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.
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
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:
Poseidon – For Greek nation wide sailing forecasts
Windguru – For local weather forecast aimed at kite- and windsurfers
Windy.com – A visual view of the current winds and wind forecast. Zoom in on Greece
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.
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.
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.
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…
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http://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/HitchSail.jpg7171280Suzannehttp://theoceanpreneur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ocean_layout3_blue.pngSuzanne2016-10-07 18:03:182017-07-08 16:00:46Sailing in Greece: island-hopping the adventurous way