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Notes from our cruising in Greece

Introduction

Cruising in Greece over the course of three seasons has been mostly pleasurable, certainly low cost, but somehow leaves us frustrated at the state of sailing in what could be a near ideal sailing environment. We largely avoid costly places, so we have not visited Athens, transited the Corinth canal, or visited the eastern Peloponnisos or Saronic Gulf. Our view may therefore be biased, as it is around Athens that most of the wealthy Greeks live, and where sailing facilities are concentrated. While many people like the haphazard regulation, often using free quays, the absence of infrastructure means that it is often difficult to obtain fuel and water or a secure berth when it is needed. It is difficult to enjoy travelling and exploring unless the boat is secure in your absence. Where facilities do exist, they are often expensive in relation to the services provided.

We are left with the feeling that if the resources spent on port police offices that appear to add no value, and on building harbours that are never finished, were spent on establishing a serviced and managed environment for yachts, then there would be more yachts sailing here, more charter companies perhaps, more chandleries, better facilities and more revenues for the tottering economy.

Formalities

Port formalities in Greece are frustrating, expensive, and chaotically and variably applied, depending upon where you are. As an introduction to the country, they are the pits.

On our first visit to Greece, during the autumn of 1997, we took very seriously the importance of calling first at a port of entry to deal with the Port Police and other authorities. We accordingly made a landfall at Paxos, and went into the harbour to check in (and that story has already been told). We were sent away until the next day, and on the following day were told that the person we needed to see was not available. We should go away, and call somewhere else! We made our way to Levkas, and went once again to see the Port Police. After waiting for some time without receiving any attention, we were eventually taken notice of, and then told after a further wait that the person was not available! We could report somewhere else, in view of our urgent need to leave for Nidri. We left Greece a week later without completing any formalities.

On the second occasion, in 2008, we found our way to the Port Police at Prevezas. A very pleasant young lady with gold stripes on her arm came and enquired whether it really was our first visit, and seemed reluctant to perform the tasks as we were anchored just outside the port. I had to sign a form asserting that I was competent to sail a sailing yacht, citing my father's and my mother's full names. It seems they are still responsible for my lack of formal education! Having duly paid the fee (just under 30) to a second official, a third completed the details on the enormous multi-page transit log. The young lady explained that having formally entered Prevezas, we must equally formally depart, and that on calling at another port with Port Police, we must register our presence with them, and do this in any case at least once a month. She also warned us to take care of the shallow water. We have since learnt that boats less than 10m in length are issued with a simpler paper, rather than the multi-page transit log, and do not have to pay a fee.

Checking out of Greece, this time in Rhodos, was equally frustrating, requiring visits to the customs and to the port police, at opposite sides of the port.

Our next experience of checking in to Greece, at Kos, was almost farcical. This involved a visit to customs, payment of a fee, and then to the port police. Here I was instructed to pay a tax of around 80 cents, but to do it I needed to visit the tax office. The port police instructions were vague: behind a restaurant. After some while searching I found someone who knew which green door, only identified by a sign in Greek, was the tax office. I queued for a lady to enter into a computer and print off on a multi-part set the details of the fee. When I proferred the money I was told to queue yet again for the cashier, who eventually took the money and stamped a receipt that I could take back to the port police. The cost to the economy of issuing that receipt for a tax of less than a euro was simply mad!

We found it sometimes awkward to collect our stamps within 30 day intervals. Every time you stamp in, you have to stamp out, and they will usually require evidence of some payment, either to a marina, or to the police. They will stamp you out at the same time as stamping in if you can convince them you are leaving before the office opens in the morning.

Often we have tried to check in with port police, only to get the feeling that they would rather we had not bothered at all. So finally this year we have given in, and done just that.

Gulf of Amvrakia (Amvrakikos Kolpos)

We came to Prevezas from Malta, because we had heard that the Port Police and authorities there were reasonably approachable, and it was very little further than Nidri, our originally planned destination. Had we not done so, we might have missed out on enjoying the Gulf of Amvrakia, and that would have been a great pity. The gulf is an inland sea, 20 nm long by 10 nm wide at its widest points. There is no tide, and therefore no swell, although the fetch across can be quite long. The water is salty and warm, and mostly deep. We have sailed from one end to the other, encountering few other yachts on our way, and enjoyed some fabulous sailing. To the north, there are shallows, salterns, and the entrances of three rivers, the principal one being the River Arta. This is no longer navigable because of a hydroelectric dam. To the south, the shore is clean and steep to. However, you need to be aware of the few hazards and shallows, and keep an eye out for the fish farm pens. The backdrop to the unspoiled rural scenery is extensive bare-topped mountains.

Prevezas is on the north bank, at the entrance to the Gulf, and is approached by a dredged channel. The channel is used by some moderately large ships that can dock not only at Prevezas, but can continue up to the oil distribution depots and to Amfilokhia, about 20nm at the south eastern extremity of the Gulf.

Opposite Prevezas, on the south bank opposite the entrance, there are three extensive boat yards offering lift out, storage and services to yachts, as well as one to the north of Prevezas. The 'marina' appears to have been stunted in its development: there are no facilities as such, and it seems to have attracted some static liveaboards. Also, to the south of Prevezas it the summer airport of Aktion through which the Ionian charter companies bring most of their customers.

Prevezas itself is a pleasant town. The harbour front is lined with a number of bars, behind which there are narrow streets leading back with many eating places. You have to penetrate beyond these before coming across two shopping streets, the first of which is 'touristy', but the second is the main business centre of the town.

Around the gulf are a number of settlements, of which Vonitsa is perhaps the most attractive. The small town is well provided with bars and eating places, and is dominated by the ruins of a Venetian castle. On the west, just north of Prevezas, lies the ruined town of Nikopolis, built by Octavian when his fleet had seen off that of Anthony and Cleopatra.

Prevezas

Heikel's pilot guide (2004) refers to works in progress, regarding the development of marina facilities including toilets, electricity and water points, at Prevezas marina. There is an active Scandinavian club operating there: with predominantly Swedish boats tied up 3 abreast alongside. No electricity. Water by courtesy of a Swedish guy in a caravan parked beside the marina. No facilities and no charges. Yachts mooring off the main town quay opposite, and alongside. Two commercial quays in use for offloading moderate sized coasting vessels.

Services

The following contacts may be useful if you find yourselves in the Nidri area:
Breakdown cover, Rigging, maintenance, engineering, brokerageKelvinIonian Boat Assistance
Inflatables, outboardsNidri Marine
Stainless steel workStainless steel PhilSteel Marine
Boat coversOrkide ToddGheco Boat Covers, 105 Vliho (next to YC), 26450 95184
Yacht management, surveysHoratio C Todd105, Vliho as above

Marinas

We do not often visit marinas as such, but here are some comments about the ones we have visited

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