2018 was our first summer living aboard in Greece. It was interesting to observe how different things appeared between when we first sailed there in 2003 and now. The biggest difference was the amount of rubbish. Tourist beaches were kept clean such as Elafonisos and Karathona were spotlessly maintained but those in isolated bays open to the prevailing wind or currents were covered with rubbish.
The Ionian was incredibly busy, although we were there in July and August so perhaps not surprising. There were a lot more skippered charter boats who seemed very happy to cut you up to get the last spot on a town quay. We weren’t that bothered so generally left them to it and found a quieter spot. We mainly anchored but mixed it up with a few town quays as these were relatively cheap at €8 per night excluding electricity or water. We only stayed in two marinas, Kalamata and Preveza. The former to resolve our charging problem and the latter to leave the boat for two weeks. When the bays are crowded and there isn’t enough room to swing at anchor, it’s common practice to take lines ashore so you don’t move but this can be a challenge in less than ideal conditions and with only two of you on board. We also learnt to ensure that we could release these long lines quickly in an emergency. We found the mainland a lot less crowded than the islands but still as pretty. If we did intend to go to a popular spot, we tried to go at the weekends on charter changeover days. As a result of all the charter boats there seemed to be a lot of wasps but we did find burning ground coffee helped. We also found that mosquitoes tended to stop biting you after a while, until we got to Salamina, off Piraeus, where they attacked with some ferocity at dawn and dusk – very reminiscent of Venice!
The Greek people were friendly and polite with almost everyone speaking English although a bit of Greek went down well. A lot of people smoked, especially young people which was a marked change from last year in Croatia. Although the shops in some places were finding it difficult to keep shelves stocked, we generally found good food shops in the more populated areas and some great finds on small islands. As with most of the Med, shop opening hours tended to be 0800-1300 and then 1730-2100. Local wine was very cheap in the shops and in the restaurants, as long as you bought it by the kilo! Greece is very much a cash economy and whilst you can pay by card in restaurants, anyone working on your boat wanted cash in hand.
Liz caught a lot more fish this year, all of which were very tasty. No tuna as such but definitely tuna family. In fact we caught more fish than we had the mainsail up. This was because the wind bends around the island so we were often head to wind despite changing direction. When the afternoon sea breeze kicked in we were able to sail downwind so only bothered with the genoa. However, when the wind did get up we had strong northwesterlies (Meltemi) and also needed to hole up for the Medicane that blew through in September. We were glad that we anchored when the Medicane came as we saw for ourselves the damage it had done to a number of boats that moored on town quays. This was mainly because the wind direction shifted from SE to NE to NW so it was very likely that surge would come from one of those directions and push your boat against the concrete quay. You can guess who would win that encounter! We found many delightful bays and islands, particularly off the beaten track. There was much wildlife including turtles, sea snakes and dolphins.
We had read that it can be difficult to get fuel in Greece but we found that it was relatively easy to find mini tankers who come along the town quays. The quality of the water was variable so using our watermaker worked well. Getting our gas bottles refilled was generally better than expected and certainly easier than Croatia. It was also cheaper at around €13 per refill.
We were surprised that a number of banks charged for withdrawing money from our pre loaded card. The only one we found that didn’t was Alpha Bank and luckily, they have a large number of branches across Greece.
We travelled far less this year as the islands are much closer together and we only had one night sail (from Bari, Italy to Erikoussa, Greece). This meant that we could enjoy the places we visited in a more leisurely fashion. It also meant that we were subject to the prevailing wind conditions of Western Greece so that there was either little or no wind for most of the day, hence we motored or motorsailed – a lot!
We have updated our running costs and charted where we have been during 2018. We found Greece significantly cheaper than Croatia and Italy, spending less than €2,000 per month rather than over €3,000! One major difference between Croatia and Greece was the cost and type of mooring. We could anchor much more often and if we were on a town quay, the charges were pretty cheap (at €8 per night) or free.
Please click here for more details on mooring and statistics of our time in Greece.