Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sailing Albania

2013 07 07
Anchored on the Island of Korcula, Croatia

Really, You Don't Want to Sail This?  Are You Suuure?

Albania is a much maligned sailing destination. We spent a week here and enjoyed it immensely.  Our recommendation is to sail Albania. 

Officials are welcoming, prices are low, the coast is interesting and, if you keep an eye on forecast wind conditions the anchoring is safe. If you travel a bit about the interior by car or bus you will enjoy thrills and scenery never before enjoyed.

Here are our impressions from a week spent along the coast of Albania.

Our Only Caution: Watch Your Depth Sounder Not Your Charts

The charts are not terribly accurate.  In many cases they are not even guidelines.  In the south this does not matter as the coast is mountainous and bottoms drop off precipiously.  In the north however the coastline becomes marshlike and the bottom shelves, in some cases for miles offshore.  If you have sailed the Bahamas Banks then you will be familiar with sailing full speed in ten feet of water.  In Velipoje our chart indicated we were anchored a half mile offshore in 50 feet of water. Actual depth was 8 feet and had been for 500 metres.

Officials and Clearing In/Clearing Out Procedures

In Albania a yachtsman does not clear in in person.  Rather he hands his documents, passport, Certificate of Registry, insurance documents to a port agent. The port agent returns in half an hour with clearances and stamped passports.

Clearing Out: You must clear out of every port in Albania into which you have cleared. Contact the agent an hour before departure and he takes care of it for no additional chartge.

For this service (clearing in and out) the agent charges €50 in most cases although I have heard of one fellow in Vlore who is asking €60.
Sarande At Night

You should contact the agent before reaching port so he can meet you on the dock and guide you to your docking slip where he or she will help with lines. After clearing in the agent will assist with directions, travel arrangements and suggestions for things to see and do. In all a reasonable service even if it is forced upon you.

The fly in the agent ointment is that you must clear in and out of every port. If you wish to visit Sarande and Vlore and Shenguin you will pay three agents three separate fees.  This limits your number of city stays and if you have to choose we strongly recommend Sarande which is interesting and safe and offers good provisioning and transportation hub.

Boating Supplies and Hardware: None to speak of.

Restaurant Meals: Crew on Meredith dined out every evening. A full meal with two drinks each generally cost $20 to $25 for two people. These were full meals with appetizer but no dessert purchased at waterfront hotel restaurants.

Fuel: €1.35 a litre well below the Italian price of €1.82. These were honest litres not Greek minitank litres.

Fresh fruit and vegetables: in abundance at the fresh market and from street vendors located about every 100 metres along every street.

Grocery: The large grocery in Sarande was fully stocked. Prices were below Italian and Greek prices. Selection was good in all areas.

Hardware: There is a lot of construction going on in Albania so most hardware is available in good quality and quantities at prices below Italy and Greece. We used a hardware store in Grijokaster which was as well stocked as any Big Box store in North America.

Haircut: My haircut cost $3. Connie had a cut, style and wash for $10.


The only anchorage offering all round protection is likely on the island of Palermos. If conditions give you traditional north winds you have many more anchoring possibilities.

Grama: Unique and visually striking this anchorage is well worth a night or two.

Himare: Nothing too dramatic but pleasant anchorage off a beach. Decent protection from the north and east though south south east. No protection South through NW.. We chose Himare over Palermos as it seemed to us more attractive and it had no military helicopters buzzing us every twenty minutes.

Dirjake:This is a huge and striking pine forested salt marsh. Unexpected lowlands after two days of sailing along the striking mountain ranges of the Albanian coast. Good protection from north around to SSE. From here you launch a dinghy cruise of lagoon and forested coast.

Anchorages we tried and were less pleased with:

Palermos: This island anchorage offered good protection which we did not need the day we passed it by. Formerly a restricted military area the prohibition against anchoring has been removed and in fact no permission was needed at all. Someone should have told the military for as we approached the island a military helicopter took to the air and flew ever tightening low altitude circles around us. Since we did not need the protection of Palermos we just kept on going. It seems the military is less willing to tolerate reduction of Stalinist control than the government. What else is new.

Velipoje: This lovely anchorage is right on the northern border between Albania and Montenegro. A river acts as the natural delineator of the border and this river has formed a delta which provides good protection from waves from the north and north west through south south west.

Good holding but littered with rocks and maybe some construction waste.

Our only night in this anchorage we were boarded by thieves just about midnight. The thieves were thwarted but he experience was disconcerting. In the end it cost us a night's sleep and all of our adrenaline reserves but had our dinghy been in the water it would have been gone.

Docking:In Sarande the dock we used had electricity and water. It was free for two days and cost €10 per day after that.

Safety and Security

In Sarande we did not feel insecure anywhere at any time. We walked the backstreets, mingled with the people, did business on the streets.  We took minibuses around the countryside with no problems and nothing but good experiences.  

While sailing and anchoring we did not feel insecure and we were quite taken aback by the attempt of the youths in Velipoje to board our boat under cover of darkness. My wife, Connie says the event could have happened anywhere and I suspect she is right. This was not a concerted effort by practiced thieves rather it was more an expression of boredom and frustration common amongst youth in most modern economies.

This isolated event will not prevent us from returning to and enjoying Albania in future.

Some Port Agents we recommend:

Sarande: Agim Zholi, (port agent)


Orikum: contact Marina Orikum,

Vlore: Roven Troqe, 00355(0)694785551
Festim Skenda 00355(0)692107927

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