Sailing around Crete – Bali
I’m rocking back and forth in a nice sized bay on the North coast of Crete, outside of a town called Bali. To look out to the sea, it’s flat calm however there’s a bit of a sea swell that makes the boat rock side to side. As I type, I have to slouch and then sit upright and repeat…over and over again. Perhaps it’s doing some good for my abs? (Hubby took the picture above as I typed this article).
Yesterday we left the our anchorage near the island of Spindalonga, near Agios Nikolaos, and headed for the city Rethymno. At first we were going to go to Irakleio, the capital, but a few people told us that the city and the marina are places to avoid.
The wind, as it has been so often, was on our nose. All we could do is motor into the 20 – 30 knot wind and settle into the choppy, turbulent oncoming waves. Luckily, I had a good book to read on my Kindle and that kept my mind of off the potential for seasickness. It’s the first time I’ve lasted so long and felt so good in a rough sea state.
Perhaps I am finally putting my motion sickness demons to rest?
Seeing the bay of Bali and knowing we’d be able to anchor in the sunlight, we headed towards land and I’m thankful that we did. By 7pm my husband Simon, my daughter Sienna and I were all getting a bit stir-crazy. Following 10 hours of what felt like fighting the elements, we all wanted a break.
After two attempts at anchoring and an in person inspection (Simon dove off the boat and looked with a mask to make sure the anchor was set) we went for a swim, took showers, dropped the dinghy and headed into the small little fishing port. Britican is pictured below with the fishing inlet behind.
The guidebook explains that Bali is a purpose built vacation spot that only comes to life during the summer and as I look around, the book isn’t far off. I can see hotel after hotel and beaches lined with sunbeds, boats for hire, wind surfboards and tavernas dotted all over.
There is however an original village that must date back for quite some time. Surrounding the fishing boat pier the homes look quite old. So in Bali, there’s 75% resorts with lovely beaches, pastel holiday flats on low cliffs and a neon lit clubs and some tavernas and then there’s 25% old village nestled into a small side cove.
The backdrop of the nice bay is a selection of brown dusty and green covered mountains that hug half of the bay. On the other half there are olive orchards, cliffs with caves and beautiful property or hotel atop a hill that’s lit up by night. Surely there’s a lot of swimming, snorkeling, hiking and general exploring that can be done in and around Bali.
Any negatives? Well, there is a highway or road that I can see and hear. If, however, you’re not listening out for it, you probably wouldn’t notice it. I only hear it because I’m accustomed to perfectly quiet bays with goat bells and waves lapping on the land as my only sounds.
There is a nightclub in the southeast corner of the bay and it’s a bit annoying. As guests staying in the various hotels, I’m not sure if the sound carries as much as it does on water. We’re equidistance from all the hotels and the village – actually right in the middle of the bay, so we can hear everything. That being said, I woke up in the middle of the night and the club was still booming.
But I’m on a boat, so I can take my home and move it!
Oddly, we’re the only people anchored in this bay (Britican pictured above)… If Crete was closer to more islands or along the Ionian Islands this bay would be packed! Not only does it have good holding, great protection from most winds but there’s a wind range of offerings on land. Dotted around I see loads of lovely looking restaurants, shops and cafes.
If you’re sailing to the bay, however, it’s important to note that it’s not a good spot if you want to anchor in a north/north east wind. The pilot books mentions that you can perhaps tie off to the small fishing jetty but you’d have to quite a small boat. If we went stern-to in our 56’ we’d block most of the inlet!
While staying in the bay of Bali, we took our dingy ashore a few times. The first was to enjoy a lovely meal at the Panorama restaurant after our long sail. Situated above the fishing harbor we had a great view of fishing boats and a quiet beach. The food and service were both great.
The following day, we went to the town to explore further
Once you exit the fishing quay into the inlet you’ll find a small beach with beach beds and water sport rentals, a snack bar, a few restaurants a couple mini-markets, two jewelry shops, a travel excursions shop and a fish pedicure spa. All this located at what seems like the bottom of a valley with cliffs or higher ground surrounding it.
To get to higher ground, you can walk up a windy road or take a set of stairs to the higher road. In a rather quirky fashion, you have to walk through a restaurant to get to the stairs. After my family and I walked through one restaurant to go up we felt a bit awkward – as if we should have stopped and had a drink. On our way back, we took a different set of stairs, thinking we’d go straight to the beach, but once again ended up having to walk through a restaurant to get out.
Once on the higher ground, you’ll find some more minimarkets, tavernas, and various shops. There’s also a Crete foods store offering olives, chesses and local sausages. Next-door is a bakery/restaurant. Follow the road further and you’ll end up in another cove offering more beach beds, tavernas and so forth. After that, there’s yet another cove and at the end, you’ll hit the nightclub with it’s neon blue lights.
I’m sure Bail isn’t for everyone as it a full-on tourist town but it’s great for anyone that loves the sand, sun, sea and picturesque views. I lost count on all the water sport activities available. While sitting on the back of the boat, I eyed someone rising 20’ – 30’ into the air with water shooting out of their feet. I’m not sure what the device is called, but it looked like a lot of fun.
We were fortunate to have several visitors come out to the boat and greet us – and one French couple swimming nearby saw us and yelled out ‘look at the turtle’! The largest turtle I’ve seen yet, came up for air a few times right next to the boat. My husband estimates it was 3 1/2’ long.
I’m also happy to announce that I had my best ‘Greek Plate’ to date. After eating Greek food for 4 months now, I’m starting to crave other cuisines. If I see Chinese, Thai or any other ethnic restaurant, I’ll be booking myself in. That being said, it’s an amazing testimony for me to rate a dish so good after trying so many others. This particular ‘Greek Plate,’ had meatballs, stuffed eggplant, stuffed tomato and roasted potatoes.
Any country that offers meatballs as a main dish is my kind of country!
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of meatballs. Perhaps it’s because it’s similar to a beef burger and it’s the American in me coming out? Hehehehe.
Final verdict on sailing around Crete – Bali?!?
If you’re sailing along the north coast of Crete this is an excellent bay to stop in. It’s not quiet and the sea is a bit rocky, but it’s absolutely picturesque and filled with great eateries. My eye’s smiled at the views and my stomach smiled at the excellent Greek foods. And considering it’s still high season right now, I find it amazing to have the whole bay to ourselves. It’s not necessarily a bay I’d leave my boat in and go for day trips – it’s very busy with water sports and if the wind changed, I’d be a bit worried, but if you want to hang around, close by, it’s a fantastic stop-over.
Just a final note…have you ‘Liked’ my SailingBritican Facebook page yet? If you like it, you’ll be notified through my posts about every article I publish. Furthermore, I’m often posting more pictures of things I find along the journey. In fact, there’s a video of the whole panorama of Bali on the page, so go take a look! Please ‘Like’ our page here: https://www.facebook.com/SailingBritican?ref=hl