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Crete, Agios Nikolaos Wintering: Facilities and Lifestyle

By Jerry & Caz Flint — last modified Jul 01, 2017 12:32 PM
To qualify our comments below, we first came to Ag Nik in 2003. There were 8 yachts wintering here! After, we have wintered in Ag Nik for 7 years now, spread over 17 years of cruising. We have seen the changes first hand.

Published: 2017-04-19 23:00:00
Countries: Greece

Posted 13 April, 2017 - Further Updates

The steel ketch has now been moved to cover the southerly sluice.  This has made a tremendous difference to the surge, or should I say, lack of surge!

A similar plan of action is planned for the northerly sluice.

The flow of water through the marina is still maintained, so the water quality is excellent.  Those vessels moored on the outer wall claim that their berths are far more comfortable now, as a result of the improvements.

Jerry Flint

 

Posted 17 March, 2017 - Updates

The Marina Management have installed two solar / electrical water heating systems.  One to the main shower block roof and one between the two auxiliary units near the hard standing.  I have received no complaints about the lack of hot water since the installations were completed, so this is a success!

A low power WiFi system has also been installed in the toilet block.  Also a success, as people can now access their emails and news stories while, errr, hmmm, sitting around!

The anti-surge systems:

A yacht has been temporarily moored across the most Northerly sluice, which has attenuated the surge through this area.  There are now three rows of tyres outside the other problem sluice, and the future installation of a large rubber fender on the inside, should attenuate the surge here as well.  We haven't, to date, had a strong North Westerly, but time will tell.  There are moves afoot to move a large steel ketch from its current berth, to cover the sluices as well.  This will certainly help, as we had a derelict motor boat across the most Northerly sluice last winter, which was a great surge breaker.

Just to keep you up to date!

Jerry Flint

 

Posted 16 January 2017

Last winter,  2016/2017, was possibly the worst. There were too many live-a-boards for the facilities.

The well known surge was the worst we have ever experienced.  This was due to yachts being berthed by order of inexperienced employees, on pontoons too small to accommodate their length, and subsequently, the beam.  Efforts have been made by the management to reduce the surge, but to no avail.  Last winter we had a burned-out hulk protecting one of the water inlets to the marina, this dramatically attenuated the surge.  This winter mooring lines parted on a regular basis, despite heavy duty mooring springs.  However the Marineros are excellent, and are always patrolling the pontoons, 24 hours a day.

Two extra pontoons were pressed into service due to over booking.  These are a long way away from the shower block, and the washing machines.  There are two small toilet blocks near these pontoons (they were the originals from 2003), but they have neither hot water nor showers.  They are shared with the local fishermen and hard standing workers, which is no problem.  Plans are afoot to reinstate hot water and showers into the smaller blocks.  We shall see!

The shower block has been overwhelmed by the numbers of users.  The normally sufficient supply of hot water for showers has repeatedly been depleted, needing numerous visits to obtain a hot shower.  Again, there are plans afoot to increase the capacity of hot water production.  Again, we shall see!  (There have been numerous incidents of showering on board, which is technically illegal under Greek Law).

There is regularly neither toilet paper nor paper towels in the shower block.  This had led to fouling the marina with "black water".  Greek and Marina regulations have stiff penalties for this fouling, (eviction from the marina, no refund of fees paid, prosecution, and possible banishment from all Greek Marinas and Ports), but despite several perpetrators being "caught" no action has been taken.

The (two) washing machines broke down on a regular basis, with long delays for repair.

The Wi-Fi is also overwhelmed by the numbers, as there is insufficient band width.  Most "regulars" have opted for a telephone company "dongle" with pre-paid data transmission, smart 'phones with data plans, or use the local cafes and coffee bars.

The "in Marina" social life is advertised elsewhere as being "astounding", but unfortunately this is to the detriment of the local inhabitants and has caused numerous complaints.  There are more than enough bars, cafes, restaurants, tavernas and other activities to suit any taste or pocket in town.

The hospital (which is excellent) is 1 km away, up hill!  Dentists and General Medical Practitioners abound, as do opticians.

Chandlers in town are helpful, but due to the Greek economic climate, are reluctant to hold large stocks of items.  They will order, but a 3 - 5 delay may be expected.  There is a larger chandler in Elounda, off  Spinalonga Lagoon, but this is 7 km away, over quite high hills.  I have cycled it, but I would not recommend the unfit to attempt the trip!  There are buses.

Hardware shops, paint suppliers, and an excellent wood yard that stocks teak, iroko and other hard woods, together with a huge selection of stainless steel products and fastenings, are all to be found locally.

There are numerous supermarkets in and around town, bakeries abound, and there are more than enough clothes shops, shoe shops, and jewellers about!

