Sailing in the Corinthian Bay

Since sailing enthusiasts today are on a continuous quest to find some nice destination for a sailing holiday, it’s a real struggle to find a beautiful port or even a picturesque route without it being agglomerated. However, that doesn’t stop these modern sailors from seeking relentlessly, just like the old sailors kept exploring the sea for new routes and new lands.

A good tip for a scenic destination would have to be of a place that’s also quite cheap and yet not so popular, giving you the possibility to avoid the summer crowds. A good place to start, especially if you’re a beginner skipper, is the Mediterranean Sea. These old shores are very well chartered so sea charts are often very accurate thus giving good directions, while also offering a range of conditions (virtually no tides, predictable winds and good weather) that mean you won’t have too much trouble at the helm.

A good example of one such “undiscovered treasure” is the Corinthian Gulf, generally considered by veteran pleasure skippers as a mere passage between the Aegean and the Ionian Seas, rather than a stop point for a sailing vacation. Most prefer to make the journey through it as fast as possible, and preferably at night.

Day 1

We recommend starting from west to east, seeing as how that is the general direction of the prevailing winds. The entry point to the Bay is the Corinthian Bridge, or “Rion Andiron” as it’s locally known and that should be the starting location of your sailing trip. Visible from great distances thanks to its size (2.8km long), the bridge is a busy passage point for both commercial and leisure traffic, which is why the locals enforce a couple of rules and regulations.

Please remember to contact the Rion Traffic Authority on VHF radio channel 14 when 5 miles out from the bridge and then again when 2 miles out. They will give you directions from the Coast Guard about which route you should take, since there are only 5 channels reserved for smaller yacht charter boats that pass through the area. As a side note, note that there are some other touristic sights in the region, like the two medieval fortresses on either side of the channel, to the south and to the north.

When you enter the bay, head to the north shore to the small but very beautiful harbor of Nafpaktos, which is located in a semicircular cove which provides good protection from northern and western winds. The name of the harbor is Mezolongi and it has a perfect horseshoe shape. The entrance to the harbor has two large piers on either side, where the yacht charter crew can visit a large ancient temple as well as a fortress dating back to Venetian times.

Mooring here is somewhat troublesome, since the draft is just 5m and there isn’t too much room to maneuver. However, you’ll find that there are many other yachties who venture to drop anchor here due to the beauty of the city. There is another large fortress on a nearby hill, overlooking the harbor, an aqua park where the kids can enjoy dolphin shows just 500m from the sea and, further down the coast to the southeast there is even a beach where you can get a tan.

Day 2

Keeping to the north shore, the one on the mainland, your sailing route will take you to an island called Nisos Trizonia, just off the shore of Glyfada. Here, you’ll find two harbors, with a common entrance facing east. That means that here you’re boat will be well protected from northern, southern and western winds but that during eastern winds will bring a swell in the marina. The water is deeper on the outer piers, suitable for those with bigger draft vessels.

The harbor here is also used by small fishing boats, as is another small harbor to the northeast. It’s recommended that you visit this harbor by foot, since it’s within walking distance of the first. Here, you’ll find a quaint settlement, with a few beautiful restaurants that offer a view of the channel. The visitor will be glad to know that he can find basic repair facilities here at moderate prices in case his vessel needs them.

On the mainland, a good mooring spot is the neighboring bay of Ormos Ay Saranda, to the northwest. Within this bay there is the small village of Paralia Saranda, a real sailing gem, since it offers everything you’d expect from a holiday in Greece. Just a couple of houses constitute this authentic Greek village, but there are some restaurants which offer traditional food at very low prices due to the fact that the region is not frequented regularly by summer crowds.

Mooring in the bay is possible since there are depths of 7-12 meters as well as a sandy bottom. The reason why you and your group should moor here is because it’s free and it offers good protection from all winds except from the south. But since the prevailing winds blow from the west, you’re going to be safe, and you also get to see a very wild part of the Greek shoreline, one that seems to have been untouched by man.

Day 3

Setting sails again along the coast, you’ll come across your next stop, this time a larger city, Galaxidi, which is also located in a nice, mountainous region. The only thing a skipper will have to keep in mind is that the neighboring mountains can produce gust wind effects, especially later in the day, between 3 o’clock in the afternoon and 8 o’clock at night. Though not powerful, these gusts will make approach difficult.

The harbor itself in Galaxidi is rather shallow but it does provide good mooring while also offering the tourists some nice views and good conditions. Among these, you’ll find here gas, electricity and water, all for very low prices. The downside is that at night you’ll be bothered by the noise coming from the nearby bars that play loud music late into the night. Also, sometimes in the summer when water temperatures get really hot, pleasure boats will struggle with algae in the water which can clog filters quickly if not checked regularly. But taking into account the fact that the Oracle of Delphi is in the region and this is also one of the largest ports in this part of the bay, mooring in Galaxidi is somewhat imperative.

Day 4

Your trip is now taking you closer to the Corinth Channel, a busy waterway that spares sailors from circumnavigating the Peloponnese peninsula. You’ll discover that there is a lot of commercial traffic here and it’s also quite expensive, but the advantages are that you save time and you also get a one-in-a-lifetime experience. Cruising your boat between the almost vertical rock cliffs that go up to several tens of meters in some points will make it all worth it. Just make sure to bring your camera.

Before arriving, contact channel authority on VHF channel 11 and wait for instructions. Once at the channel, moor at the indicated pier and proceed with paying and, if necessary, ask for assistance with the crossing. Be careful though as this costs extra and implies nothing more than having an official boat sailing in front of your craft.

Once you’ve past the Channel, head south into the Saronic Gulf. At this point many holidaymakers would choose to sail directly east, towards large ports such as Pireus or Athens, but it’s worth mentioning that the eastern coast of the Peloponnese peninsula has a lot of things to offer to the water-bound tourist.

For the final night, for example, you can moor in the small bay of Korfos, located in the region of the Nisida islands. This bay is very well protected from the winds thanks to its position carved deep into the coastline. The bay provides good mooring for sailing boats, with depths between 5 and 10m and with a sandy bottom which offer good holding anchor. Since it’s just 2.5 hours from the Channel, it pays to moor here as there are no fees, but sadly there are also no facilities.

From here, you can head to any of the major ports in Greece, or continue exploring the Saronic Gulf at your leisure. The important thing to remember is that the Corinthian Bay has plenty of undiscovered potential and for those that like sailing and that venture here, it can be a cheap yet beautiful holiday aboard a yacht.