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Fitting out for the Mediterranean

Brilliant sun, rapid wind changes, no tidal flushing, heat and more frequent anchoring are all factors to consider when fitting out for the Mediterranean. And some things are used much less than in challenging northern waters - radar, chart plotters, heavy weather clothing. Read on . . .

Inland Ionian; Preveza to Kefallinia and Mainland

The Inland Ionian, enclosed by Levkada (Levkas) and Kefallinia (Cefalonia), is a sheltered and attractive sailing region with lovely scenery, suitable for novice sailors and families not keen on rough seas. 

A host of islands creates an enormous number of anchorages, all within a few miles of wherever you may be. Many are suitable for night stops. Popular anchorages quickly become crowded in peak season; novice charter skippers add chaos with first attempts at 'being in charge'. Luckily, there's always some mooring spot available to escape the crowds.

Yacht support in the area is very good, with sailmakers, stainless steel fabricators, engineers, good chandlers and many layup sites, ashore and afloat. Many services are provided by British ex-pats (often ex flotilla staff) who have taken root in the area. Easy access in summer season through Aktion airport.

Read on for detail . . .

The Mediterranean

This page describes general characteristics of the Mediterranean (weather, when to go, yacht support), then briefly compares the main Mediterranean cruising areas - West Med, Adriatic, East Med, The Levant and N Africa coasts.

For detailed listing of port plans and local regulations affecting anchoring, manoeuvring close to the shore or in nature reserves, see Imray Publications>Almanacs>Mediterranean Almanac listed in our Bookshop (top menu!)


Largest of the Greek islands, and one of  most southerly places in Europe, Crete has little unsettled weather in summer and a relatively sunny winter. Few boats cruise the 560nm of coastline, and often you'll be the only boat at anchor. The north coast plain is the most densely populated, and rises steadily to the massive ridge of mountains that forms the bulk of Crete, with many peaks over 2000m, and sliced by over 30 gorges, including the Samaria Gorge, reputedly the longest in Europe.  Major port towns of Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia are spaced fairly evenly along this coast, some 40nm apart, but with few anchorages between compared to other Greek cruising areas. The south coast is very steep to, only accessible by boat in most parts, is much less developed than the north.

North Aegean; Evia, Sporades and Halkidiki

Apart from the N Sporades, frequented by charter yachts and flotillas, this area, including the passage inside Evia, is a quiet cruising ground. Some restaurants and cafés only open for the peak season, July and August, when the population of Thessalonika comes out to play on the beaches. N Greece otherwise sees mainly local boats cruising around the three peninsulae of  Khalkidiki, plus a few foreign flag yachts in transit to and from Turkey or the Dodecanese. These seem bent on avoiding the stronger winds of the S Aegean, although the meltemi blows strongly through the spaced out islands of the East Sporades.


This very attractive chain of islands can easily occupy 3 weeks of cruising, but 5 weeks give you more leeway. We included Samos and Ikaria, though they're not Dodecanese, since they form a natural extension to the cruising region. The region has two characters: south of Kos has longer passages, fewer anchorages and the most unusual sights; north of Kos there are many small anchorages, pretty harbours and lots more charm. 

Regular summer winds are northerly (the meltemi, brisk at times) but compared with the Cyclades, lighter, with reasonably flat waters. Yacht support is adequate, with good wintering facilities. Seasonal flights to UK from Kos, Rhodes and Samos connect to other islands through the inter-island ferries. Out of season travel to UK is cumbersome, via Athens by ferry or small aircraft.

Gulfs of Corinth & Patras

This is a passage route, rather than a cruising ground.  If your cruise plan is to circumnavigate the Peloponnese (a rewarding six to eight-week cruise, depending on your natural pace) it's best done anti-clockwise to use favourable winds for 75% of the journey. So carry on south.

Gulf winds are predominantly westerly in summer, stronger in the afternoons, up to F5. For a westerly trip, either do it out of season, or make early morning departures, motoring as necessary, and keep to the north shore, where the wind sets in later. There are enough ports and anchorages en route to remove the need for night sailing.

West Peloponnese - Heading south

From Zakinthos (Zante) down the west coast of the Peloponnese to the Gulf of Navarino, is very much a coast of passage. It could be bypassed in one long day's sail with the prevailing brisk summer NW winds from Kefallinia to Navarino bay, but you would then miss the turtles of Zakinthos, and Olympia, the spectacular site of the original Olympic games. Passages north in summer are harder work.  Safe harbours are close enough for day passages against the wind, especially if you set off early in the morning before the winds reach full strength.

Navarino Bay is the reward for the journey.


Our Cyclades (Note: Greeks pronounce it 'Kick-lah-thez'; none of this 'sick-le-dees' stuff) cruising region stretches from Cap Sounion to The Dodecanese.  This is exciting sailing, and summer winds may sometimes force you to hole up for a day or three. There is an enormous variety of harbours and anchorages, but no full service marinas. Places to visit include some of the great sights (and sites) of Europe, and many good circular cruises.  The effects of tourism are mostly smart. The region is not overcrowded, and most sailboats are over 34ft. Night trips are not needed. Your summer cruise plans will be dominated by the meltemi, a persistent strong northerly wind. It'll take at least 4 weeks to see the highlights; add another 4 weeks if you really want to do a thorough job. Even that leaves something for next year.

Sailing West Italy

The 600nm coast of Italy rom the French border to the toe spans a range of cultures; from the monied and smart Riviera, through historic Tuscany, past wealthy Roma and scruffy Napoli,  to the relative poverty of Calabria. The list of inland 'must visit' places is long, including Florence, Siena, Pisa, Roma, and Napoli. Add Pompeii, the crater of Vesuvius and Herculaneum to the list.

Stir in the long string of small offshore islands (from Elba to Capri). Season with Italian food, and it's easy to see why many motor cruisers choose to cruise this coast, crowding it in peak season (Mid July to late August). Marina costs vary widely, but most are expensive; €100 per night for 12m is common. There are enough anchorages to keep overall mooring costs low.  Rather light summer winds are a drawback for sailboats. Live-aboards have wintered near Roma.


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