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Sailing in Greece: island-hopping the adventurous way

Looking to go sailing in Greece? Great choice! Here’s how to explore the Greek Island under sail, adventure-style! Everyday I see sailboats passing by. I just have to be on one. Not looking at one and not only writing about one. I’m getting too comfortable in Turkey. The ocean is calling. The time is right for another sailing adventure! Only I don’t have a boat, and I don’t have the funds or desire to book an organized sailing charter. Let’s hitch a sailboat ride across the Greek Island archipelago!

How to tackle a hitch-sail island-hopping adventure across Greece?

Here’s how I do it.

islandhopping-hitch-sailing-Greece - 3 of 35

1. What are the personal possibilities & requirements

This basically comes down to flexibility in time and money. When actually being on a boat you need to adapt to whatever situation you put yourself into. Firstly you are entering someone else’s home and secondly the sailing itself never goes as planned. It’s weather dependent. And captains change their mind accordingly. So thinking about scenarios in advance makes it easy to peacefully change course and comply with captains’ calls. How much time do I have? What obligations do I have? How much money can and will I contribute to this adventure? Where do I need to be when? My requirements for this boat hitchhike adventure:

  • Destination: West. I don’t care which island. I’m curious to all of them.  I have to go to the Ionion Sea since I organize The InsPirates sail adventure there.
  • Minimum 2 other crew. I want to reduce the risk of being stuck with a maniac and I like to meet people.
  • Relaxed sailing. I prefer not to make 150 miles a day since I want to keep releasing the mermaid in me, as well as work on my oceanpreneurial projects. Not ideal when continuously sailing since Greece can be rough sailing.
  • Timeframe: 1 month.

2. The islands of Greece – Map check

I look at the map for a VERY long time. Where am I? Where do I need to go? How far is it? Which islands are in between? Which ports are near me? I figure I better leave this week if I want to be in West Greece in one month. Greece is roughly 3,000 islands and islets, of which only 227 of which are inhabited! I also realize I actually need to dedicate a whole year, if not a lifetime of sailing in Greece if I want to explore the Greek islands. Wow, there are so many places to be explored! Another time. I got to go to Lefkada for The insPirates kick-off. It’s about 700 miles from Bodrum to the Ionian Sea. Let’s take an average boat speed of 6 knots, that’s already 5 days of non-stop sailing to go the Lekada. No boat will go straight from Turkey to Lefkada. And it’s unlikely that it will be smooth seas and sailing all the time. I need to be flexible with time. Check distances on sailing in Greece with this handy tool Photo taken at Underwater Archeology museum

3. Check the regional weather patterns for sailing in Greece

What’s the weather like in summer in Greece? How’s the wind? So what would sailors do? Central and East Greece have the Meltemi wind in summer, a strong North Eastern wind. Awesome for kitesurfing. Less relaxed for sailing. It usually blows for a few days followed by a few days of calmness. Crossing between island depends on weather windows. Most boats choose to shelter from the wind and swell from the Meltemi. Sailling in Greece close the islands can be a tricky thing as well with quick local weather changes. I’m quite far south and I have got to go quite far north. This is not ideal. I already realize a month is ambitious.

Resources to check the wind and weather in Greece:

4. Throw out some lines to go

Not fishing lines. There’s no fish left in this part of the Mediterranean. I throw out some imaginative lines to catch a ride. 3 tactics: Asking captain connections I made in Turkey, walking the docks in Bodrum Harbour, and online.
sailing in Turkey

What do I catch?

A. Connections

The captains I got to know in Turkey were happy to take me on their next trip to Greece.  Bodrum is the place of the Gulets. I’ve been on those a few weeks and it’s the most pampered sailing there is. BUT with a lot of broom broom. Locally there were gulets happy to take me. In most cases when on a boat for multiple days you will be on a crewlist. Since it is a border crossing, getting on and off the crewlist is a bit more complex. I can join a Gulet but would have to go back to Turkey again. Connections don’t really give a lead this time.

B. Dockwalking

The real, best and most fun way is to just go to a marina, walk around, make a chat, hang in the sailors bar and see what comes out of is. I check the Bodrum marina. Most of the boats I talk to either come from Greece or are planning to go there after high season. That’s after August. Turkey really is the place to be right now for sailing crystal clear waters and having the bay for yourself. In high season! I also go to a few smaller harbours in the Bodrum Peninsula, like Gümüşlük, Datcha and Selimiye. I post little notes on strategic locations like bakeries, end of pontoons and the local supermarket. No leads this time.