Roussos, the travel lift operator, is excellent.  He and his son will always do their best to assist yachties, they also operate a diesel engine maintenance service.  The yacht cradles are sturdy.  Maintenance may be carried out by owners, but check the local regulations with regard to screening, vacuum extraction of dust, painting and the "quiet periods" in the afternoon and evening.

Georgos, the outboard man, situated in the Marina is always helpful, and also operates diesel repair, and other services.  He is a Mercury agent.

Udo, a Swiss national, who has lived on Crete for many years, and speaks fluent Greek, also works from the Marina, and offers all boat maintenance services from anti foul to GRP repairs, painting to re-rigging, sail repairs to electronics, etc. and is the local "International Paint" stockist.

On a down side, the mooring fees are being increased for the next season, 6 monthly, monthly, weekly and daily rates are all being increased.  The exact percentage varies, but will be significant.

Agios Nikolaos is a welcoming town, that is always open.  The Marina Management, who have their hands tied by the "Committee System" that governs the marina, are always trying to improve things.  At the present time they are fighting an up hill struggle due to the Government imposed austerity measures.  But, they are confident that they will prevail.

There it is, warts and all!

Jerry and Caz Flint

Response from the Management of Agios Nikolaos Marina

Whilst we welcome much of what Mr Flint has to say, we take issue with many of his more extreme comments, so I would like to comment specifically on the issues Mr Flint has raised.

We are very proud of the fact that, since 2008, we have increased the available berths and improved the facilities so that very many more than 8 boats can enjoy the winter in our wonderful town and marina. This last winter we have had 40 more boats wanting to winter here! The Marina is really occupied more than ever before and we have done our very best to accommodate as many boats as wanted to come.


It is true that the marina is completely full and a few boats have had to be placed in berths that are less than ideal for their size, this is in part because modern yachts tend to be much beamier for their length than older yachts and several beamy yachts cause a knock-on reduction in space all along the pontoon. In addition, we have seen a steady increase in the length of yachts over the years. Eight to ten years ago 36ft to 40ft was the typical length range, today they are more likely to be 42ft to 47ft, with the number of 50ft and over boats also increasing.


Modifying the infrastructure of a small marina is a very expensive and causes considerable disruption so it's not something to undertake lightly. As Mr Flint knows, we already have in place detailed plans to move two of our pontoons, and the associated ground tackle, to provide more space for the increasing numbers of longer yachts. Work of this magnitude cannot be done quickly, but it will be done.


We do not accept Mr Flint's criticism of our staff, all of whom have been with us for some considerable time and who are very experienced at managing and mooring the boats we have here. Indeed Mr Flint mentions how good our marineros are and we are puzzled by the apparent contradiction here.


The surge that Mr Flint mentions is quite often blown up out of all proportion its real impact. In general there are only around four occasions during any winter when the wind and sea conspire to cause a surge inside the marina. In all the years that marina has been open, only a tiny handful of boats have ever been damaged by these surges and in most cases that has either been cosmetic or relatively minor. We do accept however that it can be uncomfortable and even worrying for new visitors. This is why we have installed the last few months an experimental system at one of the underwater vents, to automatically block the vent during surge conditions. The system is under improvement. If this proves successful we will install similar devices at all underwater vents.

 

We do not accept that the surges we have experienced so far this winter have been 'the worst ever experienced', indeed other long-term clients have told us that they have been no worse than normal. We recognise that the perception of these surges is very subjective and a small surge for one client might seem to be much worse for another. We are however already working hard to find a solution that will either reduce or eliminate these surge events, if the current experiment does not work as hoped we will try something else. From our research no other Greek marina has installed any such system, the scientists in the National Technical University of Athens do not have yet a solution and are not sure if we could block completely or partially any of these vents. The latter could reduce the water quality of the Marina.

 

We are extremely proud of our toilet and shower facilities and clients quite often comment on how good they are. It is true that the shower block is a longer walk from some berths than from others, but this is the case in all marinas. The original toilet and shower cubicles to which Mr Flint refers, are currently available for use and there are showers in there too. We are in the process of installing hot water boilers at these cubicles. We do not accept Mr Flint's analysis that the shower block is 'overwhelmed' though we do recognise that at popular times when many people want to shower at the same time there will be competition for space and hot water. We have already installed more additional hot water tanks and heaters than we have ever had previously and we reject Mr Flint's suggestions ('we shall see') that we are not proactively managing the toilets and showers, nor any other aspect of the marina.

 

Regarding the toilet paper, whenever our marineros or cleaners are unable to refill the paper dispensers because of a shortage of the proper paper we always ensure that several rolls of normal toilet paper are available in every toilet.

