Cruising grounds

While there are many ideal yachting harbours on Spain’s north coast, i.e. in the southern Bay of Biscay, the number of marinas is rather small. In the summer, wind strongly affects tidal currents. When swell is strong, it may be difficult and even dangerous to enter harbours, especially if they are small. The further west you get, the more frequently you will have to take fog into account.

In stormy weather, stay clear off the coast between La Coruña and Cabo de Finisterre. It is not for nothing that this part of the coast is called Costa del Morte (coast of death). In good weather, this region as well as the area further south stretching to the Portuguese border, are a cruising ground offering lots of diversity with many bays and some dramatic coastlines.

Beware of tuna fishing nets stretching several miles into the sea on the southern Atlantic coast because they are even strong enough to damage the props of small boats. In this area, wind and weather are already under the influence of the Mediterranean climate.

South of Cádiz, you may notice the funneling effects in the Strait of Gibraltar, and tidal currents may be strong. Mind the traffic separation area; avoid the navy and commercial ships. Entry clearance must be obtained at the well-equipped harbours of Gibraltar.

Mediterranean coast
Along the Spanish Mediterranean Sea on the Costa Brava, Costa Dorada, Costa del Azahar and Costa Blanca, skippers will find beautiful harbours providing high to very high standards in terms of location, service facilities, shops & restaurants and tourist attractions. While the number of berths is high, we recommend you check availability in advance in the summer.
There are many marinas on the Costa del Sol, some of which with over 1,000 berths. They usually provide nautical service facilities and very good shops & restaurants. This region is very popular among holiday-makers from the UK.

Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands boast a very high density of harbours and thus a good to very good standard of nautical services. Despite the vast amount of berths, capacities are limited in the summer, especially in July and August. We recommend you plan an early arrival or book ahead. Tourism in general and nautical tourism are well developed on Majorca, the largest island. Numerous charter agencies offer a wide range of motor and sailing yachts. In addition to a large number of harbours, you will find many sheltered bays and places to anchor your boat in this cruising ground. Anchorage is not allowed in some bays, however, for the protection of the underwater world. On the island, you will find everything from unspoilt nature to famous partying hotspots. Menorca’s marinas are usually most beautifully situated. As space is tighter, town harbours provide fewer service facilities.
The islands of Ibiza and Formentera, where tourism is equally well developed, have numerous anchorages as well as some harbours, some of which are very well equipped. Summers are usually very sunny, but sea breezes make the heat tolerable.


Necessary paperwork

You are required to carry the following documentation:

  • Depending on your cruising grounds: non-national skippers must hold a certificate of competence entitling them to navigate comparable waters in their home countries.
  • Boat registration
  • Proof of ownership or boat owner’s power of attorney
  • EU VAT proof
  • Evidence of boat liability insurance cover
  • If you have maritime radio equipment on board: Restricted Certificate in Radiotelephony – VHF for navigating on inland waterways or Short Range Certificate (SRC) or Long Range Certificate (LRC) for maritime navigation as well as ATIS or MMSI number certificate

Entry and exit by boat

If you are borrowing the vessel you are skippering from a friend, you should carry an authorisation and a copy of the valid boat registration from the country of origin You can download a sample power of attorney here.

By sea
Any vessel arriving from a non-Schengen country must fly the Q flag and directly proceed to a port of entry for passport and customs clearance.
There are usually no customs or border controls if a vessel enters from a Schengen country. No registration at the port authorities is required.

By land
There are no special rules to bear in mind when entering with a boat by land.


Customs declaration
For free navigation around the waters of the EU a recreational craft (owned by an EU citizen) must have Union goods status. This is usually the case where the boat was bought in the EU or imported into the EU and released for free circulation.
Boats that do not have Union Goods status need to undergo customs procedures for the temporary duty-free admission or for free navigation in the EU.

EU VAT proof
You may need to produce such proof upon request for any vessel within the EU (e.g. original invoice with VAT shown, confirmation by an authority or, if applicable, T2L document).

Boat registration
You need to carry the registration required in your home country. If in your country no registration is needed we recommend nonetheless to register the craft. This might facilitate dealings with local harbour and other authorities.

Fees & charges
Mooring your boat at a landing stage or in a harbour or marina to spend the night usually incurs a charge.


