The island of Kefallonia in Greece’s Ionian Sea is often one of the first Greek ports of call for larger yachts, or those with strong crews, heading to the eastern Mediterranean. The island’s capital, Argostoli, is roughly 250 miles from the Straits of Messina between Sicily and the Italian mainland. Those who don’t want to make such a long passage can reach Greece by port-hopping further along the Italian coast, until they can reach Corfu on a passage of around 75 miles.
Although there is no full-service marina, Argostoli port can accommodate yachts of all sizes, either alongside or anchored stern-to the quay. This includes the largest of superyachts, which have been a common sight here over the years. The bustling, but charming, town has a permanent population of more than 30,000 people, with all the facilities that would normally be associated with a large island town.
It’s an excellent location for provisioning, with top-notch daily vegetable, fruit and fish markets selling a wide variety of fresh produce. The island also produces notably good wines, including those of the Robolo vineyard, which are very good value when bought direct. Both the town, and the island in general, have an excellent range of restaurants, many of them offering excellent food in an authentic Greek atmosphere: before the country’s economic crisis Argostoli, and the neighbouring resort of Lassi, were popular holiday destinations for Greeks from the country’s big cities – with them making up around one-third of the island’s tourist economy.
There is also a wide range of engineering facilities available in Argostoli. The downside is that these are not conveniently arranged in a marina setting – you have to track them down. The upside to this, however, is that you can expect to pay much more modest labour rates. Chandlery supplies are mostly geared towards the local fishing fleets, catering for both commercial and leisure boats. This means many spares are readily available, even if not all the familiar brands are represented, although specialist sailing equipment is likely to need to be ordered specially.
For larger yachts, particularly superyachts, A1 Yachting has an office on Argostoli’s waterfront overlooking the harbour and can arrange provisioning, repairs, bunkering, excursions and any other aspect that large visiting yachts may require.
The core infrastructure for a marina was completed on the shore opposite the town in the 1990s. However, it lacked proper wave breaks, making conditions inside untenable in strong onshore winds and has not been further developed. Recently it was included in a package of state-owned assets for sale by auction, so future development of the facility is now a possibility.
This island’s airport, with charter flights to many European destinations, as well as scheduled flights to Athens, is a short taxi ride from the port, making this an ideal location for crew changes. There are also regular ferries to mainland Greece, plus a direct coach service to Athens.
Despite the country’s on-going economic woes, Greece remains the world’s most popular sailing destination. Kefallonia, like the majority of Greek sailing destinations, is well away from the main population centres, where most businesses are relatively small operations that have again come to realise they must provide good value and friendly service to remain viable.