Crete was home to one of world’s most important civilisations, the Minoans who ruled the eastern Mediterranean from 2800 – 1150 BC. The art that has survived shows a refined and peace loving culture. There is a good collection in the Museum at Iraklion. Through commerce, shipping and trade with other peoples, the Egyptians, Phoenicians and Syrians they built a powerful civilisation. The Achaians and the Dorians followed. The Romans occupied Crete 69 – 330 AD making Gortyn their major town. Crete fell into the Arabic hands in 824 and was not liberated until 961). Then in 1204, the island passed to the Venetians. They fortified the island with several new castles and broke the ground for new cities of Hania and Rethimno. Inside the walls the cities developed with narrow alleys and houses, interspersed with decorative churches, fountains, piazzas and palaces the remains of which can still be seen today. In 1645 the Turks set foot on the island for the first time and in 1669 the whole of Crete fell to them. Not until 1913 was the island reunited with the rest of Greece.
In the summer the prevailing wind is the infamous Meltemi from the NW – WNW. July and August sees the winds at their strongest, force 5 – 6 on the northern coast but more often a more gentle force 3 – 4. The spring and autumn sees winds form the south, force 2 – 4. The southern coast is notorious for strong squalls the blow down from the mountains. There is little in the way of warning and they can be violent close inshore. It gets very hot on the island during the summer months with the average daily temperature reaching 35 deg C in July and August and temperatures as high as 40 deg C are not uncommon.
Kissamoss lies in the NW corner of Crete. Yachts can berth alongside or anchor of in the harbour. There is good shelter from the W and NW but it is open to the E and SE. In a strong northerly getting away can be difficult, as the yacht will have to beat for 14 miles to escape the bay. Water is available and the re is a taverna close by. The nearest provisions are at Kastelli, which is a one mile bus journey away.
Khania is to the E. Entrance can be difficult in a strong northerly as the sea heaps up around the entrance. The marina is in the E basin. You will be directed to a berth where a laid mooring awaits. There is good shelter in all but northerly gales. There is water and electricity on the pontoons. A mini tanker can deliver fuel. All provisions can be obtained and there are good tavernas in the town. This Venetian city was for centuries the capital of Crete and much of the charming architecture remains.
Soudhas is further to the E. It is the Greek navy’s southern base and yachts have been refused entry at times. If allowed in go bow or stern to on the S quay. Shelter is extremely good. There is water on the ferry mole and fuel can be delivered. All provisions can be obtained and there is a good choice of tavernas. The military presence tends to put a bit of a dampener on things and this is not a must visit.
Yioryiopolis is a small harbour at the mouth of the river Almiros. Go alongside the quay or anchor in the bay to the north. There is good shelter except with winds from the N – NE. There is water in the village and most provisions can be obtained and there are several tavernas. The village is both attractive the locals are friendly making a visit well worthwhile.
Rethimon is an old Venetian harbour. Go alongside inside the N jetty or bow or stern to the E jetty. There is good shelter even from the Meltemi tucked under the E jetty. There is water on the quay and fuel can be delivered. All provisions can be obtained and there are some good tavernas including several fish restaurants in the Venetian harbour. This should be one of the highlights of the charter. The Venetian harbour and town are attractive and the buildings with wooden balconies are a reminder of Turkish occupation.
Iraklion is the capital of Crete. Proceed to the Venetian harbour at the W end of the main harbour. Go bow or stern to at the “marina” in the S or on the N quay. There is water on the quay and fuel can be delivered. There is excellent shopping and fresh fish is sold in the harbour. There are good tavernas many of which serve fresh fish. Try those around the market in town. The city itself has little to recommend it but visits to Knossus, an archaeological site, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the tourists. And the museum containing a collection from the Minoan times is worthwhile.
Khersonisos is a small harbour. Go bow to the mole or anchor off. Care is needed because depths vary throughout the harbour and the holding is poor on sand and rock. There is good shelter from the N as the harbour is open only to the SE. Water, fuel and provisions can all be found in the town. The town is a modern tourist development, full of bad architecture and obnoxious holidaymakers.
Spinalonga Lagoon is situated in the N of the larger bay Kolpos Merembellou. Yachts can anchor anywhere in the lagoon. Most provisions can be obtained at Elounda. Take a look at Nisis Spinalongas. The setting for the Venetian fort and deserted settlement are most attractive.
Further to the south is Ay Nikolaos. There is a marina on the S side of the headland. Yachts should bow or stern to where directed and use a laid mooring. There is water and electric on the pontoons. Fuel can be delivered to the yacht. There are numerous tavernas and most provisions can be obtained. This fishing village is now a large tourist development although the marina is sited some way from the noisy area.
Pahia Ammos is situated at the S end of Kolpos Merembellou. There are depths of up to 3m at the extremity of the mole. The harbour is exposed to the Meltemi. Limited provisions can be obtained in the village and there are several tavernas
Further W lies Sitia. Go bow or stern to the inner N mole. The bottom is sand and weed with some rocks. There is good shelter from the Meltemi. There are both fuel and water in the harbour. All provisions can be obtained in the town and there are several good fish restaurants. The inner harbour with its tree lined esplanade is pleasant and watching dusk fall over the harbour while tucking in to a nice sea bass is the perfect end to a day’s charter.
Ak Sidhero is the NE tip of Crete and to the S there are several anchorages in small inlets. There are no facilities but the scenery is imposing with a desolate feel.
Crete’s cuisine is similar to that found throughout the Aegean. Fish plays a large part in the form of tuna, swordfish, sea bass, urchins, octopus, squid and cuttlefish. You will find beef, pork, lamb and goat. A rabbit stew is a speciality. As is cheese pie and fried cheese (staka). For those with a sweet tooth try yogurt and honey tarts (kaltzounia). Cretan wine is fairly good.