Sailing in the Ionian Sea

The Ionian Sea is one of the few true sailing paradises in the world. No wonder there are so many sailing holidays offers in this area, ranging from flotilla sailing to bareboat chartering. Even those who are completely new to sailing, can find a suitable course here and have an unforgettable time.

The weather conditions, especially in summer, are perfect for sleeping in, sailing to the next island, and enjoying a beer and a lovely meal in a new port. But why would you even go to a marina if you can Moore your sailing yacht in hundreds of tranquil bays to enjoy your dinner there, before having a good night’s rest? In the summer months, there is no need to wear heavy-duty sailing clothes either, since temperatures are around 30-degree Celsius during the daytime.

Where is the Ionian Sea located?

The Ionian Sea is located roughly between Greece, Albania, and from the Italian ‘heel’ all the way past Calabria down to Sicily. When people refer to sailing in the Ionian Sea, however, they often focus on the Greek part. The reason for this is the abundance of islands and marinas in this particular area, allowing for weeks of island-hopping.

This is the greener part of Greece, with abundant trees that receive their much-needed rainfall in the winter months. These islands are filled with centuries-old olive groves, monasteries, and stately homes in Venetian style. Anchored in turquoise to deep blue waters, these islands are photogenic in every way imaginable.

Island-hopping along the Greek coast

Many of the islands along the Greek west coast are well-known with landlubbers and sailors alike. But you also have the opportunity to go where no other tourists go; to see Greece as it was before international visitors arrived.

Zakynthos or Zante is famous for its Shipwreck Beach, but many other beaches on this island are of award-winning beauty. About three hours sailing away is Kefalonia, somewhat of an unknown that has managed to escape mass tourism. This island has many wonderful inlets and bays that are ideal for mooring. Another three hours farther is beach paradise Lefkada, but why not stop by Ithaca first – the home of Odysseus? This small islands has one of the biggest natural ports in Europe and is surrounded by amazing, small bays.

A little farther north awaits the next group of islands. Big, British-influenced Corfu with its rich history, verdant landscape, whitewashed villages, and vibrant nightlife have something to offer for each type of captain and sailor. Close to Corfu are laid-back Paxos and its sister island Antipaxos. Antipaxos has dazzling turquoise waters, comparable to islands in the Caribbean. Depending on the amount of time you have at your disposal, you can see all of the Ionian islands.

Thanks to the deep Ionian waters you can approach land more than anywhere else in Greece. This might be the only place in the world where you can enjoy a siesta on deck but in the shade of a pine tree!

Ideal weather conditions

From the end of May to late September remarkably consistent winds blow in the Ionian Sea. During this period, the so-called  Maistro wind blows over the area from the northwest. It generally begins in the early afternoon, reaches force 3-6, and dies down in the evening. While gales and storms are not unknown, they are well-forecast and don’t last long. On the east side of the major island, there is wind, but there are no waves. That ensures a beautiful sailing experience, perfect for sailors of any level.

The hills and mountains of the islands create interesting, localised wind effects, where it converges or diverges, diverts into channels or is blocked completely. This means there is never a dull moment and plenty to learn for beginners and intermediate sailors.

Whether you are in a flotilla or chartering a bareboat, you will likely be briefed early in the morning, which includes a weather forecast. If you’re taking your own boat down to these waters, you can ask the port office for weather updates.

Boat chartering

Since sailing conditions are so ideal in the Ionian Sea, there is a ready supply of charter yachts available. Most can be found on Corfu, which is the island with the best flight connections to the rest of Europe. Alternatives are Zakynthos, which also have international airports but are more limited in their flight connections. Check out budget airlines like EasyJet, WizzAir, Ryanair, Germanwings, and Condor

Mooring

Most ports in the Ionian Sea require sailors to moor their yachts stern-to. Reversing into a berth can be nerve-wracking for beginning yachties, but it helps if you plan ahead. Test the behaviour of your boat astern, let the crew know what they are supposed to do, and work out commands and hand signals.

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