With over 6,000 islands, thousands of bays and anchorages, spectacular coastline, ancient ruins, cute white & blue buildings and beautiful weather Greece is an ideal cruising destination. So many cruisers fall in love with it and end up spending season after season cruising Greek waters. For a while there it seemed like we were the only ones not cruising in Greece! Well now finally we are.
Planning cruising time in Greece is really quite daunting. I had jotted down up a lot of recommendations over the previous season for the time when we would be in this area, places that don’t exactly roll of the tongue as with a variety of spellings that make it very difficult to ever find them on the map. There are several island groups in Greece including the Ionian islands in the west, and the Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades in the east. Then there is the “mainland” of course. We made the decision to go around the Peleponese Peninsula to get to the Aegean, rather than take the short cut through the Corinth Canal. We were also worried about the crowds that are expected in July and August, the hundreds of charter boats and Europeans on vacation, particularly in the Ionian, so skipped through here quickly. Then there is the weather – in August the Meltemi blows through the middle of the Aegean for days on end, strong and gusty NNW wind. This mainly impacts any crossing of the Cyclades. (As I write this, its August and where are we? Yes we are crossing the Cyclades!)
Our time in Greece so far has been really quite varied, beautiful bays with nothing to do but swim or paddle, ancient ruins, limestone caves, super-crowded anchorages, spectacular cliffs, forgettable food, “unique” wine, charming fishing villages and grotty holiday resorts. I really wanted to love Greece, even to like it a lot. It is taking its time, but now I think I can say that it is growing on me.
Greece and I did not get off to a very good start. After the ease and efficiency of checking in/out of so-called “developing” countries like Montenegro and Albania, full EU member Greece was the epitome of inefficiency and red tape. On a stinking hot day in Corfu town, we arrive and tie up at the wrong place (our fault, should have consulted Noforeignland.com...):
Below: Some highlights of Corfu Town
eWe head south and anchor in the wide bay below the citadel, or "new" fort. Its a busy anchorage but plenty of space and good holding. We spend a couple of days in Corfu town looking around and making a trip to a fishing store and chandlery to get ourselves set up for a whole new med-mooring experience – taking lines ashore. We have managed to avoid this so far, but more on this topic that later.
Our first stop was the Ionian islands, with a reputation for its beautiful, crazy clear blue waters and also super busy at this time of year with cruisers and charter boats alike. We head to Lakka, Paxos and catch up with Amy and Rob (Alchemy) who we met in Mljet, Croatia. Amazingly Rob has saved a spot in a super-crowded bay for us and helps with our first Med moor with lines ashore. The shores are lined with boats tied stern-to, cheek to jowl, and with more on “the swing” in the middle, but conditions are calm and somehow it all works. If we thought the Balearics were busy, this takes crowded anchorage to a whole new definition. We stay for a few days, swimming and enjoying the slow pace of village life. From there we head to Anti-Paxos, bypassing the busy anchorages to find a tiny bay (Lighthouse Bay) we can call our own, if only for the night.
Below: Paxos and Anti-Paxos
We need to talk about Preveza
It’s one of those towns that you can end up spending a week there if you are not careful. Why? Well it has everything a cruiser could want! A selection of hardware stores and chandleries, supermarkets, fresh produce, meat and wonderful bakeries. All things to be savoured when you are cruising and we leave with the fridge and freezer well stocked! The highlight though was definitely catching up with Shona and Gavin from White Arrow, who we first met in Hammamet last year. Friendships forged “on the water” with kindred spirits that stay with you no matter the nautical miles between. Great to spend time with you guys and thanks for the haircuts and grooming tips Shona. Miss you lots and watching your progress as you head West. Also thank you to the lovely Nicollete who manages the town quay at Preveza where we spent our 4 nights. Our first town quay in Greece and who can believe they charge €6 per night and cats don’t pay double! Amazing to see huge loggerhead turtles swimming around your stern here and especially one who gave us a parting salute with the sea cucumber he was in the process of devouring.
Sadly there was one other event that made Preveza unforgettable, and that was a close encounter with the Albanian mafia dockside, mini-tanker refuelling scam. That’s the one where they ask you how much fuel you think you need, sell you that amount, tell you your tank is full, except it aint! It’s a brazen soul that on discovering this “anomaly” calls the guy back over to fill the empty jerry cans he has just emptied into the supposedly full fuel tank to try and re-coupe at least some of the fuel we paid for but didn’t get. Well the port police were not interested in this little scam(!). Fellow sailors beware! Time for us to leave town!
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.