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This summer, I've decided: I'm going back to sail in Greece…


This summer, I've decided: I'm going back to sail in Greece…

The newspapers continually remind us: the Greek economy is in a bad way... But does that mean we have to avoid sailing in these archipelagos, which are not like any others? We wanted to get to the bottom of it!

Everything began with the demonstrations by the Greek people against the austerity measures which were supposed to give back a margin for manoeuvre to a state which is excessively in debt. Images which obviously cooled the ardours of many candidates for holidays in Greece. However, the Multihulls World team doesn't retreat in the face of any risk, and just after the International Multihull Boat Show, we embarked for Greece, heading for the island of Kos, via Athens. At the Greek capital's airport, everything went without mishap. We recovered our luggage in no time at all, and boarded an internal flight...much more easily and quickly than in many other places in the world. And barely more than half an hour after our take off, we arrived in Kos, one of the main islands in the Dodecanese, and above all, Kiriakoulis's departure base, where we were to pick up our Lagoon 440 for a week we hoped would be idyllic, on the tracks of Ulysses, looking for the Minator, Dedalus and other myths!

Just twenty kilometres or so separate Kos airport from the marina, where our cat was waiting for us, and where we were welcomed despite the late hour, so we could settle in aboard. We quickly got our bearings, and decided to celebrate our coming cruise by eating some souvlaki, the famous kebabs that are only to be found here... We didn't have far to go, as opposite the marina, we were served some delicious dishes with a radiant smile: things were getting off to a rather good start!  

The programme
Greece has many faces; all those who have cruised there know this, and it is also why we like to come back here time and time again... From the Saronic Gulf to the Cyclades, via the Sporades, you will find islands and landscapes which are completely different from each other. For this cruise in the Dodecanese, our aim was to discover a small, very special archipelago situated to the north of Kos, still today described as 'the corsairs' archipelago'. It was here that Julius Caesar was taken prisoner at the age of 22; he remained here for six months as a hostage, before Rome finally paid the ransom demanded. As the future 'dictator for life' of the Roman Empire hadn't exactly appreciated this escapade, once he had been freed, he sent four galleys to avenge it. All the pirates were put to death and on the islands in question, they still tell the tale that 35,000 inhabitants were reduced to slavery. The inhabitants of these islands are still rebels and artists... Promising! From Kos, we therefore headed north-east to visit Kalymnos, the sponge fishermen's island, Leros, Lipsi and finally Arki, the goal of our voyage, before coming back to our departure point. About a hundred miles, to enjoy to the full the beauties of this part of Greece: what more could we ask for? Perhaps good weather, because although for the moment the weather was set fair (it was the end of April, and it already felt like summer), a gale was forecast in two days time...    
We had planned to leave quickly on the first morning, after clearance and provisioning, to reach the island of Leros, and stop over in the very beautiful anchorage at Pandeli. But this anchorage is not very well sheltered from south-westerly winds and of course the wind was blowing from...the south-west. We therefore sailed downwind peacefully, on this thirty-mile warm-up sail, in the direction of the east coast of Leros and the little port of Lakki. Under mainsail with one reef and two rolls in the genoa, our Lagoon 440 sailed peacefully through the Aegean Sea and took us to our destination in a little over 3h30, at an average speed of 7.7 knots... We took advantage of the sail, as in a very short while we would have a gale, followed by flat calm. You can't have everything! As was the case everywhere on this cruise, the welcome on Lakki was very nice, and we didn't even have to anchor, as the port is equipped with mooring lines (see box: how to tie up in Greece). A few hundred metres from the port there is a small war museum, a reminder of the terrible battle which in 1943 brought the Germans and Italians into conflict with the British and the Greeks. The island was bombed for more than a month and a half before it fell, and the film 'The Guns of Navarone' was certainly broadly inspired by this battle. Fortunately today the island is much calmer and finally not very touristy; it lives essentially from agriculture and above all, from its famous psychiatric hospital.
During the afternoon, the wind freshened to 25 knots in our pretty, well-sheltered haven. We had been right to listen to the weather forecast and change our plans...

On the way to Polynesia
After a quick breakfast and a good shower at the harbourmaster's office, (we had to keep our stocks of water for the days to come), we set off, still heading north, and still pushed along by a good south-westerly breeze, for...Polynesia. Yes, you don't have to go to the other side of the world to discover water which is of the same incredible blue as that on postcards from the most beautiful Pacific lagoons. 20 miles north of Leros, there is the small island of Arki, whose coasts reminded us of Greece, but whose waters and marine life are a wonderful mixture of the Maldives, the Bahamas and Polynesia. Finally, all that was lacking were the multicoloured fish for us to really believe we were there... This place is really magical, and alone justifies the voyage. And as good things always come in pairs, the wind turned northerly in the afternoon (as the weather forecast had predicted), and we were extremely well protected in the little harbour, where we planned to let the following day's gale pass. But for the moment, we enjoyed the little, inevitably deserted anchorages in this micro-archipelago. For example, at Maratho-Spalathronisi, we found shelter for breakfast on a small island where just one family lives all the year round and where, in the season, you can even rent a room and eat in the inevitable tavern. A remote place, perfect for meditating, but to be avoided if you want to party...
As the wind was starting to become more and more violent, it was time to go and shelter in the harbour at Arki. When we say harbour, we are perhaps exaggerating: there is space on the pontoon for about six to eight monohulls. Which means that in the season, it is best to arrive early if you want to find a berth for a catamaran. On the day we arrived, because of the weather, it was crowded: there were already three boats on the pontoon. Once we had tied up, we discovered what was to be our horizon for the next two days: a little natural harbour in a very well-sheltered cove, with attractive hills all round, and, in front of the pontoon and the fishing boats, a superb paved square, bordered by two tavernas. That evening, we were going to celebrate!

