Mediterranean Sea - Greece: the Saronic Gulf
The mother of humanity, Greece continues to fascinate all sailors... Today, most charter companies are offering catamarans, notably to discover the mythical Saronic Gulf.
It took Ulysses ten years to cross the various seas bordering Greece. An infinity, which clearly shows that visiting this country by boat requires some time, to appreciate all its subtleties, beauties and richness. As you will probably not have the years necessary to see everything, and thus be able to claim to learn about this multitude of cultures, islands and anchorages, which are as different as it is possible to be, we are here suggesting you begin with the Saronic Gulf, where a string of islands stretches out to protect the headlands of the bay. The steady winds and on-sight navigation make this a remarkable spot, where sailing is easy, and access is simple, as the departure is...from Athens! From there, whatever your route, you will find, on each island and in every anchorage, a unique fragrance, carefully aged like a good Ouzo.
As we have decided to go cruising in the shelter of the Saronic Gulf, here are the various stopovers which you should not miss:
Egina: The pistachio island, with its well-sheltered anchorages.
Poros: Bright green scenery, punctuated with yew and black cypress trees.
Epidaurus: Famous for its antique theatre, with perfect acoustics.
Hydra: A refuge for artists, with not a single car on the whole island.
Spetses: An island rich in memories, with its calm pine forests.
Moorings is offering its Léopard catamarans for a week on the Saronic Gulf – Peleponese and recommend this itinerary...
Day 1: Kalamaki - Egina (Perdika) (17 miles) Your embarkation is planned from 3pm onwards; we recommend you arrive at the base at around 1pm. Once aboard, head for Egina and the small port of Perdika, in the south of the island.
Day 2: Perdika - Hydra (26 miles) After breakfast, you leave the anchorage, for the island of Hydra; once you have passed Cape Skyli, you can anchor in the shelter of the small island of Soupia for lunch. In the afternoon, and not too late if you hope to find a place in the port, head for Hydra. At the entrance, you will discover one of the most beautiful villages in Greece, with big white houses in a style you will not find anywhere else.
Day 3: Hydra - Spetses (13 miles) The next leg, to reach the island of Spetses, is short and there are a lot of anchorages between the south of Hydra and the island of Dokos. If the weather is fine, take the time to linger between the small islands, to swim and have lunch before the sea breeze gets up and pushes you towards the flowery village of Spetses, on the north coast of the island.
Day 4: Spetses - Poros (27 miles) You sail along the Peloponnese coasts, on the way, choose an anchorage for lunch, before entering Poros via the most impressive of passes. The island of Poros is only separated from the mainland by a very narrow channel. In the approaches, you can, depending on your tastes, tie up to the quay, or anchor in one of the creeks situated along the coast.
Day 5: Poros - Korfos (12 miles) You leave Poros via the north-west pass, heading deep into the Saronic Gulf; the coast is sheer, with mountainous, wooded spurs. On the west coast of Methana, is the delightful little port of Vahti. Korfos bay is one of the safest anchorages in the region, with tavernas ashore.
Day 6: Korfos - Egina (14 miles) Before arriving at Egina, stop for a few hours on the island of Angistri. The island has several creeks with crystal-clear water. You can spend a few hours swimming in superb surroundings. In the evening, you reach the port of Egina; the small, very lively town, and the busy port are good stopovers, where you can dream about your next cruise.
Day 7: Egina - Kalamaki (21 miles) Sail along the north coast of the island towards Kalamaki. A final stopover is possible in the Aghia Marina bay, on the west coast of the island. It takes about 3 hours to return to the base.
The Saronic Gulf route is recommended for a peaceful cruise, especially in July – August, to avoid the strong winds in the Cyclades. In this cruising area, you will find ancient temples, Byzantine castles, sandy beaches, small fishing ports, deserted anchorages...
Getting there: Many charter flights or regular airlines will take you directly to Athens. Either charter your boat directly from Athens, or choose to go to another island, in which case all you have to do is take one of the many ferries linking the islands.
When: Spring, summer or autumn: every season has its fans. The weather is mild in Greece and the sea temperature varies from a minimum of 11°C in the winter, to over 25°C in the sunny season. Summer can be very hot, and temperatures of well over 30°C are commonplace...
Sailing conditions: Sailing conditions in the Saronic Gulf are generally easy; the waters are protected by the mainland and the winds are lighter than in the Aegean Sea; there are many stopovers and the distances between them are short. At the stopovers, it is not hard to find provisions in the larger ports... When sailing, beware of the famous Meltem, which starts to blow from the end of June. This steady wind, which generally blows at around 15 knots, can without warning become really violent and reach 35 to 40 knots.
Practical points: The official currency is the Euro. The language is Greek, but almost everyone speaks at least some English.
Don't forget to take some good travel guides with you; it would be a great shame to miss certain very rich cultural stopovers, and the treasures that each island conceals...
Essential: don't miss finding ‘your taverna', the one where you feel so comfortable, you will always try to return there...