Mamma Mia Islands (or the Sporades)

When we head for new cruising grounds we read the pilot books to give us an idea of where we would like to go and how long we are likely to stay. For some reason the Sporades didn’t read well. There were few anchorages, it was overrun with tourists and flotilla boats and all of the tavernas pumped ABBA music out continually (as someone who doesn’t mind ABBA, I can still only stand so much). We only identified 4 or 5 anchorages that we wanted to visit and anticipated only spending a week or so there.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a fantastic area and we’d end up spending over a month in the area.

We left Myrina on Limnos on the 2nd of Auguts and motored sailed 57 miles to a very remote anchorage called Planitis in the nature reserve on Nisos Kira Panagia.

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Limnos to the Sporades

The anchorage is entered through a narrow 20m wide channel that is only 4m deep. The channel faces North and the pilot books warn that in anything over a force 4 Northerly wind entering or leaving the anchorage is impossible. We had a F2-3 easterly so it was no problem. Once inside the very sheltered anchorage all winds disappeared and the sea was completely flat.

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Planitis Anchorage

We joined a couple of other yachts anchored in the south west of the 2 legs. There is no-one living on the island and there is also no phone reception at all. It is also off the tourism beaten track. We spent an idyllic 3 days here, sunbathing, swimming and relaxing, most of the time on our own. On the 3rd day our friends on Owl and Pussycat (O&P) sailed over from Limnos to join us for the final day.

We decided to leave Kyra Panagia and headed for an anchorage on the south of Peristera. There are 2 anchorages on the chart but the first one was full and the second pretty busy but it looked like there was room to anchor in 20m of water. We tried to anchor 3 times, letting 60+ m of chain out but the anchor failed to hold on each occasion. We’d been in radio contact with O&P throughout and we decided to sail the extra 10 miles to Skantzoura.

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Skantzoura Anchorage

We anchored in around 10m on sand away from a small flotilla that had long lined at one side. As normal I went snorkelling to check that the anchor was well dug in and in sand. At the rear of the anchor there is a hole to attach a line to recover the anchor if it gets stuck. I’ve attached a 1m length of line and a cork float to it so that I can swim down and attach another line to it even if the anchor is buried – as illustrated in the picture below.

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Cork attached to a line

I wish I’d taken a camera with me when I checked the anchor because there was a octopus playing with the ball and trying to pull it off the line. I watched for around 5 minutes before the octopus realised I was there and curled itself around the cork ball as if to camouflage itself.

We’d intended to have a BBQ ashore but on visiting the stone beach we realised that there was a lot of debris washed up so instead we had a BBQ on the back of Coriander.

At this point we split form O&P again, they were heading to Skyros and we went north to Alonnisos as we’d arranged to meet my brother and his wife on Skiathos in a few days time and intended visiting Skyros with them.

The anchorage at Ormos Milia is pretty large and was well sheltered from the northerly wind and slight swell. We anchored in 15m, well outside the flotilla and tripper boats that were fighting to get as close to the beach as possible. The water was crystal clear so it was easy to spot an area of sand to drop the anchor in.

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Ormos Milia, Alonnisos

After a quiet night it was time to make our way in the direction of Skiathos, calling first at Loutraki on Skopelos. The wind had dropped completely and the sea was flat calm so we decided to go via Agios Ioannis Kastri- the ‘Mamma Mia’ church.

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To Loutraki via Mamma Mia Church

Our route took us through the channel between Alonnisos and Skopelos and gave us great views of the Chora of Alonnisos.

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The Chora of Alonnisos

It is very unusual for the sea to be so calm and we were able to get right in to where the church is for photographs.

 

From here we went around the north of Skopelos and anchored just outside the harbour at Loutraki. There are pontoons for yachts in the harbour but they have been taken over by a flotilla fleet.

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Loutraki Harbour. Coriander is the middle yacht outside the breakwater

It is possible to get 2 or 3 yachts anchored inside the harbour but room has to be left for the ferries that arrive 8 or more times a day.

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Loutraki Harbour with the flotilla on the pontoon

This is the only place I have been where the beach is outside the harbour wall.

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Loutraki beach

We ate ashore at the excellent Aramis restaurant and bar. I highly recommend the beef stifado (bottom) and the pork in plum sauce  (top).

After a couple of nights at Loutraki it was time to head across to Skiathos

We anchored in off the beach in Megali Ammos, just to the south of Skiathos town with a separate small beach which was ideal to take the dinghy to and enabled a short walk to Skiathos town.

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The beach where we landed the dinghy

We spent 4 nights here, being joined firstly by Cuffy and Lorraine on Cuffysark and then by Mike and Claire on Owl and Pussycat.

On the 17th We sailed in company to the anchorage of Stafylos on the south coast of Skopelos where the 3 boats crew went ashore for another great meal.

Cuffysark left to head further east and we backtracked to Limnonari via Agnontas. This is a great beach, complete with 2 bars – one with a swimming pool. It was very busy with charter boats and we decided it would be a good place to bring visitors. Of course we weren’t on holiday so we got on with daily chores 🙂

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Gill hanging out the washing

O&P left to head to Skiathos to meet Claire’s sister Chris and her husband John, we went to Mama Mia beach at Milia via having briefly checked out Panormos for future reference.