C. Online

Let’s try online. I update my profiles on the crewwebsites: FindAcrew.com, crewbay.com, oceancrewlink.com and floatplan.com
I get in touch with some potential boats:
  • On Findacrew I connect with a Turkish dude and his friend that will sail east Greece and West Turkey. Costs: No daily charge. Only sharing food costs. It’s a holiday kind of cruising.
  • On Crewbay I connect with a Turkish couple going to Istanbul and then westwards. They sound really nice and trustworthy and are happy to pick me up in Bodrum. Costs. No daily charge. Sharing food, fuel and harbour costs.
  • On Crewbay I connect with an arty pirate big schooner ship. They need 8 crew. Costs: 150 USD /week + sharing costs for harbour, fuel and food.
  • On FindAcrew.com I get in touch with a Schooner from 1935 planning to do some severe sailing across the Cyclades. I have a call with the wife of the owner/captain. She explains it’s their holiday and would like some extra hands on deck. While the captain can do loads on his own, some deckhand help would be helpful sailing this beauty of a beast. They can pick me up somewhere in the Cyclades (this is central Greece). The end destination is the Peloponnese. Costs: Getting to/from the boat own expenses. Being on board, food and fuel is covered by the owner.


5. Assessment & decision making time

The above is just a snapshot of the boats! There’s so many options out there. What an adventure dilemma’s eh? Coastal/island hitch sailing is not as much as a risky business as crossing an ocean. Still, I listen to my instinct and I would be stupid not to take the opportunity to sail with a 80 year old Schooner. The other options raise a few question marks with me in regards to crew composition, sailing plan, money and timing. The Schooner is a classic and it’s going to be free of costs. Besides the owner there will be two Brazilian girls on board. Cool! The only downside is that the Schooner is in the Cyclades already. And I’m in the Dodecanese, +/-150 miles more east. The idea was to hitch-sail ALL across Greece. Well, then let’s try to find a boat from the Dodecanese to the Cyclades. I would have to be in the Cyclades in three days if I want to hop on the Schooner. Looking at the chart and weather forecast that is extremely ambitious. I take a ferry, which appears to be a like cruise ship. I hate it. I don’t like to take airplanes and ferries. They are noisy, pollutive, crowded and not an adventurous means of travel. But it’s worth the comprise….
Sailing the Schooner! Wowie, wow, wow! No regrets of this decision! She is a beauty of a beast! [justified_image_grid preset=4 ids=”810,808,807,802,803,805,804,806,801,800,799,798,797,811,792,793,794,795,796,791,783,790,789,788,787,782,784,785,786,809,781,780,779,778″]

Lessons learned and take-aways:

  • If you want to hitch-sail and only that, you can not be on a schedule and have too much work or appointments going on. You have to adapt. I prioritize the book writing and working on the insPirates event. Perhaps one day I get less ambitious, have raised the adventure fund, and I will be sailing and documenting about the ocean adventures,  just that. If you just want to go sailing in Greece and don’t have much time, you’re better off finding a charter.
  • Turkey and Greece have the Meltemi wind in summer. This is strong wind from the North East. You have to wait weather windows. Flexibility is a must.
  • When assessing the options and figuring out if a boat is a good match, always talk to the captain. Not (only) other crew, relatives or passengers. The captain is the decision maker and one that knows the boat best so you want to know about him/her (capabilities and preferences), and, the boat, his/her plan. I write A LOT about how to figure out if a boat is safe and a captain is reliable in my upcoming book Ocean Nomad.
  • Environmental awareness and awareness about the importance of eliminating of plastic and it’s impact is very low in Greece. Especially on the islands. Every drink get’s a straw, if not two, including the frappees. It’s really helps to be prepared with a reusable bottle, reusable bag, reusable cup, reusable straw and saying NO to plastic (Zero waste travel ideas and more resources on my travelblog – migrating this content soon to this website). Not only to minimize your personal negative impact but to help create awareness amongst the general public. I’ve had dozens of chats to the locals and it does rings bells. Here’s more on what you can do to travel with a positive impact.
  • [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DPg8REzxww[/embedyt]
  • A Schooner is the most beautiful boat to sail on. If you ever get the chance, do it!
  • Don’t assume that other captains and crew know everything about the weather, islands, achorages, route etc. Many of them just want to sail and look up things on the way. Own research and input can be welcome and helpful.
  • Don’t book tickets, houses or trips ahead if you don’t ‘need’ to. You might end of boat-sitting on a ridiculous beautiful yacht.
  • Need a ferry to go to one of the islands in Greece? The internet is a wild wild west when you search for “Greek island hopping” or “ferry schedules in Greece.” The ferry system got privatized and the amount of ferry operators seems endless. Bluestarferries is a big one. Greekferries.gr can get you somewhere. As well as Rome2Rio.com, which was quite accurate when I checked transports options in Greece.
  • How about flights to go from one to another island? Flightconnections.com is a good resource to find out which connections exist. I don’t like to take airplanes and ferries. They are noisy, pollutive, crowded and not an adventurous means of travel. So let’s look for a boat powered by wind! More on finding out logistics on my travelblog (migrating the content soon to theOceanpreneur.com)
  • Greeka.com is a good resource for general Greek travelinfo.
  • FAQ. Which Greek Island do I love most? My hitch-sailing adventure has brought me to +40 islands in Greece. I visited most of the islands in the Dodekanese, the Ionian Sea and a few in the Cyclades. Every island is unique on it’s own, has something special and deserves dedicate exploration time!