T-0 lighthouse tax
Boaters on transit and boat owners holding an annual berth need to pay the lighthouse/sea mark tax (tasa de servicio de señalización marítima).
The annual charge for pleasure craft with a keel length of ≥7 m is €4 per m²(max. boat length x max. boat width); the charge for craft <7m long is €10 per m² and is due once upon registration.
Long-term berth holders are charged for the entire period and receive a payment receipt. Upon presentation of this receipt at another Spanish harbour, they will not be charged again.

Registration tax (impuesto de matriculación)
The registration tax is charged for vessels with a keel length of over 8m and water scooters. Non-Spanish citizens must pay a registration tax amounting to 12% of the boat’s value (11% on the Canary Islands) if

  • their place of residence is in Spain or
  • they have a Spanish taxpayer identification number or
  • they stay in Spain more than 183 days within a calendar year or
  • their boat flies the Spanish flag

G-5 infrastructure & service tax
This tax must be paid together with the mooring charges.

Skipper qualification

Certificate for operators of pleasure craft
Non-national skippers must hold a certificate of competence entitling them to navigate comparable waters in their home countries.
Under the Spanish legislation, a certificate is required to operate a sailing yacht over 6 m  long or a motorboat with a hull length of over 5m  or an engine output of over 11.26kW.  No certificate is required to operate a sailing yacht under 6m long or a motorboat with a hull length of less than 5m or an engine output of less than 11.26kW provided it is operated during daytime within 2nm of the harbour or marina and the skipper is 18 or older.

To operate a chartered boat flying the Spanish flag within max. 3nm of the coast, skippers must at least have skipper qualification for inland waters.

Radiocommunication licence
If a pleasure craft has maritime radio equipment on board, the skipper or a crew member must hold the required radiocommunication licence. Depending on the cruising grounds, skippers must hold the following licence:

Coastal waters

  • SRC (Short Range Certificate). Valid for VHF and GMDSS
  • LRC (Long Range Certificate). Valid for GW, HF, VHF, Inmarsat and GMDSS

Inland waters

  • Radiotelephone Operator’s Certificate for the Radiotelephone Service on Inland Waterways

Environmental and ambient water protection

Stay out of conservation areas and pay attention to driving bans for the protection of wildlife and nature. To enter a national park, you must obtain a permit. No more than 50 vessels per day are admitted to conservation areas. Anchoring is not allowed. Use the available moorings instead. To go ashore, you must use the main quay where mooring is allowed for dinghies. Fishing is not allowed. To go for a dive, use the designated spots.

Pleasure craft with an on-board toilet must be equipped with a holding tank (sewage tank) incl. ventilation and drain.


Under their duty of care, skippers are required to carry on board rescue assets whose quantity must be sufficient in relation to the vessel’s size. For valuable information on the adequate safety equipment, please refer to the recommended minimum equipment for pleasure boats and yachts.

Nautical equipment
Under their duty of care, skippers are required to carry on board rescue assets whose quantity must be sufficient in relation to the vessel’s size. We recommend to make sure that vessels comply with the Spanish equipment regulations.
Different equipment regulations might apply to the respective cruising grounds. Depending on the distance from the coast, the Spanish authorities have divided the cruising grounds into 7 zones.

Fire extinguisher (type 21B)

  • Vessels less than 10m long:
    Vessels less than 10m long with an outboard engine of less than 20kW must carry on board a portable fire extinguisher if travelling 5nm or more offshore. Vessels need not be equipped with a fire extinguisher when cruising in sheltered waters and within 2nm from the coast.
  • Vessels longer than 10m:
    Motorboats 10-14.99m long must carry one portable 21B fire extinguisher, motorboats 15-19.99m long need two, and motorboats 20-24m long must have three.

Fire suppression system
Depending on their output, vessels equipped with an inboard engine must be equipped with a built-in fire suppression system.
Any vessel powered by an inboard petrol engine must be equipped with an engine compartment ventilation system regardless of the engine output.
If the electrical equipment exceeds 50V, an ABC fire extinguisher must be on board.

Flare guns
To travel with a flare gun and its ammunition, you must hold the European Firearms Pass. During transport, the ammunition must be kept separate from the weapon.

Traffic regulations for pleasure craft

Navigation and collision prevention rules
The navigation and collision prevention rules set out in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs) apply.

Speed limits
On the Spanish coast, the speed limit is 5 knots within a 250m zone and 3-5 knots in harbours.

Insurance for pleasure craft

Boat liability insurance cover is mandatory for pleasure craft between 2.5m and 24m long and carrying up to 12 passengers.

In Spain, the minimum cover limit of the water sports liability insurance is 96,162 Euro for material loss and 120,202 Euro for personal injury per accident victim; the maximum amount covered is 240,405 Euro per accident.

