CRETE is the largest and, some say, the most beautiful of the Greek islands; the southern-most outpost of Europe. Few sailors, or yacht charters, venture further south. High mountains, spliced by spectacular gorges; strange plateaus, sheer coastlines, caves, and white sand beaches characterise this popular destination.
It was the birthplace of the Ancient Minoan civilisation, one of the earliest civilisations in Europe, and later subject to various occupations and wars over the centuries. Crete offers an abundance of both natural and cultural attractions for its many visitors.
Crete’s northern coast has been well-developed for the package tourist and is crowded in the summer months. Day sailing along this coast between harbours is the best option. Boat charters will find harbours and organized marinas, but few natural anchorages. The southern coast, once a backpacker’s haven, is being developed rapidly and many of its best beaches are accessible only by boat. The Western coast remains wild and rugged.
Sailing around Crete is recommended for experienced sailors and crew. Less experienced sailors should stick to the central north coast. The best sailing season is May/June and September/October when the weather is calm.
July and August does not provide the best conditions for boats as the ‘meltemi’ winds blow most days and are north-easterly on the western end and north-westerly on the eastern end. Force 5-6 is standard, though it can get up to Force 7 or 8. The effect of this wind on the straits at each end of Crete can result in big seas, with 3-4m waves at this time of year; the wind strength is often 1 to 2 Beaufort higher than the forecast.
The southern coast is notoriously dangerous during summer winds, since the high mountains give rise to strong katabatic squalls.