Sunday, August 19, 2012

Our Tips to Better Enjoy a Cruise of the Peloponnese, Saronic Sea and Cyclades

2012 08 19
Posted from Mylopotos, Ios, Greece

Greece is the bar none best place to sail of all the places in the Med we have visited.  The Dalmatian coast (Croatia, Montenegro etc) and Italy/Sicily have not been visited by us yet.

The Cyclades are not set up for cruising sailors.  It is a charter destination, created for people who want to fly in, pick up a boat that has been fully serviced, full of fuel and water and stocked with food and head out with a week's supply of beer, a charter company map showing where they are allowed to anchor, a cut down main and tiny little gib.  When it is over the charterer hands the keys back to the charter company with no need to fix what is broken, packs his dirty clothes in the duffle and flies home carefree.  For this type of sailing the cyclades are fantastic.

This post is not for those guys. Chartering may be the best way to sail Greece for a week or two but it is not for us nor the people whose company we keep.

Cruisers approach Greece differently.  By the time they arrive in Greece their boats have been well used and even hard used, they need to provision, find fuel, parts, food, wash their clothes.  They need to deal with officials and find their own way around places.  

Knowing a few things about sailing our bits of Greece can help. 

Because the Cyclades are a charter based sailing destination:

Fuel is hard to arrange
Water is even harder to arrange than fuel
provisioning can be a challenge
there are absolutely no laundromats
chandlers are rare and cater to tiny little power boats.  Parts can be got by ferry but repairs if you need professional help is 100 - 150 nautical miles away

Boat charterers do not need any of these things.  Somebody does it all for them except for food and they spend every night in a taverna.  Besides you can always find beer.  

1. Fuel 

Fill your tanks at every opportunity.  If there is fuel buy fuel.  The only fuel you will get in our area is by minitanker which will require you medmoor to some crappy concrete quay with rocks extending underwater and four foot lengths of rebar erupting from the walls waiting to poke holes in your freeboard.

There are no fuel docks anywhere we have sailed.  Not one.  The in Kalamata and it was permanently closed.

There are not even any gas stations close to anchorages or harbours.  If you anchor in front of a town there will be no gas station for miles.  One day in Siros we decided to walk the mile and a half to the gas station.  Halfway we met a French cruiser walking back empty handed.  The gas station was boarded up.

For diesel: bring full tanks, fill  your deck jugs, sail everywhere, conserve fuel at every opportunity.

For gasoline: In anchorages with active beaches, ie. lots of watersports, there is a kiosk renting boats and giving ski rides.  These kiosks will often sell you some of their fuel or get fuel for you overnight.  The premium we paid in Mylopotos was €0.10 per litre over the gas station price.


In ten years of cruising my wife has never before said "Damn I wish we had a watermaker".  The water shortage here is that acute.  Years in the Caribbean have never reduced us to living on a five gallon jug from day to day yeet here we are.  If you have a water maker unpickle it.  You will need it in Cyclades.  

There is no water even at the quays or marinas in the Cyclades.  None.  

At Myknonos Marina, a brand new modern marina in a busy tourist port, there is no water or fuel.  You have to order a tanker.  

At Ios Port on Ios the water on the dock is unpotable.  You must order a tanker.  

At Kalandos Bay Marina on Naxos, a beautiful brand new marina in a drop dead gorgeous site there is no water and no fuel.  You cannot get water or fuel.  

At Naoussa on Paros you can buy water at the marina but the marina is usually full.  There is no water available at the short term quay at any price.  You can get fuel.

Some communities have a public water tap where you can fill a five gallon jug.  We use this in Mylopotos but it is a half mile walk 300 metres of it over sand.  Twenty litres of water is heavy.  Two hundred is unattainable.  

Water in bulk requires that you go to a marina, med moor to an antiquated disintegrating concrete pier, avoid the rocks extending out from the pier below the waterline and the rebar which has broken free from the concrete structure and order a tanker.  You can then wait the three to six hours it will take the fuel guy to show up and deal with his, always in our experience, broken delivery nozzle and pay for an amount of fuel you know is more than you bunkered.  

The most honest gasoline purchase we made was from Panos who runs the dive boat operation at Mylopotos Beach.  Panos was a cool guy, all gruff in that defensive way the Greeks have until they know you are ok.  Once they determine you are an ok person there is no one more friendly or welcoming.


We found a decent grocery in Kalamata.  That was the last in the Peloponnese or the Cyclades.  There are "minimarkets" and they carry basics but selection is poor, prices are high.  There are exceptions such as the Aristo market at our anchorage on Siros and the Proton Market at Ormos Ornos on Mykonos but they are few. 

Prices are high and in some destinations, such as at Ios or Mykonos, they are outrageous.