Further water sports activities

Water scooters
You are required to carry the following documentation: proof of registration, liability insurance, certificate for operators of pleasure craft.
Users must be at least 18 or, subject to a parent’s/legal guardian’s consent, 16 years of age. Both riders and pillions must wear life jackets.

Water scooter users must comply with the following rules:

  • 200m distance from the coast or on the offshore side of lateral buoys
  • 3-knot top speed within the 200m from the coast and steer straight ahead
  • Use water scooters only in daytime when visibility and the weather are good
  • Do not use water scooters as tractor vehicles

If you want to go for a dive, contact the Federación Española de Actividades Subacuáticas (FEDAS) to obtain permission. For further information, go to

Boat towing

Speed limits

For vehicle-trailer combinations: 50kph in built-up areas, 70kph outside built-up areas,80kph on dual carriage roads, 90kph on motorways. 80kph for trailers over 0.75t.

Vehicle-trailer combinations

In Spain, the following maximum dimensions apply: 2.55m in width, 18.75m in length. Drawbar trailers: 2.55x12m. If you carry (roof) loads overhanging at the rear of your vehicle, use a 50 x 50cm plate hatched with red and white lines to alert other road users. Vehicle-trailer combinations over 12m long must carry a large red-rimmed yellow plate (130 x 25cm) asymmetrically to the vehicle axle or two small plates (50 x 25cm each) at the rear.

Vehicle-trailer combinations and RVs whose dimensions exceed the allowed limits require special authorisation. Such special authorisation is available from:

Dirección General de Transportes por Carretera
Ministerio de Fomento
Paseo de la Castellana, 67
28071 Madrid
Tel.: +34 915 97 70 00

Covering the propeller during towing

Make sure the propeller is properly protected before each trip. The unprotected propeller of a vessel carried on a trailer is a potential hazard. Therefore, the propeller needs to be covered so as to prevent the risk of cuts. Non-compliance with these provisions when towing a boat is subject to a fine.

Rules of the Road

Traffic rules Do not overtake 100m ahead of crests and on roads where you have unrestricted view on a stretch at least 200m long. Roadside parking is not allowed where the markings are yellow. Blue lines indicate that parking is allowed for a limited period of time. Towing is not permitted for private vehicles. Wear a reflective vest if you leave your vehicle following a breakdown or accident. To speak on the phone while driving, you will need a handsfree car kit. Using headphones while driving is not allowed. Fines for traffic offences are steep. Fines for traffic offences are steep, especially for speeding and drink-driving.

Toll duty

Special rules for vehicle-trailer combinations
Same calculation basis as for passenger cars; no additional toll for the trailer; approx. 55% surcharge for dual-wheel trailers.

Helpful information

Breakdown assistance

Real Automóvil Club de España (RACE)
Isaac Newton 4
Parque Tecnológico de Madrid (PTM)
28760 Tres Cantos (Madrid)
Tel.: +34 91 594 74 00
Fax: +34 91 594 73 19,

RACC Automóvil Club
Av. Diagonal 687
08028 Barcelona
Tel.: +34 93 495 50 00
Fax: +34 93 445 50 16

Distress calls

European emergency phone number 112
Coastal waters
Emergency call on VHF channel 16. Distress calls are handled by the Madrid MRCC.

Country code



VAT is 21%.

Yacht charter

Spain has some very popular and very well-developed cruising grounds. A leader in yacht charter are definitely the Balearic Islands whose cruising grounds are highly frequented and most popular. The Canary Islands are very popular among sailors in the winter months. Cruising grounds along the Spanish mainland are less important. However, several yachts flying a foreign flag are based in the Mediterranean cruising grounds. To learn more about the most popular Spanish yacht charter grounds, read the brief descriptions below.

Yacht charter on the Balearic Islands – Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza

The Balearic Islands are without doubt Spain’s most popular yacht charter ground. The selection of state-of-the-art charter motor and sailing yachts is especially vast on Majorca. Nevertheless, charter customers will not be disappointed on Ibiza and Menorca either.

Yacht charter on the Canary Islands

October to April are considered the peak season of yacht charter on the Canary Islands. During this period, skippers and crews can choose from a great selection of state-of-the-art charter yachts. While the trade winds offer a steady breeze, temperatures are pleasantly warm. Nevertheless, the Canary Islands are a cruising ground where breezes are strong, especially because of funneling and cape effects. Hence, they are better suited for more experienced crews.