Alpha Agents

With over 6,000 islands, an infinite number of possible itineraries and the necessary formalities, it’s imperative to use a specialist local yacht agent Words: Sarah Forge

In March, Greece’s Tourism Minister, Elena Kountoura, predicted 2018 to be a recordbreaking year. The previous record, set in 2017, saw 30.5 million international tourist arrivals. But, having already witnessed a 20% increase in early bookings and a 5% increase in flights, Elena has confidencethat at least 1.5 million more visitors will reach Greek shores in 2018. No other major European destination has seen a larger increase over the last decade.

We’re barely halfway through 2018 yet A-Listers such as Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson and Lindsay Lohan (plus plenty more Z-Listers) have already posed in their swimwear on Greek soil. One step up from Greek soil is Greek waters and this is where the yacht charter industry comes to the fore.

A land of whitewashed villages, jewel-coloured seas and fragrant pines, Greece has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean (11th longest in the world) and counts around 6,000 islands and islets of which only 227 are inhabited. This makes for a paradise playground for superyachts offering privacy, seclusion, peace and romance – if you want it – or dancing until dawn if you prefer.

But, before you plot a course for the cradle of western civilization, take some advice from people who know Greece far better than most – the yacht agents.

“Greece is a huge sailing area with endless beauties. You definitely need someone to direct you to all the right places,” says Elena Giourtzidou from Athens-based Yachtways. “There is amazing variety among our several thousand islands so it’s important to learn about the ones that align best with your taste in order to make the most out of the time that you have available. And, it goes without saying that Greece has one of the most important histories on the planet – don’t miss the unique archaeological sites and museums.”

Weather can make or break a cruise and, while the summer sun is virtually guaranteed in Greece, the winds can be a little more troublesome. “During the summer months, captains need to take into account the ‘meltemi’ when planning their itineraries,” advises Michael Skoulikidis, CEO of Atalanta Golden Yachts. “The meltemi are the dry and strong north winds that blow mainly in the Aegean during July and August. They are mostly felt in the afternoon and often die out during the night, but sometimes they can last for days. So, it’s important that captains plan to be in the right place at the right time.”

Ioannis Kostrivas, General Director of Alpha Marine Group, is also wary of the meltemia phenomenon. “In July and August, the Cyclades islands are usually windy which can be a blessing in disguise as the very hot temperatures are accentuated by the humidity when the meltemia stop for a brief moment. Our advice is to try and keep the yacht in hidden little bays where guests can enjoy swimming in beautiful unique Cycladic waters – we can help with secret beach locations and itinerary planning.”

Although delightfully reliable, the sun should not be completely disregarded. “Prepare for some holiday sun, you will get sunburn,” continues Ioannis. “You may not feel it on day one due to the breeze constantly cooling you down, but in the end you most definitely will – there is no avoiding it. Sunstroke on the other hand is something you must absolutely avoid. There’s nothing worse than being in bed suffering from nausea and a temperature on a hot summer’s day. Drink plenty of water and use high SPF sun protection, especially when near water as the sun is intensified from the sea surface’s reflection.”

So that’s a tick next to tackling the climate, the next set of hoops to jump through revolve around ‘parking’ and paperwork.Michael from Atalanta Golden Yachts is quick to point out potential mooring trouble spots. “Berthing is an issue to be considered especially during the busy summer months. One needs to plan ahead when the itinerary includes Athens and islands such as the yachting hotspot Mykonos or picturesque Hydra where berths are limited to all but a handful.”

Ioannis from Alpha Marine Group agrees, “Greek islands have limited marina berths and proper advance booking is essential. Also the rule of ‘drop your anchor before the others’ is an everyday hustle.” And it’s not just a hustle for berths. “Greece’s tourism is off the charts during the summer and therefore it can be very crowded – prepare yourselves. Even simple things like booking a table at a restaurant could end up being a nightmare if proper planning is not undertaken.” Again, the yacht agent will come in very handy.

Moving on to the tedious but imperative issue of paperwork. Unsurprisingly, all agents advise to avail yourselves of their services. “Local assistance is always necessary when visiting a new place,” says Yachtways’ Elena. “It just has to come from someone who has the knowledge and, especially in the case of yachts, someone that you can trust.”

Atalanta Golden Yachts’ Michael adds, “There are so many islands to visit and one must have access to inside information in order to simplify their journey. Formalities, bunkering, anchorages and provisioning are best done via local experts.”

Michalis Roditis, Manager of eponymous Roditis Yachting, has advice for skippers, “Check the yacht’s documents are all in order and get insurance updated to comply with the minimum compulsory insurance coverage required in Greece. Crew and passengers must also have all their documents in order, including visas for those citizens who require one for entering the EU. Naturally, the captain’s licence should also be valid.”

Ioannis warns of the need to familiarise yourself with local laws, for example those relating to smaller watercraft. “Jetski and tender use is only allowed if you are over 18 years old and have a licence. The distance between the yacht and the jetski should be kept within sight. Beware, controls and penalties are frequent.”