Do you know how long it takes to fill up a boat’s fuel tank?

Fishers arriving in their small and mid-sized boats, tourists circumnavigating the Mediterranean in their sailboats, yacht captains with over 30 years of experience at sea, or tour boat skippers carrying hundreds of tourists. No matter where they’re coming from or where they’re going, they arrive from all around the world to fill up at the Repsol stations located at 68 marinas along the Spanish coasts..

Jorge Calonge, 38, has been a dock attendant at the Sóller marina station, on the island of Majorca, for seven years. He’s following in his father’s footsteps, who worked the same trade for more than 30 years before retiring. As a child he would watch his father work at the same station—for so many years that it’s no surprise he knows this town like the back of his hand, both the locals and the skippers of vessels ranging from rubber dinghies and other small craft to tour boats, fishing boats, or 130-foot yachts—the same length of the dock. Some of these yachts make routine stops, and others just occasionally.  Jorge has been working at Repsol since the year 2000, and over this time he’s learned, listened to, and formed part of many stories. In Jorge’s company, we’ll learn some interesting facts about filling up a vessel at a marina.

 

Dock attendant Jorge Calonge has been working at this marina since the year 2000.

 

From rubber dinghies to yachts

The port of Sóller is the only port in the area where you can tie up for the night, sleep over, and get a fill-up. This station sells 95-octane gasoline and diesels A and B for the professional sector. Different types of vessels fill up here. Rubber dinghies, sailboats, rafts, fishing vessels, yachts, and jet skis can all fill up at this station.

Managing 27,700 gallons of fuel

New storage tanks were installed about 12 years ago and this improved logistics and supply to the station, although the area must have police protection due to being a tourist area. Every two days, a tanker brings 6,600 gallons of each type of fuel.  The station’s reserves contain 6,600 gallons of 95-octane gasoline, 10,500 gallons of diesel A and another 10,500 of diesel B. They’ve never run out of fuel, but when demand is high they try to keep their levels balanced. If a vessel with a very large tank needs to fill up at the station, they ask the customer to fill up only to a certain amount and leave some in reserve for the next day. “No one leaves here without fuel,” says Jorge.

 

 

The skipper always stays on board

When a vessel fills up, the crew has to disembark but the skipper remains on board and turns off the engine. According to maritime law, the dock attendant may not embark nor set a foot upon a vessel. Instead, they give the hose to the skipper and that’s who operates the nozzle, following the dock attendant’s instructions. It’s typical for the skipper to keep the nozzle in their hands from hitting the boat or dock, or getting stuck between the two. Jorge and his fellow dock attendant have been trained in safety and environment, and they put these guidelines into practice with both the customer’s and the vessel’s safety in mind. You can find more information about safety rules for filling up here.

Fill up in just five minutes…

Generally speaking, filling up shouldn’t take long with the flow on full. Getting the boat ready is a whole other issue. A vessel with an 80-gallon tank can fill up in five minutes. “But that’s last thing to worry about,” notes Jorge. “When the boat gets in, you have to be ready to moor and tie up at the bow and the stern, try and open the tank (sometimes it’s closed extremely tight and it’s hard to get it open),” he explains.

When the weather gets rough

It’s imperative that a dock attendant halt fill up and give due warning to customers in the event of an electrical storm or other harsh weather conditions, which is something they understand perfectly and are already expecting when the time comes. You can still fill up in a light shower, for example.

People from around the world

People from Spain and around the world pass through the Port of Sóller—both tourists and professionals who work at sea. As such, it’s a place where people from all over the world meet, bringing their ships with names that are diverse, historical, odd, or humorous, as well as having unique personalities, like “the one that was completely gold in color,” the dock attendant recalls. This can serve as motivation to prepare oneself to learn new languages. Jorge can now get by in English, French, German, and now he’s thinking of even learning Russian.

Some local trivia

Communication is a habit at this station. People don’t just fill up here, they also take the time to enjoy some small talk, ask about places to stay, where to eat, things to do in the area, where to buy ice… In other words, sometimes it seems to operate like an impromptu tourist information office.

Each fill-up brings a story

It’s also a place to hear stories like that of the two sea-loving retirees, about 65 or 70 years old, who are traveling the Mediterranean and put into port at Sóller to fill up their little 32 to 40-foot sailboat. They’re having such a wonderful experience that they want more—once they finish with the Mediterranean, they’re already thinking about embarking of their next adventure to get to know the world this way. “And when you ask them how long they’re thinking of spending on it,” Jorge tells us they answer with “however much time it takes, be it one year, four, or ten. Who knows?”

Simultaneous fill-ups

As they offer three different products, they can fill up three vessels at the same time, although two is the normal number because there are two dock workers in the summer, and although it’s the customer who’s doing the actual fill-up, the attendants must always be there supervising. “If it’s a professional vessel, for example, I give them diesel B. If it’s a sailboat I give them diesel A, and if it’s something even smaller, gasoline.”

As you can see, more goes on at marina stations than just filling up tanks—it’s also a point where lives, languages, experiences, and stories all meet each other.

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