Areas in Detail -
Corsica & Sardinia Brilliant white undeveloped beaches and coves, stunning scenery.
Sicily & Malta Unique; bubbling volcanoes and ancient sites
SW Peloponese Every harbour, cove and anchorage. Good bars, too.
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Areas in Detail
spent five years sailing around the various Greek cruising areas, and
loved it. This was only just long enough to cover all the spots on our
'must do' list, for there are thousands of miles of deeply indented
coastline and harbours. Even so, we omitted S Crete (did it by car)
Sailing in Greece
Sailing Season We assume you'll be sailing between 15 April and 15 October when there's a reasonable amount of settled weather. Over winter there's a lot of nice weather, but the likelihood of meeting some really vicious winds during a two week cruise is high, so look for weather windows and keep within range of good shelter.
Tourist activity is thin before 15 May, ramping up to a maximum from 15 July to 25 August, remaining busy until 15 October. Everything works during that period. Outside it, things are very quiet indeed - excepting the big whoopee over Orthodox Easter.
Weather We think only two sorts of weather: settled, and unsettled.
Settled weather is nice, the sky is blue, the winds do what the pilot book says (quite a lot in some areas!), and all the regular anchorages are fine. From mid May to late September the weather is mostly settled, with only rare sessions of unsettled weather. North of latitude 38°N, (Gulf of Corinth) the season is two to four weeks shorter.
Unsettled Weather is when there are significant clouds around (ignoring the usual thunderstorms over the mainland) which may last for 2 to 4 days. Then anything may happen, including occasional very vicious and unpredictable winds from unusual directions. For winter (from October to April) unsettled weather is quite common, 2 or 3 sessions a month, a bit like English summer. May and September are transitional months, when there's a 50% chance you'll find a session of unsettled weather in a two week period.
Forecasts. Probably the easiest forecast to use is Poseidon , http://www.poseidon.ncmr.gr/weather_forecast.html . Posiedon gives detailed wind maps for every 6 hours, looking up to three days ahead. Also, text them with your lat and long, and they'll reply with a text message forecast. Another good source is http://www.meteo.gr/sailingmapf.asp - although in Greek, this is easily interpreted. When interpreting all forecasts, bear in mind that there are strong local effects. A forecast F5 will blow at F7 round one side of a small island, and F3 around the other (watch out in the Cyclades!). Downwind of a ridge will amplify a F5 into a local F7 (Vassiliki in Levkada, Mani) with lots of gusts to add interest. Deep bays may have consistent daily thermal winds reaching F4 or F5 from the south (Kalamata, SE Peloponese) blowing against the general northerly trend.
Definitions. Our ratings: 1–2 — consider avoiding for the reasons given. 3–5 — no special attraction. 6–8 — include these in your itinerary. 9–10 — must go! We assume you'll be transiting through or chartering within most of these cruising areas. Our 'week's worth' assessment is for an un-hurried cruise, with 2 night or 3 night stops in the finer locations to allow proper exploration. Shorten our assessment if you're a hit and run cruiser! Typical winds quoted are for settled weather, and are generally lighter in May and June. More jumps you to a new page with lots of detail . . . which includes stuff like restaurants and bars we've enjoyed. In making our judgements, you may wish to check our prejudices here.
Mostly moderate winds, some very well sheltered cruising areas and very pretty villages to visit.
North Ionian — Corfu to Levkada. Overall, 7/10. Fairly exposed sailing (with some swell) to several exceptionally pretty places. Enough wind in the afternoons, rarely above F5. Moderate effects of tourism, fairly busy harbours. Seaplane flights link the area, excellent charter flight connections to UK via Corfu and Preveza. 2 weeks worth. more
Inland Ionian — Levkada to Cephallonia. Overall, 7/10. Sheltered water, enclosed by Levkada and Cephallonia. Beautiful settings, a mass of islands with a large number of anchorages and quaysides and a few beaches, well served with yacht-oriented tavernas. Very popular with flotilla and charter companies, so it's crowded, but it's always possible to find quiet days and quiet spots. Mostly flat water sailing, excepting occasional swell in the gap between Levkas and Cephallonia. Very fluky winds most mornings. Usually an afternoon breeze, with a few windy spots (such as Vassiliki bay) in the afternoons. Tourism effects are variable. Certainly 2 week's worth, and if you really want to explore properly, allow 3 to 4 weeks. more
Patras Gulf — Corinth to Messolonghi — 5/10. A gulf to travel through, with just enough highlights to make the journey interesting. It's best reserved for an east to west journey, since it it quite easy to work west through the gulf against the prevailing winds. That allows you to take the delightful route east around the S Peloponese. Several serviceable commercial ports, conveniently spaced, and more pleasant cruising along the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth. A one week cruise. more
Southern Ionian — N Zakinthos/Killini to Proti island. 3/10. This is passage making territory along some of the longest (and emptyiest) sand beaches in Greece. Afternoon winds up to F6 from the north, exposed to swell. Not a cruising ground. Just enough well sheltered harbours en route to make a northerly beat acceptable. This includes Katokolon, suitable for a visit to Olympia (9/10). Can be done in a one day gallop from Zakinthos to Pylos, but allow five days from Cephallonia if you wish to explore. more
South Peloponese — Pylos to Kythera. 8/10. A one way trip with the predominant west winds (F4 to 6) through one of the most unspoilt areas of Greece. Few yachts. Severe gusts off some of the headlands. Magnificent beaches, small and friendly harbours, little tourism. At least 2 week's worth. more
A large cruising area with a vast variety of experiences. Crowded, or quiet; Strong wind challenges, or light weather; Ancient sites or hedonistic tourism.
