Sailing the Cyclades

In August this year we headed to the Cyclades where we picked up Virgin Gorda II (A Bavaria 42) in Mykonos for a week.

Whereas last year we were complaining of not enough wind, this year we discovered the Meltemi and sometimes felt we had too much!

The log (approximate wind & distances)

Date Location Wind (N/NNE) Distance travelled (miles) Notes
Saturday 17th Mykonos : North harbour 25-30kn 0 In harbour, boarded 5pm
Sunday 18th Mykonos -> South Naxos 25-35kn 50 9am-3pm downwind Jenny & motor
Monday 19th South Naxos 5-25kn 0 Day started calm, decided to enjoy beach. Wind picked up later, tender overturned & couldn’t start outboard
Tuesday 20th South Naxos -> Irakleia -> Koufonisia 5-15kn 12 7-8.30am, lunch/swim in Irakleia 2-5pm choppy in open water, motoring
Wednesday 21st Koufonisia -> Antiparos 10-20kn 35 10.30am-5pm, Sailing, Dolphins, calm behind islands. Got outboard working.
Thursday 22nd Antiparos -> North Paros 15-30kn 30 9am-2pm motoring into wind
Friday 23rd North Paros -> South Mykonos 15-25kn 20 7am-12pm motoring into wind
Saturday 24th back to Mykonos : North harbour 10-15kn 8 7am-9am, short hop around corner


View Sailing 2013 in a larger map

Mykonos : North harbour We arrived in the afternoon and eventually found the charter contact and then the boat. It was still being turned around and ready at 5pm. The handovers and waivers etc took a while once onboard too, giving the kids a chance to check the steering. So with the sun going down we were here for the night. Across the road a restaurant beckoned.

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Mykonos to South Naxos next morning keen to make some progress we set off after breakfast. In the harbour we were getting gusts of 25kn, I’ve had smoother departures, but we only had to push off the neighbouring boat a little bit as I got to grips with how much the boat could be blown off course!

The passage south from Mykonos made us wonder what the rest of the week had in store. 4-5 metre waves had our 12 metre yacht pitching back and forth. With the wind almost directly behind us I didn’t want to risk an unexpected jibe so running just the Jenny and motor we managed about 10-12 knots. This got us right down between Paros and Naxos where we hugged the coast in the lee of Naxos.


Seeing the anchorage on the charts we hoped for a taverna, we were not disappointed! And once we had put the anchor down the wind calmed enough for 3 adults and 2 children to feel confident enough to take the small inflatable tender to the beach we headed up for a well deserved beer.



Next morning there was barely a breeze. In Andy’s words “It’s an idyllic beach where your footprints disappear in the sand” – (or something like that, will update once he reads this and corrects me!)


Swimming off the boat, enjoying the beach, and again a trip up to the Taverna for lunch, we met a Greek family having a BBQ, watermelons keeping cool in rock pools.


Later in the afternoon however the wind started to pick up, even close to the shore in the anchorage. It was time for a little excitement as the wind caught the tender capsizing it, I saw the aluminium oar sinking and the wooden seat floating away. Not sure what Andy thought at first when I thrust the euros I had into his hand, but after diving in, I was passing back oars, seat, and trying to right the dinghy again. The outboard needless to say was not wanting to start after that and we were stuck on the boat unless we wanted to risk rowing and potentially being blown out to sea! It was pasta for dinner on the boat.



With others still sleeping below I brewed a coffee, lifted anchor and set the autopilot, we were heading due south in the lee of Naxos.


This started to feel like we were island hopping now. It didn’t take long to make the crossing, there was next to no wind so just motored at 2,000 rpm / 6-7 knots we were across in just over an hour.

04-Irakleia-gps.resizedThe harbour in Irakleia had an excellent beach, a few cafes, market stores and restaurants.



Talking to a couple over brunch it turned out they had spent the whole summer here as they were both teachers, I started to worry about my crew abandoning ship and staying here! 05-Irakleia-harbour.resized



The children both managed to swim unassisted from the beach back to our boat (moored on the quay, left). It must have been 200m, and the salt water would have helped, but very impressed as Iris had never done anything like that in a pool at home.


After some lunch we headed East…06-Irakleia-Koufonisia.resized

…between the islands it got a bit choppy,


Until we found the marina. They even had an ATM on this island. For about €20 the boat was sheltered, water tanks filled and 240V electrics consumed. A lot of boats moored off from the beach, but without a working outboard (I now had a nice blister from trying) that wasn’t an option for us.

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Next morning we set off West again


This was some of the best sailing of the whole holiday. With a good wind for the crossing between Naxos and Paros even the engine got a break. Plus I tested the outboard again (now on the stern of the yacht) and it fired up 🙂

It was on approach to Antiparos that 3 dolphins came jumping out of the water and diving through waves as they sped towards the boat. Of course no camera was at hand and everyone else was down below, so all I could do was shout “Dolphins!!“.






The anchorage was just around these out crops of rock.08-Irakleia-Koufonisia.resized

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We got there with plenty of time to drop anchor, take the tender in to the taverna for lunch, sample the fish (left), swim off the beach and then see another sunset from the boat before heading back for an evening meal (below).


Next morning we set off early to get as many miles in before the wind picked up. We did have sail up for half an hour before coming round the SW tip of Antiparos, but it came down pretty quickly as we turned the corner.

North Paros

We hugged the coast heading North East aiming for the harbour and anchorage, unfortunately this was pretty much straight into the wind and I (and the crew) weren’t up for an entire day tacking close hauled out into the open water. The coastline was rugged with rocks eroded by the seemingly constant elements.


After about five and a half hours motoring into the wind and waves we saw the light house on the hill to the West of the bay. Inside the bay we found anchorages all around, speed boats towing banana rides, Naousa harbour, and a sports resort that didn’t sell any food in the evening. They were happy however to sell us some beer while a cinema club watched something dubbed in Greek. Pasta for dinner on the boat tonight!


Back to Mykonos

Next morning, early start, keen to get the miles in and yet again having to plough on through the waves going directly into the wind. It was good to get the final leg back to Mykonos out of the way…

…then we had the chance to relax anchored off Platis Gialos beach. With tender tied up by a Greek fishing boat on the quay. We ate lunch and then had table service on sun loungers in front of the restaurant all afternoon.

Next day, back for 9am, then waiting for the diesel truck to come to us (we used 87 litres in the end), here we are unpacked and ready for the handover, next stop: our apartments on dry land!


Skipper and First mate enjoy well deserved beverage 😉



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