Saturday, September 27, 2014


This post covers less ground but that’s a part of the Greece that I love a lot and as it is not yet discovered by many, so I think it will interest cruisers heading that way and like to avoid crowded anchorages. Corinth Gulf is just a lovely place to sail and I can only justify the absence of sailboats because it is far away from any charter operator and because the sailboats that pass there are in route between the Aegean and Ionian, through the Corinth Channel and are not really cruising but voyaging.

The truth is that even if this year I made it slower than last year, enjoying the scenery, the truth is that I was already coming back and with limited time. Next year I will make it the other way around, from the Ionian to the Aegean and I will cruise it as it deserves to be cruised: Slowly. Anyway I have passed there two times so I have some information that can interest other cruisers.
First about the wind, that is normally weaker and from the East quadrant on the first half (beginning by the Aegean side) and stronger, from the West quadrant on the last half.

The absence of sailboats and the deserted beautiful coves start before the Gulf itself, at the end of the Saronic Gulf, on the Port side (going to the channel). Some are deep (but with sand bottom) but one of the last ones, Ormos Linari has several buoys (from the boats of a fish farm) that they let you use them (there are several). You can also anchor and take a line ashore, since the bottom goes down quickly. Been there last year and loved it.

After passing the Corinth Channel the options are not many (nearby) and probably the best is Corinth Port were you can anchor (not really on the port but still protected by it). 3/4m of water and a good holding. If you have less than 2.00m draft you can try the dilapidated “Marina” (really nasty looking and full of fishing boats) or tie inside the port near the city (a fellow cruiser said to me that his boat with 1.85m draft touched the bottom). Anyway, for me, with 2.30m draft the option is in anchor that is what I prefer even if in this case the scenery is not nice. The old Corinth is not near (several km to the interior and someone has told me that there were better places to visit.

Going West, pointing to the Ionian there is a favourite place, Andikiron. I have been there last year, this year as well and probably next year ;-). A perfect shelter on a magnificent scenery with a huge scale and a tourist place….but for the Greek.
That means a different kind of offer and prices too. The last restaurant on the seaside before the port is the less expensive and they made delicious roast meat. I am not particularly fond of chicken but the one that I had there last year was just delicious…and the price is a very nice surprise too.
You can stay on the port but it is a bit deep to anchor and moor Mediterranean style. This year I saw a British boat (the only other sailboat on the bay), a Moody 425 using the port Atlantic style, with the boat along the wall, but the port is very small and that takes a lot of space. You can do like me and stay on anchor. The depths are considerable and the best spot is at the end of the line of restaurants, between a buoy that marks a reef and the shore.

Don’t trust the information on the map of your plotter: it is much deeper near the coast than the map indicates. The boat can swing relatively near the shore without problems. On both times I set anchor with a depth of around 8m. Good holding.

From there I made it to Ormos Anemokambi: beautiful place, perfect shelter. A small British boat was at the end of the cove (looking like being there for several days) and at the end of the night another boat( that passed the Channel with us, an Oceanis 50) came in for the night. Far from crowded and very peaceful.

Ormos Anemokambi
Last year we also found a very beautiful place, Galaxhidi. Small port, good shelter and very nice village. Good shopping and great restaurants. In fact from the very small port (with a small beach in front) we don’t have any clue about the size of the village, that extends itself to the interior.

It is also a great place to leave the boat and rent a car (ask on the restaurants and they will send one from the nearby town of Itea) to visit the justly famous Delphi ruins. The dimension of the holy place is just awesome. 

This year I decided not to stop at Galaxhidi: Last year I had a bitter discussion with the guy from the Greek coast guard. he was not too bright (to say the least) and wanted me to pay for 3 days instead of the 2 that I had stayed there. He said that the places were too cheap if compared to the ones in a marina!!!!!

This kind of people, not frequent in Greece, are the ones that give the country a bad image and drive people away. I hope he is not there anymore…anyway he is the reason I skipped Galaxhidi this year.

After Ormos Anemokambi I stayed in Kalistea, beautiful place…that I will not recommend to anybody, except in settled weather.
The place looks nice, the wind protection seems to be ideal, most of the bottom is sand…but in a windy day like the one we have been there we found out that the small cove in front of the beach, coupled by the mountains that surround it creates a whirlpool of wind, not a violent one but one that keeps turning your boat around and around like if the wind is changing of direction all the time. Quite disturbing I would say.

Last year we have made a far better choice and stayed in Trizonia Island. The place has a marina (that I think is inexpensive) but also a sheltered place to stay near the marina.

Monastery near Galaxidi (Ousia Louka)

 The only catch is that this is a very popular place, the anchor places are limited (4 or 5) and you have to arrive early to be sure you find a place. The village is very quiet and nice, with lots of cafes and restaurants on the other side of the marina facing the nearby shore.