E Peloponese — Kythera to Porto Heli. 7/10. consistent afternoon southerlies make it easy to work north. A delightful one week cruise along the coast, with a little Greek tourism, few yachts and some lovely towns to visit. more
Saronic — Spetsai to Lavrion. 5/10. Many anchorages and harbours, rather light winds, flat water. Lots of leisure traffic. Some islands and harbours nearer Athens are often so crowded that berthing is a nightmare — or interesting entertainment if you're just watching. Maybe 2 week's worth, more if you don't mind the crowded harbours and expensive marinas. more
Cyclades — Cap Sounion to The Dodecanese. 8/10. Exciting sailing. Winds are northerly in summer (F4 to 7) and may sometimes force you to hole up for a day or three. An enormous variety of harbours and anchorages, including some of the great sights (and sites) of Europe with many good circular cruises possible. If you need to work northwards there are many strategies for avoiding stronger winds: go in spring or autumn; run north up the east Peloponese; beat up through the more sheltered Dodecanese; pick a weather window; do early morning departures. Even so, there's a risk that a 20 mile bash to windward may be needed to get a charter boat back on time. Not many yachts around, mostly over 34ft. It'll take at least 4 weeks to see the highlights; add another 4 weeks if you really want to do a thorough job. Even that leaves something for next year. The effects of tourism are mostly smart. Note: Greeks pronounce it 'Kick-lah-dez' none of this 'sickladies' stuff. more
The Dodecanese — Rhodes to Samos. 9/10. A great cruising ground with some excellent highlights. Brisk northerly winds, lighter and more sheltered than the Cyclades, so easy to work northwards. Plenty of anchorages, especially in the north, and relatively few yachts. Can be mixed with Turkish coast cruising if you're canny. Tourist effect variable, easy to escape from. 2 weeks does the highlights only, 3 weeks better. more
W and N Crete — 3/10. Not a cruising area to seek out, mainly due to high levels of tourist development in Iraklion and Rethymnon. However, the areas west of Chania and east of Spinalonga are worth visiting if you have time, and the Minoan palace at Knossos near Iraklion is a 'must visit'. The prevailing winds are westerly, so east is easy way to go, but your journey may have to take account of the firing ranges off Souda bay — which are live during some weekdays up to 20nm offshore. A warm climate for wintering. more
Evia and the N Aegean is mainly frequented by yachts in transit to Turkey, bent on avoiding the stronger winds of the S Aegean in high summer. It's not a crowded area, although the E Sporades, a pleasant cruising ground, is quite busy with charter yachts. The season is shorter than further south, since thunderstorms interfere with spring and autumn, chopping a couple of weeks off each end. Attractions of the area are limited compared to the Cyclades, but it has a quiet charm.
Evia. 4/10. Evia stretches nearly 100nm along the north east facing coast, east of Athens. It connects to the mainland by a bridge. The west coast is inhospitable if the meltemi blows. The channel between Evia and the mainland is convenient for making a passage north, offering flat water, though a meltemi can create strong gusts. more
Volos. At the north end of the passage is Volos bay. Volos itself is a port of entry, a ferry terminal for the Sporades and a jumping off point for the long car trip to Meteora, (10/10); stunning rock pinnacles topped with monasteries. more
N Sporades. (7/10). This tight little cluster of islands makes a good cruising ground for a week - or more if you include rather isolated Skyros. Winds are fairly brisk here in summer, but usually a force or two lighter than the vigorous meltemi of the Cyclades. Tourist busy Skiathos (4/10), village topped Skopelos (8/10), quiet Alonnisos (6/10) and quirky Skyros (7/10) make up the group. more
Northern Greece. (5/10) Northern Greece is seldom visited by foreign yachts. Massive mountains to the west include Olympia, home of the gods and Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece. There are a couple of full service marinas in the area and some fine sandy beaches around Khalkidiki. One 'must do' is a slow cruise around Mount Athos (9/10) with its famous monasteries clinging to the cliffs. more
E Sporades (4/10). The summer meltemi blows quite strongly through the spaced out islands that make up the E Sporades. Samos/Ikaria are best thought of as part of the Dodecanese cruising area. Thassos, Samothrace, Limnos, Lesvos, and Khios are larger islands, some 40 to 50nm apart, with little tourism. They are quiet outside July and August, but make a pleasant, low key chain of islands to visit if you're travelling south, with the winds. Port police more likely to insist on regular visits in this 'border territory', see port police procedures. more
We can recommend two pilot guides:
1 Greek Waters Pilot, Rod Heikell, published by Imray Norie and Wilson. Available in most chandlers. See: http://www.imray.com/record.cfm?i_stock_code=068D
2. Greece, Sea Guide, Nikolaos Ilias, 4 volumes in Greek and English. Expensive, but more anchorages and detail than Heikell, and including charts. Obtainable from chandlers in Greek leisure yachting centres. See: http://www.eagleray.gr/