Hydra

My first visit to Hydra was at the beginning of October 2019, arriving with my floating home ⛵ all the way from Israel.

It was a Friday, and the usually bustling charter boat traffic around the harbor and the island’s coves had dwindled to near non-existence. It was time for them to return to their point of origin for crew changes and the start of a new week. I knew that in the harbor, I wouldn’t anchor after hearing all the horror stories about the place. And so I headed to Mandraki Bay located a bit to the east of the port, from which you can reach the tows by foot, by dinghy, or by a water taxi. Hydra has no motorized vehicles (a dream!), and these are the only means of transportation available, which holds true for other locations on the island as well. Donkeys are still there, as some kind of gimmick, but in my opinion, this terrible treatment of animals must stop! We’re way past that!
I found Navily, the fantastic information-sharing app, to be extremely helpful for planning my sailing adventures in Mandraki Bay. One thing I made sure to avoid was the western/northern part of the bay, where I read there are abandoned anchors, chains, and various heavy metals lying on the deep seabed (approximately 15-20 meters deep). These hazards could potentially get the anchor stuck and create unexpected expenses for local divers and added costs to my sailing budget. So, it was crucial for me to steer clear of that area. We docked in the inner part of the bay, which is calmer and closer to the shore, making it convenient for strolling into the city. The bay was quite empty, which seemed strange to me, considering it was still early October, prior to COVID-19, and Hydra is one of the islands that has the longest season, mainly because of its attractiveness and proximity to Athens. Leonard Cohen purchased a house on the island and skyrocketed its real estate value, elevating Hydra’s popularity even further than it already was!
There were days of calm sea/oil/stillness, making it easy to explore the island with the dinghy. The central harbor was also nearly empty during the late afternoon; I couldn’t believe there was space available. In the evening, we took a walking tour of the town to avoid returning inebriated with the dinghy in the dark 🙂 Of course, by then, the anchorage was already filled, even on Fridays. On Saturdays, there were already second and third rows of boats. The morning after, lots of people tried to free their way. ⛵
Commonly practiced in mooring in Hydra, when there is limited space, boats tie one to another. This means the first boat drops the anchor and ties the stern to the dock. Once the first row is filled, the second row begins, with those boats dropping anchor and connecting stern to the previous boat’s bow, forming a continuous line. This continues with more and more rows. On the opposite side, the same process occurs. Now, imagine several boats tied to each other and facing another row of boats. In the morning, they leave in the reverse order of how they entered. To the dock and from there to the boat, the sailors make their way on the boats between the dock and their boat, even in the middle of the night, often under the influence. In short, no judgments here—everyone has their own choices 🙂
We strolled for about 20-25 minutes on this amazingly beautiful island until we reached Mandraki, where our dinghy was waiting for us to take us back to our boat. ⛵
I must mention that last year, when I arrived at Mandraki in September, it was impossible to find a spot to anchor! The bay was packed with more boats than Herzliya Marina, and the distance between each was smaller than at Tel Aviv Marina. Every boat was squeezed in, stern against the rocks, and in the middle of the bay, there were even more boats anchored freely – just to be in Hydra. Among all the boats, there were floating mattresses and a million people swimming and frolicking in the water… Wow! We escaped from there to the neighboring island called Dokos. There, we were almost alone 🙂 By the way, you can order a water taxi from Dokos to Hydra and back, for those interested. It’s not cheap, but if enough people share the cost, it could be a reasonable solution. Perhaps even less crowded (I haven’t tried it).
In conclusion, Hydra is not just one of the most popular islands in all of Greece, and it’s not just that Leonard Cohen, may he rest in peace, decided to settle there, and it’s not just that everyone wants to visit it. But… Hydra isn’t an easy destination, and it’s good to know that. So, here are some tips nonetheless: If possible, try to arrive on Friday \ Saturday. If you’re in Mandraki, avoid the problematic and deep area of the bay. And if you dock at the harbor, try to stand guard and make sure you can leave in the morning without unnecessary troubles.
And if neither works out – it’s not a big deal, a short sail to Dokos and you’re in a dream… ⛵ Enjoy…

The author is Oded Freidin – the founder of the Facebook group “Sailing in Greece” who lives on his yacht in Piraeus. ⛵ 🇬🇷