Let the Wind Be Your Guide: The Top Charter Sailing Vacations

Sailing Greece: Classical Cruising

Greece is a magical place for chartering, especially if you have an interest in colorful ports and archaeology. This land is steeped in ancient history, populated today with gregarious, friendly people who welcome tourists and sailors alike with open arms. Anchor in the shadow of a classical temple, explore remote islands, dance till dawn in local tavernas, or simply relax on sandy beaches to your heart's content. The country's islands make up one-fifth of the country, offering an endless maze of small islands and coves—a lifetime of sailing exploration.
The sheltered waters of the Saronic Gulf are an ideal introduction to Greek waters. Stop at the island of Aegina, a short sail from Athens, and take a cab to the ancient Temple of Aphaia high on a hill to the northeast to catch the staggering sunset views. The fluted columns of the temple shine pink as you gaze out over the mountains and bays of the Peloponnesus.

Aegina, a half-day's sail from Epidauros, is a small port close to the world-famous classical amphitheater and shrine of Aeskepios, the God of Healing. The acoustics in the theater are so perfect that you can hear a whisper even when seated on the upper tier. Poros, a half-day sail to the east, is a charming old town perched above a narrow channel that leads toward one of the highlights of a Saronic charter—Hydra.
Hydra is invisible until you are just outside the harbor entrance, a tiny semi-circular cove hemmed in by house-covered slopes that has been a trading center for many centuries. A stone quay shelters the tiny port where you can moor among a crowd of yachts large and small. There are no automobiles on the island, only heavily laden mules that wind their way through the narrow streets. This picturesque harbor is busy with ferries and tourists by day, but wonderfully quiet at night.
Further north in the Saronic Gulf lies Naplion, an old Venetian town overlooked by an imposing fortress—the Palamidi. Nearby, the island of Spetsae offers a glimpse into the past. Wander through small boatyards, where they still build traditional wooden fishing craft. There are quiet anchorages, too, places where you will be alone except for the wind.
Practically Speaking
This all sounds heavenly, and indeed it is. But Greece is not a cruising ground for the novice. The weather, even in summer, can be stormy, frustrating, and at times downright uncomfortable. For a first-time visit, try a week's flotilla charter. You sail from port to port in the company of a half-dozen or more yachts, under the supervision of an experienced flotilla leader. You can flotilla charter in the Ionian Islands, in the Saronic Gulf, in the Sporades in the northern Aegean, and along the Turkish coast. Experts prefer to charter in May or early June, or in September, at either end of the high season.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 13 Nov 2000 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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