The people are very nice too. Last year we went at night to have a coffee, had a pleasant chat with the owner of the café and he refused to take money for the coffees (normally 4 euros). I should say also that last year in Galaxhidi in a restaurant right in front of where the boat was, when I sat drinking an ouzo and watching with the owner and waiters a basketball game between Greece and Spain, I was offered a full plate of sea food, no money asked or accepted. There are still these kind of places around those shores (if you are a nice guy LOL).

From Kalistea I sailed to Mesolonghi, famous because it was where Lord Byron died. It is a strange place, the remaining part of a big interior sea that has been disappearing. You enter it by a long channel full of houses on poles and reach a big natural port with all around protection. Last year I was there but it was very windy and we did not leave the boat. This year we discovered the city that is much nicer than what the pilotbook leads to suppose.

The only problem is that for the centre you have a 20minute walk. Great for provisions and shopping providing you take a Taxi back which in Greece is quite inexpensive (5 euros). We ate on a very nice restaurant. As long time travellers we have a knack to find out where the locals eat and this time it was not different. We will be back: Great food, fantastic people.
There is also a big Marina, quite inexpensive (24 euros for my boat, I asked even if I stayed on anchor). They are very nice, seem very competent and their price for the winter is just great, on land or on the water and they allow you to work on your boat.
Certainly good competition for Cleopatra or Ionian Marinas in Preveza (also great places to leave a boat).
Mesolonghi stays at the mouth of the Corinth Gulf after having passed the big suspended bridge that crosses it. Maybe some words about the pleasures of sailing the Gulf.

As I said the last half is upwind sailing and I love it specially when the wind is stiff. I could dispense the short steep waves of the med that the wind creates on these conditions but even so it is good fun and the waves add a factor of difficulty.
In fact it pays off to hand steer the boat on these conditions, taking the bigger waves at a bigger angle and coming to the small ones with the boat well into the wind. It is even better when you have competition and that is quite rare because there are not many sailors that like to sail upwind but the ones that I found on these waters, maybe because they are voyaging were on to it. From Ormus Anemokambi to Kalistea, with 18/20K of apparent wind I caught quickly the Moody 425 that I had seen there and that had left before me. There is a misconception that heavier boats like the Moody 425 on stiff weather can be faster upwind than a good light fast boat. Well it is really a misconception, the skipper when I waved hello took out the front sail and put the big engine on, motorsailing into the wind. Well, maybe he was a bit faster but I went rapidly away, just sailing.

Zakinthos Island - Lagana
From Kalistea to Mesolonghi I crossed tacks with another sailboat that came on the opposite tack. The boat looked beautiful and very well sailed, all sails out including a big genoa (I had a small jib). It was a Najad 379. The boat really looked fast. One hour later I had trouble in seeing it back on the horizon. It was just a little speck. So guys, if you do really want a fast boat upwind know that there is really a big difference between the different types of boats and that a good upwind boat is much faster than an average boat, that is, if you do sail upwind (because many don’t).

From Mesolonghi I went to Zakinthos, to Ormos Keri, another great natural port with some nice restaurants ashore. That’s a big bay, the sand is bottom and you can even arrive at night: there is always place for more boats and in fact there is always a considerable number of boats there.
Porto Keri viewed from  Lagana
The Keri bay is part of a bigger bay, Lagana bay, a natural reserve for turtles. It is forbidden to anchor on part of the reserve and looking at the pilot book it seems that you can only anchor at Keri bay and little else but I had the good chance to have a look at a more detailed map (used by the guys that rent small motorboats) and saw that Lagana itself is out of the forbidden zone. It seems that almost nobody knows that.

Two great nights with full moon, the only boat on anchorage, not on Lagana itself (that is too noisy for me at night) but at a small beach near a big rock, that turned out to be a private beach, café and bar (left there the dinghy to go to town).

If you are young and like agitated nights at very low prices, Lagana is the place. It looks like a giant fair, with a vocation for providing adult entertainment from booze to girls, nightclubs and discos, the full house. It is also a nice big beach full of restaurants and lots of people.

From Lagana bay we sailed to the capital Zante, an old Venetian city unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake in the 50’s. From the Venetian city little remained, maybe the big slabs of rock on the port but Zante is a modern nice place where you can find provisions and restaurants at a very nice price.

The quality is good as well as the local olive oil. The laid back ambiance is very agreeable at least till you want to buy something not tourist and find out that most of the shops don’t open in half the days of the week on the afternoon: Too laid back ??? Just kidding :-), nice place with a very well protected port with inexpensive places. You can have water and electricity if you want (5 euros each).

Zante is my favourite place to enter and leave Greece. On the port you can ask for Dionisios an agent that almost for nothing treats all needed papers without you leaving the boat and is associated with a guy that takes care of the fuel and gas bottles. They are quick, nice and efficient and the gas bottles are the less expensive I have found ever.

From here, to save many days of sailing in the Calabrian coast (Italy ), as on last year, we will be making an almost 500km passage of open sea, till the cape Spartivento (Calabria) where we hope to find a place to stay on anchor (if the wind allows it), Otherwise it will be a longer passage to Taormina in Sicily.

But that is another post and another story.. but I can already say that things went not as planned, as unfortunately it happens many times.

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