Dionisio Mendiola, with Kristine, one of the skippers of the catamarans. Migue Fernández
Solar-powered catamarans set to sail around Malaga bay

Solar-powered catamarans set to sail around Malaga bay

Malaga yachtsman Dionisio Mendiola has launched La Bella Verde, a charter company using pollution-free boats that set sail from the city

Ignacio Lillo


Friday, 25 August 2023


Malaga sailor and naval engineer Dionisio Mendiola caught media attention at the end of last year for his nautical achievement of single-handedly sailing his small boat the full distance from Oslo, where he lived at the time, to the port of El Candado in El Palo, Malaga.

Now settled back again in his home city, the young entrepreneur has combined two of his great passions - the sea and nature conservation - with a new project. It is about offering nautical charters aboard catamarans to take trips around the Malaga bay, except, contrary to the usual charters, his boats create zero pollution.

Even though they might be sailboats, as is the case here, boats over a certain length must always be equipped with a back-up engine, for safety at sea and for certain manoeuvres. The novelty with these catamarans is that the propellers are electric and, in addition, they receive electricity from solar panels installed in the stern.

The initiative is called La Bella Verde and started up in Ibiza years ago, when a friend of Mendiola converted a conventional catamaran into a self-powered electric one.

"Back then, people were not so aware of pollution and they thought he was crazy, but in the end it has been very successful," he said.

The recharging capacity of the batteries on these boats to keep going depends on the sun and cloud cover. Still, on a sunny day, at half throttle, there is practically no electricity used (the net balance between the level of recharging and energy consumed). In the worst case scenario on cloudy days, they still have up to six hours of self-powered sailing.

As such, the young entrepreneur, together with his partner Pedro Navarro, saw the opportunity of bringing this idea to Malaga, chartering two of this type of boat. They are based on El Palo beach, opposite the Lulú Playa beach bar, where they also have an information point.

"People love being able to enjoy the sea without polluting it," he said. Mendiola himself and two other sailing pros usually take turns to skipper the trips.

Four-hour trips

The boats are called Nalú and Ninja and are eight metres long. They operate outings generally lasting three to four hours for groups of up to 12 people (typically friends, families or students) to get to know the bay of Malaga. To reach the catamarans anchored just offshore, they rely on the inflatable dinghy (Zodiac) provided by another local company, the Kayak and Dino Bike water sports centre.

Special activities

The service has been very well received since starting up. "We already have every weekend booked for the summer, although from Monday to Friday there are still spaces available," stated Dionisio Mendiola. Another option offered by La Bella Verde, and which is being positively welcomed, is the series of onboard activities to make sailing more accessible for children and people with disabilities. They are also organising plastic waste collection days with the boats: "We go with volunteers to spend the day at a beach and we clean it, to collaborate with the planet," said the entrepreneur.

"The city of Malaga needs this type of service offering. We only have two marinas and they are very small, until the one in San Andrés opens," said Mendiola. "There is very little in supply, but people are really wanting to go out to sea and spend a day sailing."


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