Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Letter to Life Part 2: Η Ελλάδα είναι φανταστική

2012 08 08
Ornos Bay, Mykonos Island, Greece

Kyparissa Bay - One of the Great Anchorages along the Peloponnese

Leaving Tunisia we sailed direct to Greece planning on a stop in Malta to refuel.  As written we blew off the rude ignoramuses of Malta.  Kind of fun telling an entire country to take a flying leap.  

Then we diverted north to Marina di Ragusa.  We did this so we could pay our deposit on the winter contract and save the bank transfer fees.  The marina would not accept deposit by Visa only by transfer.  Except we went there and they took the deposit by visa with us in front of them.  Go figure.

We saved enough on fees to pay the exhorbitent marina fees MdR charge in high season.  Port Captain was not open at 1600 when we pulled in nor was he open at 0930 the next morning so we just left.  I know.  We may find ourselves in jail when we return.  But Mom's the word, right?

Now as to Greece.  We love it.  You can sail here.  Actually sail.  Destinations are many.  However:

if you come via the Corinth Canal it will cost you €180 for the 3 km trip.  This leaves you in Athens though so maybe not so bad.

If you go the southern route, which we did, direct across the Ionian from Sicily you clear in either Pilos or Kalamata.  We chose Kalamata and loved it.  Pilos sounds a bit under done yet and sort of commercial.  We have never met so many friendly people as we have in Kalamata.  Reasonably priced groceries available from the AB Store close to the marina and they deliver.  Kalamata is easy to take and NOT touristic.  It is at the head of a lovely bay, although maybe not for people from BC.  Mountains are pretty awesome to us easterners.

Our route so far has been rushed as we have been making time to get to Mykonos.  Here are out stops along the way:

Limeni Point - Peloponnese
Elafonosis Island
Kyparissi Bay - Peloponnese
Skintos Bay on Dokos Island just North of Hydra
Kolona Point on Kythnos Island
Finikas (Poseidonia) on Siros Island
Naoussa Bay on Paros Island
Ormos Ornos on Myknonos Island

Every stop was protected from the Meltemi.  Every stop except Skintos Bay had great tavernas.  We recommend them all.

Practical elements:

Sailing Environment - Other Boaters

Avoid Athens 

Any water or anchorage within a day sail of Athens is full of idiots.  Underdeveloped egos belonging on hormonal teenagers not the fifty plus morons at the helm of the boats that swarm the nice safe waters close to home.  Avoid this area unless you like immaturity by the ocean freighter full and boats roaring around like water bugs, cutting you off to prove who is the better sailor (in the opinion of the overgrown child helming the boat at a 35 degree heel).The area around Athens, down as far as Spetsai Island is or should be reserved for special needs sailors and midlife crisis victims.  If I had a four pounder on my bow the world would be missing a few retards.

Sailing in the rest of Greece is predominated by charterers.  Families and groups here for two weeks and not terribly experienced.  The charter boats are second tier: the gelcoat tired and sails worn.  We try to keep our distance at anchor especially if the wind picks up.  We have not found the charterers too interested in meeting  people but neither are they offensive.  There are a lot of families with small children which is cool.  

We have never found an anchorage crowded but often one part of an anchorage, and not always or even usually the best part,  will be jammed with boats.  We think there is a lot of follow the leader: first boat drops his hook and all the sheep follow.  We have enjoyed several lovely secluded spots while boats four hundred metres away were so tight they had their fenders out for protection.


Most marinas are inexpensive but very few have mooring lines requiring you to perfect your ability to med moor from a bow anchor.  Kalamata is an exception to this rule as is Naoussa but Naoussa is very small and was full when we were there.


There are no fuel docks in Greece.  None that we have found anyway.  Even the gas stations within walking distance of an anchorage have been closed permanently.  The only way to get fuel is by minitanker and that is a disastrous experience.  The minitankers are not in good condition and present a challenge.  The first minitanker we used had no shutoff - you had to yell to the driver to shut off the pump.  The second had notched the nozzle so the shutoff would not shut off.  He "forgot" to tell me.

Our last fuel cost €143 for 154 litres.  Not that I believe any meter on any fuel tanker.  Calibration is suspect.  Wait till you use one.  You will see what I mean.


Water is also hard to come by except at a marina and even there you must pay.   There is serious water shortage in the Cyclades and Dodecanese and they wanted to stop people wasting water by washing their boats.  A reasonable goal which they have accomplished.

So if you have a chance to take on fuel, do it.  Same for water.  We were down to 7 gallons when we got our last fillup of diesel.  Luckily the wind is so good you do not need a lot of diesel unless you are moving the boat to a schedule which we all know we should not do but all find ourselves doing from time to time.


Prices for food both in groceries and in tavernas are the highest we have paid in the Med and that is not just in Mykonos.  Prices in Greece are higher in the hot spots than they are in Canada

Avoid the Tourist Spots

Taberna Vangelis - Not worth €41
for Potato Salad and Octopus
I would avoid all the tourist spots.  Mykonos, Santorini (Thira Island) or Rhodes for example.  Mykonos where we are now is stupid expensive.  Lunch today at a nice but unexceptional cafe well off the beaten track- no drinks, no meat, potatoe salad, octopus salad and feta with eggplant, cost €41 which I figure is 4 times what we would pay in Spain.

Thira is the same.  Neither Mykonos or Thira have marinas worth looking into.  We drove up for a look at the marina at Mykonos and it is a nighmare. All the bad things written about it seem accurate.  Our anchorage in Ornos is just fine and we save enough money to rent a car to pick up our newly arriving guests.  

From here there is an hourly bus into Mykonos town but why go there: it is full of expensive hardbodies with attitude.  Swarms of hardbodies like flies on a dungheap.  They have sucked the good out of the island and ruined the pricing.

Multiple Names for Every Town, Bay and Island

Navigating can be fun.  Almost every destination has three or four names, some radically different from each other.  Santorini is called Thira Island, Mykonos is Mukonos or Muchonos.  Hard to find some places in an index.  

Currents and Meltemi

There is no doubt you are going to be shaken up a bit  sailing Greece.  Gusty Meltemi winds and conflicting currents conspire to guarantee a large percentage of vigorous sailing.  In general we travel early in the day before the sun gets the Meltemi cranked up.  We try to be into the next anchorage by 1300 or 1400.  Ahhh but we have sailed into a lot of anchorages and that is a very satisfying experience.

Watch the currents as much as the wind.  The slots between islands can give rise to a lot of angry conflict between currents and there a lot of permanent washing machine environments.  Add the Meltemi and life gets interesting.  After my blog post (why is it always after) good friends back in London Ontario wrote to warn me about the permanently angry seas north of Naxos.  If only we had known.

Executive Summary: All Good.

Greece is a joy.  Hundreds of Islands, thousands of anchorages, millions of nice people.  Lots of wind.

 If you come we will find you.  Once our guests disembark on Thira we are going to cruise around the Dodecanese and more of the Cyclades.  We will be taking it slowly.  This is the first country over here that has me enthused.  The BC is just irrepressibly enthused about everything.  I am having a very good time of it here in Greece and this is the first time I have said that about any destination in the Mediterranean.

If only it were cheaper.

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