Nice extra from updating my crewprofiles in july:  I got approached by a boat if I would like to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers + (ARC) with them. The ARC is when more than 100 boats together sail out for the ocean. This must be spectacular! I’ve started the feasibility, happiness and risk assessment on that one and I’m hopping on board next week in Nice for a test sail! Would you like to go on a hitch-sail adventure? I add more and more resources to this website to help you go on this kind of adventure! Questions about hitch-sailing in Greece? Leave a comment. If you would like personalized help on boathitchhiking, contact me via Clarity. And a few last words of inspiration… Sailing-in-greece-inspiration

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Is it safe to travel to Turkey? A happy note from the sunny seaside

A happy message from the sunny seaside in Turkey. Because its people deserve it.

And for those curious what I am up to in Turkey.

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Travelling? 70 eco travel tips for a better planet

Are you amongst the fortunate few to be able to travel? Lucky you!
Now let’s make the most out of it! Not just for yourself but for the places and people that you’re visiting. Our travels can bring huge benefits to local communities. It can also destroy a destination. 

What impact do you make?

According to your facebook and Instagram accounts you have been travelling to the most beautiful paradises on the planet. You have eaten exotic delicacies, encountered magnificent wildlife, engaged with fascinating cultures, climbed to the top of the volcano and explored the funderwaterworld. You have memories of a lifetime.

I am one of these lucky bastards.

Lucky bastard exploring paradise

But you also have memories of trash on the beach, begging children, damaged corals, green ski slopes, porters like donkeys, people trying to sell a fruit for almost nothing, no fish today, chained monkeys, and sharks on the market. Just to name a few situations that make us feel bad, though are there daily.

The beach these days in the Gili Islands

You have experienced the preciousness of drinking water, fresh air, power, a roof, freedom, a toilet, feeling safe, internet, a bankcard, a clean beach, and a healthy body. Most normal ‘back home.’ Not for most us in the world.
You are aware of your lucky position in this world. And you really want to do something good. But WHAT can you do?
“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” E.B. White 
 If you are able to travel you have the skills or resources to make a positive impact. We can travel AND do good AND save money AND have fun. When we make conscious decisions, we can minimize our negative footprint and maximize the benefit for the place we visit and for the planet as a whole. Every decision and every action counts. Collectively our impact is major. With millions of extra travellers every year and a 1,5 million EXTRA people on the planet WEEKLY, it’s all becoming a bit crowded. Our planet and the destinations we’re visiting are reaching limits to cope with our demands. Climate change is happening and it’s probably worse than you think it is. It’s more important than ever to do your bit. It’s our responsibility to become part of the solution, not the problem

So what can you do?

Here are some easy eco travel tips and actions to make your travel a good one, for the planet and for you:

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Catching a Sailboat Ride in South East Asia

On to plan B: find a sailing boat in South East Asia with whom I can explore, dream, discover the Asian seas. And learn, more about boats, coastal sailing, and the sea.

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Sailing back into Europe: The Strait of Gib!

A lighthouse. Beeping phones. Airplane stripes. Fishing boats. The smell of pine trees! We are approaching Cabo Sao Vicente, the most western point of mainland Europe. That’s what struck me most: suddenly having the smell of pinetrees… after days of ocean breathing. Very special. It’s the start of the most exciting and challenging part of the passage: the Strait of Gibraltar!

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Atlantic Ocean Crossing part 2: Caribbean to Europe!

