This is a story about a small village, a large wharf, a visionary business man and his fleet and a tiny treat of dried fruit.

The Xábia wharf was finished in 1879 and all of the small fishing boats and transport barges that would normally be stranded on the beach could now properly anchor. The large size of the wharf allowed for the berthing of a variety of boats, many of them owned by the main merchants of Xábia.

Pailebot PEPE TONO. 
From the book Xabia Marinera. Graphic Memory

REPORT BY: Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. Fine Arts (www.KarlaDarocas.com)

On any given day, the ships that moored in Xábia were Feluccas, a traditional Mediterranean wooden sailing boat; Jabeques, a triangular sailboat, with which one could also sail by rowing; Schooners, a type of sailing vessel with fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts; and Pailebotes, a type of sailing vessel that has had various uses: merchant , fishing or recreational yacht.

The ability to load and unload directly from land with greater speed and security increased port traffic with not only the export of raisins almonds, peanuts, onions, dried figs, wine, etc.- but also imports from England and America like guano, coal, cast iron for balconies and "mobila" wood.

The diets of the Xábia citizens changed with the new imports like sugar, coffee, chocolate, chicory, tobacco, carbonates and salts. There were also new styles of earthenware and fabrics to enrich the homes of Xábia.

These numerous supplies needed to be stored and warehouses sprang up and sawmills and even a toy factory.

Reconstruction of the Bolufer warehouse in the gardens of the Sultana. 
From the book Xabia Marinera. Graphic Memory

The economic boom of the agricultural trade encouraged the managers of the wharf to request an expansion of the port to provide greater efficiency. The growth of the port traffic, moving goods and people forced the public administration to establish a customs service, a health department, a maritime department and a telegraph cable service between the Peninsula and the Balearic Islands.

The pastoral raisin trade became a yearly concern that occupied an abundant workforce during the final months of summer and the first months of autumn. The process began in mid-August with the harvesting, blanching and drying of the grapes.

Once the grapes were converted into raisins the farmers became merchants.

The storage warehouses by the sea became busy with an army of women and children separating the different qualities and plucking the stems and packing the boxes that were covered with local trade labels destined to foreign markets.

The traders of Xábia were able infiltrate the British market with their large and seedy muscatel raisins and evict the Cyprus, Crete and Turkey exports of "Corinth" seedless raisins or currents that were small.

The popularity of the Xábia raisin flourished because of its size and nutritional value that was utilized by Anglo-Saxon workers, whether deep in minds or out on the high seas. In the high society circles of the British empire, the raisins of Xábia were a necessary ingredient of their famous "Christmas puddings".

Still today, the Xábia  trademark name "Sultana" that was clearly displayed on boxes of raisins shipped by the House of Bolufer acts as a beacon to success of the town and its wharf. Bolufer named his shipping warehouse Sultana too, as he appreciated the power of the Sultan and wanted his empire to be powerful too.

Box Label on raisins of Casa Bolufer. Warehouse is shown. 
From the book Xabia Marinera. Graphic Memory


Xábia-based shipowner José Antonio Bolufer Cruañes (1814-1890) made a lot of money being a merchant of raisins and other commodities, with a large warehouse in Duanes de la Mar in the Port of Xábia. He also built a mansion in the Church Square in Xábia that still attracts attention today.

A graduate of the University of Valencia where he received his doctorate in law, he went on to build an impressive shipping company featuring some of the most famous ships on the Mediterranean.

The fleet included PEPE TONO (Capt. Bartolomé Morato ), SULTANA (Capt. Valentin Ros), MARIA (Capt. Francisco Ros ) and LEON (Capt. Bartolomé Mengual).

In 1855, he received the title of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic.


PEPE TONE was a pailebot or pilot's boat and the best and most important of the ships in his fleet, which was born as a consequence of the economic bubble that came about due to the demand for raisins.

According to the newspaper El Constitucional, in the December 15th edition, 1877, it was noted in a a letter to the editor that the townsfolk of Xábia witnessed the launch of the Pepe Tone.

The author of the letter marked the importance of the ship to the town as it was built on the sea shore by the rich merchant D. José Antonio Bolufer.

About the launch, he says, "It is astonishing the simplicity with which the sailors and caulkers of our coast carry out the operation, always risky, of beaching a ship, with no other assistance than some pieces of wood, four very bad cables and two rickety winches. Truth is that the state of the sea, almost always quiet in this safe bay, made the operation much easier; but it is also true that it was a surprising sight to see more than a thousand people in whose face were painted fear and hope during the critical moment when the ship glided gently on the inclined plane of wood on which her keel rested, until she saw free of its moorings floating in a calm and fanciable sea."

On February 11, 1890 José Antonio Bolufer.died.

The last news of the Pepe Tone was found in the Madrid Heraldo newspaper on Sunday, October 22, 1893. It announced that the Pepe Tone left from Malaga heading to Havana on the 21 of that month.

What happened to the ship from that moment -- no one knows.

Many ships that made that trek were sold when they arrived in Havana, but specifically, about the Pepe Tone, no one knows what happened? Was it lost at sea? Was it sold and the name was changed?

It is a mystery.