Sailing from Piraeus to the Sporades

A month ago, we departed from our home marina in Piraeus, setting sail towards the enchanting northern Sporades Islands—a destination we had yearned for over the years, though it had seemed somewhat elusive\ there were numerous tempting destinations, yet one cannot attain them all.

We navigated through the channel between Evia Island and Mainland, and the sights I witnessed along the journey truly inspired contemplation (and writing)…

I pondered why everyone flocks to the same places, crowding together in the same docks… All while sailing blissfully is an option, even during the months of July and August, in equally breathtaking locations, with serenity… without raising another’s anchor or having yours raised by others, free from the hustle, waves, and more… ?

Perhaps it’s the herd behavior? The beautiful photos taken from the stunning locations everyone visits, or maybe the lack of pictures and stories from places like these, which seem to lead to a state of unfamiliarity with the location. Alongside the desire to be where everyone is? Maybe there are other reasons? Feel free to share your thoughts based on your experiences.

In any case, now that I’ve been introduced to this area, I consider it an equally captivating destination compared to other stunning places in Greece.

Thus, I’m here to share these remarkable places I’ve witnessed.

Our first stop was in Porto Rafti, strategically chosen to optimize our route. This well-protected, expansive bay is located in close proximity to Athens Airport (just a 20-minute drive), making it the ideal spot for passenger embarkation and disembarkation, organization, shopping, repairs, or simply a restful pause along the journey. Small village, an Athenian suburb, not particularly picturesque (and it’s not just me saying that, it’s even mentioned in Pilot Book), but it’s vibrant and lively, with beaches, bars, and active day and night activities for those who are interested. We remained aboard the sailboat ⛵, and the following day, we continued our journey.

Heading to Porto Bufalo, we encountered an intriguing bay that, at first glance, appears to have a depth of no more than half a meter at its entrance. However, upon closer examination using Navily, I discovered that it is navigable, with a minimum depth of around 4 meters at the entrance and 8 meters at the center. This destination is truly a paradise! https://goo.gl/maps/R5hSykJVvUPeMepu9 A turquoise water pool nestled between two small islands, guarded by them like a precious pearl. Securing the boat’s stern to a dock is advisable, as the wind shifts frequently, whether you intend to stay overnight or simply drop anchor for a few hours’ respite. We were all by ourselves! Unbelievable… We wanted to stay there for a week, but circumstances led us to anchor for an extra two days and proceed to pick up a friend who was supposed to meet us in Chalkida.

The journey to Chalkida was enchanting, adorned with lush greenery, serene mountains, and calm seas. Small villages are scattered along the route, their shores beckoning with captivating beaches graced by a few swimmers. Only we sail this route, on this unique passage. Occasionally, a local motorboat crosses our path, from Mainland to Evia, or vice versa… but no more. Tranquility reigns supreme…

Before arriving at Chalkida Bridge, you pass under a beautiful suspension bridge. It’s important to check your mast’s height beforehand to make sure you go under 37.3 meters tall.

Right after, we reached the old Chalkida Bridge. We anchored on its southern side from the western direction. There’s also an option to enter the marina on the southeast side, for those who find it important and if there’s available space, of course. Looks like a great marina.

Anchoring in the bay isn’t very inviting due to the murky waters and numerous small jellyfish that kind of ruined swimming in it.

We anchored the dinghy on the beach, on the eastern (southern) side of the bridge, in order to get details about crossing the bridge, opening hours, etc. They explained to us that there’s a holiday for a local holy in the evening, and anchoring on the local dock of the city isn’t allowed because those areas are reserved. They directed us to the western bay instead. We chose the eastern one specifically, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much difference, especially since we’re passing through in the middle of the night, and all we need is a short stay until morning to continue onwards.

A Glimpse of the Bridge Passage: The ancient Chalkida swing bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Greece, connecting Evia to Mainland, Athens, and the rest. It gracefully curves inward on both sides, creating a unique spectacle in itself. All gather to witness the bridge’s majestic opening, as ships pass through, each taking its turn from the south and then from the north, orchestrated flawlessly under the guidance of the VHF communication expert.

The bridge usually opens during nighttime hours to allow proper vehicle passage during the day. Additionally, there is a very strong current beneath the bridge for most daylight hours, flowing either north or south depending on the sea and wind conditions. It is typically opened for boat passage when the sea is calmest. The clock is written on the bridge in neon lights, and you need to listen to a radio communication after registering at the office and paying the crossing fee (the amount depends on the size of the boat and the day of the week). You can get more information from Navily, Navionics, PilotBook, Google, etc…

(https://maps.app.goo.gl/ivQgtQZXAYsJmqQZ8)

In the morning, we ventured to a place known as the “Greek Seychelles”… A promising and exiting name. While on the one hand, it might be challenging to declare it fully lives up to its promise, on the other hand, it’s unquestionably a breathtaking destination. A series of small and charming islands along the northwest coastline of Evia Island, with shallow passages between them that can be crossed using a dinghy. They have white sandy beaches with summer bars, parasols, comfortable seats, and DJs playing music, creating a lively atmosphere. Tourist boats coming and going from nearby towns, diving sites for snorkeling, tropical shipwrecks, and other enjoyable attractions. We dropped anchor freely at a depth of 8 meters, on the wind-protected side as anticipated during our stay, and we slept perfectly.

(https://goo.gl/maps/qTsUBJQuEVMayvnDA)

The following day we continued to sail towards Pelion, just one point before crossing to the Sporades… For those with the time, a private boat or a charter of two weeks or more – highly recommended. More details about these will follow…

So, as I mentioned before, along the way, there’s Puerto Buffalo, an amazing spot to stop on the journey. There are also many beautiful beaches and green bays to stop at if you want to take it slow. Anyone departing from Lavrio is close to this entire area and can easily spend a week on short sails, just a few hours or even less, going from place to place. If you’re fond of sails, you can glide northward and return south with the wind, usually during the summer season. And for those who prefer, it’s easy and convenient to do this with an engine, without unnecessary battles with the sea and waves along the way. Those coming from Zea or Alimos Marina can also stop en route at Cape Sounio, Anavissos, and give Poseidon, our friend, a visit at his sacred temple, receiving a blessing for the journey 😉 Enjoy ⛵

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