I’m back on the Atlantic Ocean. Again. Back to blue, breathing sea, stimulus stop, facing the elements, learning ropes! This time in a completely different setting. A boat and crew more than double the size of SeaYa, different route, different weather, different speed!

The sailing adventure begins…

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Kitesurfing in Cape Verde – Sao Vicente it is!

A long stretched empty white beach, a stunning mountain back drop view, a steady 20 knots wind 80% of the year, friendly Cape Verde beach boys and girls, good local food, and sunshine, all year round! That’s Salamansa beach in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. What a kitesurfing spot!

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El Medano Tenerife: a kitesurf & adventure travel guide

Southern Tenerife seems for many adventure seekers a ‘no-go’ because of the big tourism developments and touristic crowd. Don’t let this hold you back from visiting the south coast.
Costa del Silencio in particular: the south-east coast. The old fishing town of El Medano (meaning Sand dune) is the place to be, especially for wind and kitesurfers looking to extent the European summer. El Medano is the kitesurf town of Tenerife. Here’s a little El Medano adventure travel guide that helps you plan and get settled when thinking to go adventuring and/or kitesurfing in El Medano, Tenerife.

El Medano: a sense of place

La Montaña Roja is the landmark, a 171 high volcanic ‘red mountain’ and protected natural reserve, where you can climb, hike and cycle. The area around the ‘mountain’ is the playground for the waterlusted adventure seekers. El Medano is a chilled-out laid-back town that hasn’t been conquered by invasions of northern European beach people. As opposed to other parts of Tenerife here the Spanish vibe is definitely present. Fisherman are catching the tapa of the day, elderly people are chitchatting on the boulevard benches, and locals and adventure seekers are having una caña (draft beer) somewhere at the plaza or wooden board walk in the no-traffic zone.  It’s one of these sticky places where you could end up hanging out wayyy longer than planned.
Kitesurfing in El Medano Tenerife. This is the kitesurfspot in El Medano

Kitesurfing in El Medano

El Medano is the kitesurf and windsurf spot in Tenerife. Thanks to the volcanic landscape on Tenerife, North East winds accelerate, and have made El Medano a popular spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing in Tenerife. Where in the rest of Europe wind- and kitesurfers squeeze themselves already into 5 mm wetsuits in november, El Medano is still ok in board shorts (not for shivery types like me though).  Statistical July – August – September have the most windy days. As August is super crowded is places like Tarifa, El Medano could be a nice alternative. Windy days range from 15 up to 35 knots. It has made the place a windsurf world cup spot. When the Calima (strong hot dusty Sahara wind) is on, wind can go up to 35 knots. The bay at Playa los Balos has flat water or little swell. The spot is beginner friendly and there are many schools to choose from. The spot more upwind at playa El Cabezo is for the more advanced riders, where you can surf some sideshore waves. The wind usually picks up around noon and often lasts long enough for some sweet sunset sessions. Wind direction is side onshore. In the rare event of wind coming from the west you can kitesurf at Tejita Playa on the other side of Montaña Roja.
Cool PKRA kitesurf video of Tom Herbert shot in El Medano

Adventure things to do in El Medano

Rent a bike in El Medano

Cycle the Costa del Silencio! There’s nice coastal trail going from El Medano to San Miguel. The volcanic formations and erosions have created a super stunning coastline. Most beaches have an info point where you can learn more about the characteristics of the ecosystem. This is an easy peasy bicycle route. Inland there is more hardcore road and mountain-biking to ride. After all Tenerife has the highest peak of Spain! You can rent a good Mountainbike at BikepointTenerife. Hostel Los Amigos has budget bicycles which will get you along the coastline for 2 euro/day only.
Adventure things to do in El Medano Tenerife

Birdwatching in El Medano

The Montana Rojo is a special nature reserve with sand- and mud-based ecosystems. The area of Montana Roja has become a Special Natural Reserve and with more than 100 bird species it has been declared a Bird Area of International Importance. The Klentish plover is an endangered specie that can be spotted here.

Go Surfing in El Medano

El Medano and around has many surf breaks and board rental shops.

Snorkeling & Chilling

Chillax, have a picknick, go for a snorkel session and watch a sunset at La tejita Blue flag beach. There is a beach bar and beachwear is optional;)

Salt water pools of Tenerife

Go dipping in the saltwater pools that can be found along the coast of the Montana Rojo nature reserve. With high tide they are filled up and filtered by the volcanic rocks.  in a number of locations within the reserve, fed by seawater filtered through the sand at high tide.

