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Thoughts on the Ionian by Tony Lavelle

FaB at Gaios
FaB at Gaios

I was lucky to be invited for a week’s sailing on a friend’s 38ft Beneteau in September. There are already two articles on the site about sailing in this part of the Mediterranean, off Western Greece, but I thought I would share some of the high points and differences between the two Meds (‘iterranean and ‘way).

  • Gobsmackingly beautiful scenery – steep-sided islands and deep blue sea, pale green on the odd shallow bit. You can actually see through the water.
  • Warm enough for T-shirts and shorts, even in the evening in late September. You can swim without hypothermia. The high salinity helps you float too.
  • No tides to worry about. The downside is that you get no helping push either and if you get stuck the tide won’t lift you off.
  • Mooring bows-to or more usually stern-to is an unfamiliar technique that needs 2 or 3 well-practised crew.
  • Moorings often provided by or in front of tourist-oriented tavernas with wi-fi, toilets, sometimes showers, etc, so this style of eating/drinking dominates. Very convenient if you want a cooked breakfast, coffee after dinner, etc but cost soon adds up. Prices are now similar to UK.
  • Some quays have lazy-lines to save anchoring. Beware of getting the rope round your prop.
  • Flotillas dominate, especially in the Ionian. Crossed anchors are a fact of life with stern-to mooring, especially where the quayside is concave in plan.
  • The “port police” can make life difficult with silly forms, fees and rubber stamps, especially for non-flotilla boats, but we had no problem while I was there.
  • Real villages are often inland for historical reasons so you don’t get the real flavour of the country unless you go for a long walk.
  • Few old buildings (apart from ancient forts) as they were destroyed by earthquakes, so most towns are modern and samey.
  • Local history much more complicated than I realised, but fascinating. Rod Heikell’s pilot guide gives excellent background.
  • Almost no buoyage or marks, even on rocky reefs in popular areas.
  • Charts, even latest ones, are inaccurate due to age of survey, especially of islands. GPS positions often put you well on land when in harbour. Sand spits and reefs are not remotely as charted.
  • No RNLI or equivalent. You’re on your own basically.
  • Winds generally light (or on the nose) so much motor-sailing.
  • Storms can come and go suddenly. Useful forecasts can be tricky to obtain. We got caught in a full gale.
  • So-called cheap flights are available but no-frills, no-refunds and uncomfortable. Need to use cheap ferries and expensive taxis to get to/from boat. Logistics of crew changes can be tricky.
  • Don’t put ANY paper in the toilets in Greece unless you eat it first.
View from Spartahori
View from Spartahori

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Date Published 30th Sep 2010