Bakeries are everywhere and all of them are good.  Buy your bread and pastry there not from the grocery.

Before coming to Greece stock your boat like you are crossing the Atlantic.  It will not be enough but it will see you through.


Unless you have a built in washing machine and water maker you cannot do laundry in the Cyclades.  There are no laundromats anywhere we have been.  None.

If you are lucky, as in Port Ios,  you can find a "laundry" where you have your laundry done by a woman on your behalf.  Cost is €10 to €15 for 10 kilos.  Here on Ios we must take our laundry on the bus to Ios town, leave it with the woman and pick it up late that day or next day and bring it back.  Bus far is €1.60 each way for each person.

A cruiser cannot do much about this  problem but a little washing as  you go - IF YOU HAVE THE WATER - will help.

Parts and Boatyards

There are few boatyards or travelifts in the Cyclades.  For serious work you take your boat to Athens, or to the Dodecanese Islands.  Good but expensive boatyards are to be found on Kos and Leros.  The yard on Patmos, Patmos Marine, is reputed to do good work at fair prices.  Work takes time here as all parts must come by ferry from Athens.

Parts are readily available from a variety of sources.  Internet Mail Order Services are found at

  • a German site with good selection, decent prices and good delivery, the last item not common in the common market
  • a greek mail order site with a lot of powerboat stuff and some sailboat stuff.
We are using with Kafetzidaki Rigging and Sailmakers in Athens trying to arrange a new furler and headstay for our boat.  It is nice dealing direct with the owners of a sailing business.  Their quote for installation was so reasonable we could not afford to do it ourselves.

Be warned that many Greek businesses close for the month of August.  Even sailing businesses like Kafetzidaki.  This is difficult for a North American to grasp but we have contacted too many chandlers in Greece looking for parts for this to be a rare phenomenon.


There are few.  The nicest is a little used marina at Kalandos Bay on the south coast of Naxos.  It is lovely but isolated.  No town only a tiny taverna halfway up the hill run by a very nice lady who does not speak English.  It has no water but is the first marina in Greece we found where you can tie side to and buy electricity. 

What you will find in several places are quays often used for local ferries to load and unload and for fishing boats.  Often you are allowed to tie up to part of the quay - but you must med moor using a bow anchor or stern anchor and the quays are often decrepit.  In any kind of weather we would far rather be on our anchor that medmoored crosswind to a bunch of charter guys.  

Once on the quay there is rarely anything for services beyond a taverna.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.


Tavernas are great.  However they are dear.  This is a charter economy.  The taverna owner must make his money in two or three months.  Prices are full bore north american, figure €20 with wine or beer.  Each.  Connie and I usually share an appetetizer or two or an entre and our bill is still €25 to €30.  You are not in Spain.  This is not a cafe life.  It is a tourist economy and you are the prey.  To be sure the staff are friendly and the food good.  Good times are had but it is a charter type life: good for two weeks not for a cruise.


One of the more frustrating bits of Greek geography no doubt stems from the number of invaders this country has suffered over the centuries.  Italy is the only country on the planet occupied by more cultures.  

Greeks will dispute it but the word Meltemi describing the all pervasive summer winds is in fact a Turkish word.  

For whatever reason it is common, almost expected, here for a location to have more than one name.  Sometimes the names are just spelling variations sometimes not.  For example we anchored at Ormos Kolona, also called Sand Bar Bay on Nisos Kithnos aka Kythnos, aka Thermia.  

Consider Limin Ayios Nikolaou aka Aghiou Nicolaou, aka Livadhi, aka Vourkari.  If you are using a guide you quickly learn to use the index for every entry and hope your writer was thorough and use the lat and lon from the book.  Our CMap chartplotter has completely different names again from those in either of the Greek Cruising Guides we are using.  

Sailing Conditions

In the summer you get the Meltemi winds out of the North give or take 30 degrees.  The winds are stiff but not scary.  You quickly adapt.  Many anchorages offer good protection.  

If you enter a bay or cove that opens to the North you will have to exit early in the morning - before 0730.  By 0800 the north winds have kicked up an unpleasant wave into which you must plough.  Sometimes the wind blows all night and you just cannot get out of a North opening bay or cove.  Fortunately it is really not much of an imposition to have to stay anywhere another day or two.  

With the number and proximity of islands wind direction and velocity cannot be predicted.  A couple of days ago we travelled six miles from Mylopotos Bay south of Ios Port to Manganari Bay.  Wind was 20 knots NNE when we left and 5 knots out of the south when  we arrived.  Waves are even harder to predict and you just take what you get and stop when you don't like it.

There are lots of cool places to stop close to almost everywhere.  

Long passages in Greek waters are not recommended by us.

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