Hike up Montaña Rojo

It’s only a half an hour hike and the views are priceless.
montana rojo tenerife

Best time to go to El Medano?

All year round! It’s the place where summer continues in European winter. October-January is peak season and you need to book in advance, unless you go camping.

Where to stay in El Medano Tenerife?

Budget places to stay El Medano

  • Los Amigos Backpackers. 15 euro’s per night. This hostel is located few kilometers outside of El Medano. It’s a hostel run by backpackers for backpackers. For 2 euro you can rent a bike. If you leave before noon it’s no problem to take your kitesurf gear on the bike (poco viento). The staff is very active in organising daily excursions and dinner gatherings. Breakfast (cereals, bread, fruit & veggies) and towels are included. The wifi is good. The crowd is multi-national. It lacks Spanish ambience if that’s what you’re after. For people who specifically come to kitesurf in El Medano, you may want to stay right in El Medano town.
  • Casa Grande Surfhostel. 15 euro per night. A budget surf vibe place in El Medano center. Shared rooms only.
  • Hostal Carel. 45 euro’s per night/per room. Budget friendly top location.

Midrange accommodation options in El Medano

  • Hotel Playa Sur This hotel is right on the kitesurf spot in El Medano. You cannot be closer!
  • Casas Bioclimaticas Eco houses powered by the wind. Located a few kilometers east of El Medano. 100% in nature. You would want to rent a car if you stay here.

Check Booking.com HomestaysFlipkey, Homelidays, Atraveo , and Trivago to browse more house rentals and accommodation in El Medano. Or stay with a local and find El Medano accommodation on HomeStay.com or AIRBNB. Numerous nice homestay accommodation in El Medano exist.

elmedano-town-beach

Cool places to Eat & Drink in El Medano

  • For a cafe con leche in the morning or cana after kiteboarding: Veinte 04 Surf cafe, on the square.
  • Tapas? Vetusta Bar Lovely staff, good wifi, delicious tapas! and Bar playa chica (5 tapas for 10 euro’s), both at the paseo Maritimo.
  • Flashpoint: right on the beach. Nice view of the world from here.
  • Go for the catch of the day in the town next to El Medano: Los Abrigos
  • For cocktails? Calima Cafe
  • In the small alleys on the eastern side of the bay you find more nice coffee bars, wifi-bars, an eco food shop and discodancing options.

Local food of the Canary Islands?

Forget about your usual food. These are must tries when in the Canary Islands:

  • Papa arrugadas: Canary Island style salty potatoes which come with a delicious salsa (sauce) Mojo rojo (red) y verde (green). I cannot get enough of this, and of the Mojo especially!
  • Rancho Canario: a tasty local chickpeas soup. Very nutritional!
  • Queso Rojo: the local cheese!
  • Mango’s, papayas, kaki fruit and a lot of them!
el medano fishing town

How to get to El Medano?

El Medano is super close the airport. A taxi ride costs about 10 euro’s. In 15 minutes you can be with your feet in the sand. You can also take a guagua (bus). The Transportes Interurbanos de Tenerife linea 470 bus route passes through the town on its way to tourist town of Playa de las Americas. There are also buses from Santa Cruz.
Or rent a car a so you can do some more Tenerife exploration. +/- 35 euro/day.

Beyond El Medano

There is more in Tenerife than kitesurfing in El Medano. Climb, hike or cycle El Teide, Spain’s highest peak! Further, if time allows, consider going to La Gomera, a green tranquillo (quiet) hiking and biking nature islands south of Tenerife. It’s one hour by ferry or go hitch-sailing. Don’t go there for just a day.

El Medano kitesurf resources

Disclaimer: All recommendations in this El Medano Kitesurf & Adventure guide are my own. Some links are affiliate links, some are not.  If you book through my site I get a few pesos to put into the adventure fund. Thank you! If you would like to know more about this cool coastal town, leave a comment below. Happy to help.

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Adventure & Kitesurf Travel Guide of Tarifa | Spain

Thinking Tarifa for an active holiday or long term stay? Great minds think alike! After three years of intense exploration of the outdoor playground of Europe, I surely have some useful tips for you. You can use this little Tarifa travel guide as a start for your own Tarifa adventure! Read more

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Camping in Komodo National Park, Flores | Indonesia

Have you ever… snorkelled around an island? woke up with nothing but the sound of the waves and the singing of birds? had a day without using keys, or without using a phone? I had to answer no, no and a no. Until I went camping in Komodo National Park!

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