Sailing in Greece
My inner clock is telling me persistently that it’s time to sail. Last night I woke up because I heard a strong wind outside. I was about to get up to go for a walk until I realized that I was in a house.
In the last three years, we’ve been away for weeks at this time. I often think of our friends on the other side of the Atlantic who are enjoying the clear waters of the French Antilles, the Virgin Islands or the Bahamas. They enjoy the warm sunrise at 6.00 a.m., swimming, snorkeling and diving and watching the fish doing fishy stuff. I envy them, but unfortunately we were unable to accept the invitations to “come over”.
After our travel excesses of the last few weeks, Ka and I spent our forced winter break in Luxembourg and Germany. A little refresher on why we set sail in 2020. The Rivercafe will have to wait a few more weeks in Montenegro until the temperatures become bearable.
Montenegro: one and done
We want to leave Montenegro as soon as possible. The harbor is great and especially the lively community of Lifeaboards, mainly Brits, Americans and Australians – all sailors with whom the Schengen Agreement does not mean well.
That’s actually all the advantages. It’s cold, wet and windy in winter. Preparing the vessel is more tedious than in the Caribbean. Sending parcels to Montenegro is like paying for a parking ticket with a 50 euro bill, with no change. Considerable customs duties and fees are levied on deliveries, even for a ship in transit. As a result, hardly anyone delivers to Montenegro. Unfortunately, this will not be intercepted by the local ship chandleries, as they are even more expensive than those in the Caribbean.
And then there is the fact that there is no service for many brands, e.g. Victron, the world market leader for marine electronics. If one Lifeaboard wants to sell something to another, let’s say a dinghy, then customs come knocking and want their share, plus a fine. Everything is so incredibly complicated, slow and unfriendly. I can’t imagine that Montenegro should ever be accepted into the EU.
Preparations for Greece
We still have a few weeks to go and then Greece will have the chance to improve our opinion of the Mediterranean. However, it’s not fair to compare the Mediterranean with the Bahamas or the Caribbean. Once you’ve bitten the apple – or, to put it another way, we’re pretty spoiled from “over there”.
However now is exactly the time to plan our sailing season, which we want to spend entirely in Greece. The 10 million inhabitants of Greece have a reputation among sailors for being friendly and likeable. Wonderful, we can make good use of that. 16,000 km (8.640 nm) of coastline, over 3,000 islands and 82% of all Mediterranean islands – that’s Greece. Less than 5% of the islands are inhabited. It would easily take 10 years of sailing just to visit the islands.
Quite some islands plus mainland
So we need a plan. A multifunctional plan that allows us to sail a varied season and take friends and family on board. You know the sailor’s wisdom of setting either a place or a time for visitors, but not both. However, I have not yet understood how this is supposed to work with a fixed vacation period and limited airports. So in order to be at fixed dates at fixed locations with an airport, we need a lot of “buffer time”.
We have to make sure that our sailing routes are feasible. In other words, in addition to the distances, we have to plan for the prevailing winds so that we don’t have to sail “against the tide” for days on end or get blown in. We can ignore the tides, the difference between high and low tide is very little. Anchoring in Greece is probably easier than in Italy. There is flexibility if you don’t have to book moorings in marinas on fixed dates, which is literally twice as difficult for a catamaran. What is also important for planning is to think about the next winter and choose the place where the season should end.
Ionian Sea or Halkidiki
We still have the choice of spending a relaxed sailing season in the Ionian Sea on the west side of Greece or sailing “once around” to Chalkidiki and Thessaloniki. That would be about 650 nm oneway from Corfu or 850 nm from Montenegro. Both would be quite manageable seasonal achievements for us compared to the last few years. However, there are a few pitfalls lurking in Greece that Odysseus already had to deal with. Meltemi is the name of the evil. This mostly northerly wind blows in the Aegean Sea, especially in summer. The islands of the Cyclades are in the middle of it with Mykonos, for example. 8 Bft is not uncommon.
Dominant winds in Greece
Friends of ours left the area early because the constant wind got on their nerves. This season, we don’t need any more excitement, so we’re foregoing the Cyclades and the Dodecanese off the Turkish coast. But there is still more than enough to see.
Thats what we are looking for
I have already contacted a few marinas for the next winter camp. Most of them declined straight away. The prices of the easily accessible marinas are extremely opulent and it seems to me that the sailors alone are supposed to fill the Greek budgets. A berth is easily more expensive than a nice apartment.
However, the really shocking thing was the small print: 100% advance payment immediately, i.e. 9 months before arrival, and the entire amount would not be refunded if something came up, whatsoever. Which, as we all know, is completely out of the question when sailing. (Caution: irony). So no berth for the winter for the time being. Now we will let the matter come to us.
Sailing off as soon as it gets warmer
When the temperatures have reached the minimum values for us warm-blooded people, we want to set off from Montenegro on the 200 nm route to Corfu. Probably non-stopm skipping Italy or Albania. There are so many interesting destinations from there to the south that we have a lot to see and report on. In Corfu we will also welcome our first friends on board.
It’s high time for some sea breeze. /Holger Binz
Addendum to the Miskawaan clinics
After my last article, we had many inquiries about the clinic in Thailand that we visited. Even after two months, we are still very enthusiastic and the treatments are working with great success. If you would like to know more, here is the German-language website: Miskawaan.de. (Then I don’t have to keep repeating everything :-))