm Beach
Courtesy of Rybovich

Memorable Marinas

While there are many marinas throughout the world, there are just some that seem to be more memorable for all the right reasons. “In the summer, if the crew have a day off, then they all seem to really enjoy Porto Montenegro,” Capt. Mortlock says. “You can relax at the yacht club’s infinity pool that overlooks the Montenegro bay or, if you’re feeling energetic, you could rent a car and head to Kotor to explore the town and climb to the top of the mountain to enjoy the glorious view it has to offer.”

Le Moignan and de Witt both love Barcelona, and Dadillon recommends Antibes. “All the marinas I’ve mentioned [are great], but probably the most common among my yachting friends, and the best compliments for its overall crew amenities and vibe would be Rybovich and Isle de Sol,” Harrison says. Some just have that extra something that resonates. Capt. Morton loves Bonifacio, Corsica. “I think guests and crew love it there,” he says. “It has no special crew facilities, but if you want a memorable experience, this is it. It’s my favorite port entrance in the world, I think.”

This article originally ran in the October 2020 issue of Dockwalk.

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