This is the location for filming “Paradise Beach” in the Mamma Mia film. In the film the beach is deserted with nothing there. In the intervening years it has changed somewhat.

The forecast was for settled weather so we decided to remain on anchor off the beach which was very peaceful once all of the trip boats had left. We were treated to another amazing sunset over the neighbouring islands.

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Sunset over Skiathos

By now it was the 20th of August. We motored 3 mile back to Loutraki to pick up supplies as the supermarket is next to where we could land the dinghy and then to Skiathos to meet Claire’s sister Chris and her husband John.

After a night in Skiathos, we sailed back to Loutraki and anchored with Owl and Pussycat.

My brother Chris was due to meet us at Skiathos for a couple of weeks holiday so we said our goodbyes to Owl and Pussycat and crew and made our way back to the island of Skiathos and anchored off the ‘notorious’ Koukounaries party beach. 

As things turned out, the anchorage is huge with a nice village and lagoon behind the beach. The bars and watersports facilities all closed by 7pm and we had a quiet night.

We left Koukounaries and returned to Skiathos town to stock up and await the arrival of Chris and Liba.

On the 29th we walked the kilometre or so to the airport to meet them. Skiathos airport is pretty small and you pretty much cross the runway on the way there. The photo below is taken from where people gather to watch planes land and take off. We had to get to the main building otherwise we’d have done the same.

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Skiathos airport runway

We had a beer with them at another Mamma Mia location – the pier where the ferry leaves for ‘Kalokairi’. As an aside, I’ve just found out Kalakairi means Summer in Greek.

We took Chris and Liba to Loutraki on Skopolos, our 3rd visit and took the bus up to the Chora for the amazing views. We then walked back down for a well deserved drink.

Owl and Pussycat dropped off their visitors and joined us for a couple of days before they had to head back to Skiathos for more visitors.

Before that they sailed with us to Panormos where we long lined and had fun on the paddle board before heading ashore for something to eat. I had never fallen off the paddle board to date and Chris tipped me off (honest). I’ll let him off though as he swam ashore with the lines when we arrived.

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Panormos dinghy landing area

From here it was a short motor round to Limnonari – the beach with bars and swimming pool. Not that we needed the swimming pool with the sea being so clear and warm.

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Limnonari beach. Coriander anchored at right

We took a walk round to the small harbour at Agnontas for lunch and a bit of exercise.

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Agnontas harbour

Our next stop was Ormos Milia back on the island of Alonnisos. This involved quite a boisterous beat into 20kts of wind. Liba hasn’t done a lot of sailing and I was very relieved that she coped so well with the conditions. On arriving we all had a swim before I dropped Chris and Liba ashore for them to walk into the nearby town.

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Ormos Milia anchorage

After a night here we sailed the 10 miles across to Skantzoura. Unfortunately no octopus this time but we did have a superb BBQ.

We had planned to head south and drop Chris and Liba off in a week at the island of Tinos. From there it would be a short ferry ride back to the port next to Athens airport. The Island of Skiros is almost half way down so it made sense to sail there. It was a fairly long but good sail which again Liba coped with  very well. We anchored off Ormos Fokas and went ashore for a meal. We were the only boat in the anchorage and the locals had pretty much left the beach for the day. The taverna owner obviously wasn’t expecting any custom as the only thing she could offer us to eat was a few vegetarian starters. Beggers can’t be choosers so we had to make do.

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Ormos Fokos and the lone taverna

The following morning we motored 2 miles to the main harbour on Skiros – Linaria. It’s possible to anchor just outside the harbour which we prefer to do as it’s cooler and saves a bit of money. We approached the head of the bay alongside a fishing boat. He directed us in and said when to drop the anchor. Unfortunately it didn’t quite go to plan as we dropped on his anchor and pulled it out when we were digging ours in. Chris had to swim round to unhook it and we anchored safely at the second attempt.

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Linaria anchorage

We were now in the final week of Chris and Liba’s time with us. The weather forecast was for very strong winds in the Tinos area so we spent the next day looking at different options to get them to Athens in time for their flight. In the end we concluded that the only safe way would be to sail back up to Skiathos and for them to fly back to Athens from there. Thus involved booking extra flights and airBnB accommodation. This proved to be the correct decision as the weather was atrocious around Tinos and the surrounding area and we continued to have superb weather in the Sporades.

We retraced our steps back to Milia, then Mama Mia beach for swim, then to Loutraki. At Loutraki (for the 4th time) we took the bus to Skopolos town for a day out. We’d intended to hire a car to visit Mamma Mia church but found we should have done that in Loutraki! Not that it was too much of a problem as we spent the day walking around Skopolos town, having a meal and catching the last bus back to Loutraki.

We left Loutraki to go back to Skiathos for a final night before Chris and Liba had to leave us on the 13th to fly to Athens.

It was sad to see them go, we’d loved having them with us and hope they can join us again sometime soon.

Liba commented that the flight was one of the worst she’d had due to the very strong winds.

We left Skiathos and sailed to Koukounaries for the night before leaving the Sporades to sail to Evia and join Mike and Claire.

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Our route around the Sporades

 

 

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