Boatlife in the Saronic Islands
Wow, what a week!
Although we planned to visit the Cyclades, the Maltemi wind (look it up if you’re sailing in Greece in the summer) had different ideas, so the Saronic Gulf was the area of choice for a week of island hopping on board our trusty motor boat, Triton.
We met our boat in Marina Alimou, Athens. Some time was spent familiarising with the boat, and more importantly, replanning our route, but this wasn’t a problem with our motor boat being able to whisk us off faster than we could say “Halloumi”, we soon waved goodbye to a shrinking Athens behind us.
Our first port of call was Perdika, a small fishing village in a pretty little bay on the south-west coast of Aegina. It was everything we were looking for, the harbour filled with small wooden fishing boats and the terrace lined with tabernas. It doesn’t take long to walk the town with just a few cobbled streets leading up from the fish restaurants and children playing in the sea, while the sun sets over Moni island as the buzz of there taberna’s comes to life.
Dinner here is a difficult choice with so much on offer, we went for Remetzo for its wooden tables overlooking the harbour combined with the irresistible smells coming from the kitchen. The food was maybe the best of our whole trip (and it had some stiff competition) and the staff so welcoming.
We were excitedly up early the next morning, keen to continue our voyage. We’d heard great things about Moni, but so apparently had every other boat, so we whizzed around the island and continued south looking for something a little more secluded. We found a small cove just south of Poros that was exactly what we were looking for so we dropped our anchor and jumped in for our first dip in the Greek waters.
Continuing south, we arrived at Hydra, known as one of the most beautiful harbours in all of Greece. It is also one of the smallest and after a brief encounter with the anchor line of a mega-yacht, we accepted that there was no space for us and continued on in search of a place to stay.
Ermióni is a small coastal town with harbours on both its sunset & sunrise sides, which can be walked between in a few minutes. The sleepy town is where Athenian’s come for a relaxing holiday which can be felt when wandering the streets with most of the activity taking place on the taverna-lined promenades of the harbours. Crystal clear waters on the south side attract locals who gather to pass the afternoon with children jumping, in all sorts of shapes, into the water. It has a large park stretching out at its tip into the water which makes for a great morning run, and an opportunity to see the town in slightly different colours.
We continued south and found ourselves in the cove of Zogeria Beach off the island of Spetses. While we weren’t the only boat here during the day, late in the afternoon most of the boats set off in search of a harbour for the evening, leaving us with just a couple of boats in the distance for a very special night spent on the water with a magical sunset, stars in the sky and just a few birds on the nearby mainland bringing in the morning sun. There is something very special about dropping the anchor and sleeping out on the seas and we were so fortunate that the sea was completely still when we chose to do this. While we hoped we would have another opportunity, the wind started to come after this night with its own plan for the rest of our trip.
Waking up to the calm waters after the perfect cove night, we were hooked! We set off in search of another cove to enjoy and in just a few (motor boat) minutes we found a tiny beach and not a soul around to have to share it with. It is these moments that make boat life truly special and the rocking waves seem irrelevant.
Heading north from here, we reached Porto Heli at just the same time as around 50 of The Yacht Week catamarans, and with the town seeming a bit big for what we were looking for, we cruised straight back out. There are some beautiful coves on the way into the harbour, which we did stop to enjoy, but the town wasn’t living up to the sleepy fishing village we were looking for.
Spetses was our next port of call with a beautiful, yet tiny and quite shallow harbour. Although we arrived at around 2pm, we were too late to squeeze ourselves in. There is a newer harbour nearby, but it lacked charm, was too far from town and had views to the industrial harbour. Luckily being in a motor boat meant that we still had time to whizz somewhere else. The winds were starting to pick up so it was important that we were in a well enclosed harbour, we headed back to Ermióni, which we knew had everything that we were looking for. There was something quite ‘in the know’ about having a second night here and as soon as we docked, we headed straight to the south-side crystal waters to bathe like the locals and enjoy the setting Greek sun.