Three cheers for gales
In general, being confined to the harbour because of a gale is the worst thing  that can happen when chartering for a few days. But being stuck here because of the weather was a real pleasure, and everyone aboard was delighted. We even almost hoped that the wind would continue to blow, so we could go back and eat at Manolis's taverna, one of the two on the island we frequented regularly. It must be said that Manolis knows how to welcome guests, with breathtaking little dishes and amazing 'mezés'  (he offers up to 25 different kinds) including the best tomatoes I have ever eaten. Delicious. And as an anecdote, note that the singer Renaud liked to come and relax here... We could understand why!
But all good things come to an end, and with regret we had to leave our new friends on Arki. The wind had dropped, and in a flat calm under the iron topsail, we cheered ourselves up by returning via our Greek 'Polynesia'. In the anchorage, the little goats from the neighbouring desert island came to meet us. They are dropped off by their owners on these small islands, where they grow up alone and drink sea water, which gives them their unique and very unusual taste. At midday, we stopped in another incredible place - two small islands set in water of an unreal blue (the island of Aspro). Anchorage, dinghy and we climbed the rocky peak to discover a wonderful view. The whole palette of blues met our gaze, with our catamaran, which looked as if it was floating above the water, down below. The only living beings on the island are the birds, which were obviously not happy with our intrusion. We therefore left as discreetly as possible when we discovered the nests and the eggs, and left these wonders to their natural inhabitants. On the way back down, we discovered the remains of an 80 cm long turtle on the beach, obviously the victim of the big storm the previous week...
Time flies by too quickly in such wonderful places, and we had to think about leaving for our next stopover. As nightfall was quickly approaching and the wind was still absent, we were obliged to use the engine. We stopped at Lipsi to buy provisions and discover the town's wonderful lanes, before leaving the harbour, which was really too big for us (there were already five cruising boats tied up to the quay, and a sixth was arriving) to go and anchor at the foot of a superb chapel just half a mile from the harbour. Obviously, we were alone in the anchorage...

Already time to return...
We only had two days left, and so many things still to see... We would have to accelerate the rhythm a bit, or commit ourselves to coming back to explore in a bit more detail this part of the Aegean Sea which appealed to us so much. There was for example the rock (it can't reasonably be called an island) of Makronisi: anchored in front of the cliff, we couldn't see anything. But by diving at a place that you have to know, you can swim less than two metres under the cliff and arrive in an open air interior lake. And the strange feeling of discovering a hidden world is yours. We then set off again to go and sleep at Pandeli, on the island of Leros, which we had missed at the start. The wind was now in the right direction and the anchorage was well protected. Yet up on the hill, the windmills were standing guard, reminding us that here, in summer, the meltem blows hard, though it is less powerful than in the Cyclades.
Our last stopover took us to Kalymnos, the famous sponge fishermen's island, not in the main harbour (too big for our taste), but in a breathtaking natural fjord: Vathys. Here again, the berths are limited to about ten boats, and if you decide to stop there in the season, it is best to arrive early, very early, if you hope to have a berth. At the beginning of May, there was no problem with berths, and we tied up at the foot of one of the tavernas: at least we would easily be able to keep an eye on our catamaran...

We always come back
And then it was time to go home. The week had woken a desire in us to come back, and above all to come back and sail in Greece. The beauty of the place, the incredible richness of the culture, the fabulous welcome which is always reserved for tourists, and the exceptional diversity of its islands make Greece one of the most beautiful places in the world to sail. So, this summer I've decided, we're going back!

Why cruise in Greece?
- For the beauty of its islands.
- For the innumerable dream anchorages with which your cruise is littered.  
- For the incredible tavernas and the fabulous welcome reserved for you there.  
- For a cultural richness unique in the world: everywhere you go, everywhere you look, there is a relic to remind you that a large part of the basis for world culture comes essentially from here...
- For the prices, which are more attractive than they have been for very many years...
Further reading

The new Spirited: small but strong !

We often complain that the catamaran builders only offer big boats in their ranges… ...

Multihulls World readers' most beautiful ...

We asked our readers to share their most beautiful anchorages with everyone of us. ...


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