Port Appendices
Crete : Greece

These notes are intended to compliment Rod Heikell’s excellent Greek Waters Pilot, without which we would not have been able to properly and so expeditiously explore the Greek waters we love so much; we strongly urge you to buy each new edition as it is produced.  It is never possible for such a comprehensive publication to be totally up to date thus, where appropriate; we have mentioned changes.

Crete (Kiriti)

Gramvousa

A little island off the northwest tip of Crete that makes an excellent kicking off (or arrival) point for the Peloponnisos.  The anchorage is covered by the Pilot as are the reefs protecting its western side.  The vista of the 13the century fort perched high up on the bluff above the beach and the silver sand shallow bay below makes it a difficult place to leave.

There is a small quay on the island used by visiting fishermen that appears to have sufficient depth for a small yacht.

If the wind is from the south, anchor in the mainland bay to the south of the island, otherwise use the bay on the south of the island described above.  Doubt whether the protection is all round; strong westerlies may send a swell over the reef into both anchorages.

There are no facilities albeit there is a and track leading from the little quay to what may be a summer taverna and/or a chapel.

Hania (Xania, Khania)

A good port with all the facilities you could want at a very reasonable cost but it is a bit noisy (day and night) for us as it does have a couple of all-night clubs.

But the visitor berths are on the old Venetian quay with water and electricity laid on.

Out of the main season, it is sometimes possible to use a berth in the marina beyond the visitors’ quay and even alongside the large quay between the two.

Ormos Metali

A glorious bay tucked in behind Nisos Paliaosoudha in the entrance to Ormos Soudhas itself.  Being within the prohibited area around the headland that houses the southern most NATO base in the Mediterranean, it is technically a ‘no go’ area but an almost blind eye is turned to visiting yachts.  You might, as we did, have a passing visit from a fast inshore craft checking you out, but that is about all.

If you are concerned, the NATO base control listens out (and operates!) on channel 16.  They are generally very helpful so it relieves any worries just to let them know you are there and why.

The bay is nearly all round protected; expose only to the east and being just seven miles from the port of Soudha, even that is not worth worrying about.  The bottom is silver sand and good holding in four or five metre depths.

Soudha

Given you can find the channel markers and steer a course of 283° True, avoiding all the NATO vessels, submarine nets (if they are there?); give it a try.  The commercial quay can be used but we found space alongside in the little fishing harbour right at the far western end of the bay.  There are plenty of shops within a kilometre or so, excellent for provisioning and the harbour is safe in all weather conditions.  It is no tourist spot but that is perhaps its main attraction.

Rethymno (Rethymnon)

A ferry and pleasure port with a well equipped if half finished small marina.  Within the port is the original Venetian harbour, largely still intact as are its surrounding buildings.  A wander through the narrow, mainly pedestrian, streets is both cooling and delightful despite the, to be expected, ‘tourist tat’ shops that are to be found between the more traditional shops, bars and tavernas.

And if you wish to treat yourself there is a pretty expensive taverna to hunt down, Avli’s; excellent for a romantic dinner sitting in the terraced tree covered courtyard garden.  The food is international but includes most of the Cretan traditional dishes.  When we were there, a young attractive sommelier helped us identify some Cretan and Greek wines to match our expectations from varieties more familiar to us.

Panormos

A little village port still with its itinerate fishermen and adapted for the more old fashioned style of Greek tourism that we do like.  Its mountainous surroundings give a cool nightime breeze that makes a pleasant change from the more usual humid July and August nights.  Good bars and tavernas with sea views and excellent Cretan food. 

Apparently safe in all but northeasterly winds when the swell that this brings could prove dangerous.  Even in a north-westerly the swell finds its way round the end of the breakwater quay so if moored alongside it pays to leave all lines pretty slack.

Bali

A quaint, very small fishing harbour with just the possibility of a place to moor stern or bows-to the outermost end of the quay.  The rest of the bay is littered with laid moorings.  It is also possible to anchor off the outer beach if there is no room on the quay.

It justifies the effort, particularly in the Spring, if only to see the half a dozen fresh water springs rising through the sea in the bay just outside the harbour; a fascinating site that diminishes towards July and disappears by August; until the next year.

Iraklion (Herakleon)

Don’t bother unless you have to.  The little marina is packed to capacity with local boats and makes no effort to welcome visitors.

You can moor on the extensive quays of the massive commercial harbour if you don’t mind risking hull damage and have a good supply of pitons to help you climb up the harbour wall to get off.  Abseiling is probably the only way to safely re-board.

Spinalonga

An island at the head of a peninsular that forms a 5 mile long lagoon where the water is a constant 3 to 5 metre depth of clear blue water over a mainly crystal sand bottom.  There are many anchorages for a lunchtime or overnight stop both inside the lagoon and on the eastern side of the peninsular.  We anchored for the night in the main bay on the eastern side of the peninsular in a force 6 quite comfortably and on the western side of the peninsular in the first bay on your port side; the holding in both was excellent though the former took a few attempts to get a holding.

Tholos

A lunchtime stop over silver sand.  A good anchorage even in the prevailing northerly winds.

Nisos Psira

Another lunchtime anchorage on the eastern side of the island though it is small.

Agios Nikolaos

A sweet little marina tucked in to the west side of Kolpos Mirambellou.  A village environment albeit actually a fairly large town, unspoilt by its extensive tourism.  Everything you could want can be purchased here at sensible prices, limited chandlery included.

We have a permanent berth here, where Charlie Girl IV is likely to spend her winters until 2010.  The resident expat community are equally great fun and most helpful to all comers.  Out of season Sunday BBQs’ are the norm.

Sitea

A safe haven from which to leave or arrive in Cretan waters.  Good for shopping and with tavernas that are open all year round.  Otherwise not a very inspiring place though its mountainous backdrop is quite awe inspiring.

If you can moor on the right quay, there is power and water laid on.

Whilst we have not tested either quay in a southerly, we suspect the harbour could quickly become untenable, either because you broadside on to the wind if stern-to the inner wall or alongside the outer wall.

Nisos Dhia – Due north of Iraklion

Nisos Dhia (Whalkey bay) N35° 26.065’ E025° 13.795’

An intriguing, safe and strangely welcoming anchorage in a bay on the south east corner of a large barren rocky island with so many different birds of prey we could not identify them all with certainty.  A very pleasant overnight stopping place in the prevailing northerly winds.

We have spent several nights here as it has a surprising amount of bird life, including various hawks, eagles and buzzards.