By the next day, the winds had really picked up and with the forecast for the coming night to have winds up to 25 knots, we knew we had to be in a well protected harbour. Aegina Town was therefore the port of choice and with everyone starting to worry about the winds, we knew we had to be there early to get a spot. We found some coves en route which were perfect for me to test out my new rubber ring, but the waves were picking up. We arrived in Aegina just in time to squeeze ourselves into the densely packed harbour front, and fender ourselves up to the max to protect us from the oncoming elements. Hearing stories from our neighbour boats about the strong winds the previous night in Perdika resulting in anchors coming unhooked and boats being thrown on shore, we were all quite happy with our position.
Aegina harbour was the largest that we stayed in, it’s a busy fishing port, but also home to many local boats. The harbour front is lined with restaurants and bars, but the busy road, although blocked off in the evenings, makes it less cosy than Perdika or Ermióni. Boats packed with people arrive and depart throughout the day for Athens and there are small beaches on either end of the harbour, but compared to the crystal clear waters we had experienced, these didn’t feel so inviting. Aegina has some truly special culinary treats if you’re ready to search for them away from the harbour front. Dinner was enjoyed at Kappos Etsi, tucked away in the pedestrian street, where the food was every bit as good as the setting.
The wind was evident throughout the night and although the movement was quite soothing, the sound of the crashing waves as they hit everything they could reach kept everyone up. Waking up the following morning we encountered our first clouds and could see rain out on the horizon. A few conversations along the harbour, we discovered that no one was going to attempt to go out today, so we settled in for a relaxing Aegina day. There is a small archeological site in the area called Koloni, named after the single column that stands there which doesn’t take more than a few minutes to whizz through. About 9km away is the Temple of Aphaea which looks far more impressive, but was just a bit further than we were looking to venture for our relaxing day.
Babis was another excellent foodie find, overlooking the water with Greek treats. In the evenings, when the waves aren’t crashing, they move their tables out to the beach making for that perfect island feel to your dinner. Instead for dinner (yes, our time in Aegina was spent mostly eating) Plaza was the restaurant for us, with a stunning view out to the sunset over the endless sea, this one is not to be missed.
Another rocky night, but waking up with itchy feet to explore. We planned to spend our last night in Perdika, and with our neighbour boats confidently heading out, we brought in our fenders and took off for the open sea. Unfortunately our anchor decided to jam itself at this point so I was promoted to boat driver while the anchor was dealt with. This would have been a proud moment, being trusted to guide us out onto the open seas, had it not coincided with waves and wind of epic proportions at the exact same time. Ruining my moment, with the boat rocking to 90 degree angles and ginormous waves approaching from the side, there was nothing a new Captain such as myself could do but scream at the top of my lungs and hope for the best. What felt like an eternity of being at the helm luckily passed and with the anchor back in, we were in the safe hands of the slightly more experienced Captain who managed to guide us out with more knowledge of going with the waves. Nonetheless, even a seasoned sailor found it a bit beyond the enjoyable island hopping adventure that we had signed up for. We identified a cove that was facing in the right direction to be protected from the wind, so revved the engine and arrived in no time. This cove was busy with other boats who, it was quite clear, had just had a similar experience to ourselves. But as I jumped back into my rubber ring, all was forgotten and I was quick to forgive the brutal Greek seas.
We decided it wouldn’t be worth trying to go through the same wavy experience again, nor run the risk of being stranded in Perdika when we needed to fly home, so instead headed back to Athens along with all the other boats. Greeted by our boat's owner telling us that the winds the following week were set to be so strong that no boats were going to be able to go out, I felt so grateful for the special week of discovering more of Greece and becoming a little bit more of a sailor.
So we had just enough time to enjoy an evening in Athens. Having visited before, it’s not a city that ever captured my heart. However this time we headed for the more touristy old town, specifically a restaurant called The Old Taverna of Psara, located at the top of some cobbled stairs, with a band playing live greek music, a plate full of Mousaka and the sun setting over the city, this was the perfect end to the perfect week in Greece.