 

There have been cases of boats emptying their holding tanks into the marina, this has nothing to do with the facilities we provide but is related to the rather selfish attitude of a tiny minority of boat owners. These cases have been reported to the local port police and we have to allow the legal process to be completed. These reports never happened before and is the result of the commitment of the current administration to the Marina's Blue Flag award.

 

Regarding the washing machines, one broke down because of the failure of a component that was only available from the Italian supplier. It was out of order for an excessive period because of the inability of the Italian supplier to get one part to us, but we made every effort we could to expedite its repair. In order to cover such failures, we bought a second one last year to keep our sailors happy.

 

As I type this there are specialists working in the marina installing more WiFi hotspots (we already have six) and additional phone lines to further increase the capacity. This will be the third time in five years that we have increased the number of hotspots and the line capacity of the marina WiFi, which has remained free of charge to all our clients. We are also installing some Ethernet access points so that those who need fast Internet access can use cable connection instead of WiFi, these will also be free of charge.

 

We agree that there is work that still needs to be done and we are not simply sitting on our hands. Other long-term residents have commented that they very much appreciate the proactive nature of the current marina management. The constantly increasing numbers of clients who take annual berths or who choose to return every winter is a testament to the quality of the facilities and service at Agios Nikolaos marina. Please also note that our yearly rates remained the same and that the monthly rates are probably the cheapest by far in Greece.

 

 

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SYSTRAVAIGIN
SYSTRAVAIGIN says:
Jun 30, 2017 02:27 PM

I completely concur with the comments of PURR and NIMROD - we love Crete, particularly Ag Nik. We don't participate in many of the social events, but they are there if you want them (and perhaps have a shorter "to do" list!). Anyone considering Agios Nikolaos and lucky enough to get in should ignore the negative comments. We find the marina management and the marinieros to be receptive and extremely helpful. Sure, there was a much higher number of liveaboards last year, and there were some problems with berthing, but somehow it all got sorted out. Anyone who has wintered in Marina di Ragusa will find the stroll to the shower block is insignificant! Michalis, the Director, is doing everything he can to address the surge and the domestic issues and in the recent newsletter announced improvements to the hot water system, wifi, etc. I do believe that the mooring of large vessels on the wall has helped the surge. We find the residents charming, the shops good and, indeed for a large number unlucky enough to experience it this year, the medical attention excellent. The marina is extremely good value and if that means putting up with carefully timing your shower or bringing your own towel or paper to the facility, so be it. (It's a small point, but the municipality insists that the paper goods are sent from Heraklion because they are cheaper there - thus the shortages!) The town must have benefitted from the influx of people, all shopping for food & drink, using the tavernas and many of the wonderful local skills. Whether the 50 cents for the sailing club is a donation or a fee seems irrelevant - the fact is that it is a small price to pay to have the privilege of seeing the many children sailing each weekend and knowing that liveaboards have helped. In winter 2015-16 I swapped the use of the sailing club's tables on a sewing project for several dinghy sail repairs and was delighted to do so.

ubuysa
ubuysa says:
Feb 27, 2017 11:31 AM

I would remind anyone considering wintering in Agios Nikolaos Marina that the marina does not have a clubhouse, i.e. a room or building set aside for marina resident's use. This is, I suspect, because the town is right outside the marina gates and part of the cost we should expect to pay for having the convenience of an active town is that we use it socially.

The arrangement with the sailing club for the occasional use of their building was set up by the original residents with a 'charge' of 50 cents per person per event. That is where the 1000 Euros mentioned has come from, it's not a donation it's a fee.

The sailing club's building is known locally as 'the yacht club' but it's actually nothing of the sort, it's the storage facility and meeting room of the local sailing club, nothing more.

The attempt to turn the yacht club into a clubhouse by some of the recent marina residents has created considerable friction in the town. Not only are bars and tavernas, who previously have hosted social events with lower prices for marina residents, feeling abandoned but those local residents living in close proximity to the yacht club have commented several times on the increased and excessive noise.

If a clubhouse style of winter entertainment is what appeals then Agios Nikolaos Marina is probably not the best place to chose for your winter.

Tony Cross
Little Roundtop

nimrod
nimrod says:
Feb 15, 2017 06:35 PM

Our Second Winter in Agios Nikolaos, Crete

We are in Agios Nikolaos Marina for the second successive winter and am surprised at such a negative report from Mr & Mrs Flint.

The marina is indeed full, a fact the Management must be very happy about, and it means we have a wide variety of ages, personalities and nationalities all enjoying the winter together. Sometimes this means you may have to interact with people you would otherwise choose not to, but that is a fact of life in any marina not just Ag Nik and if you cannot cope with that then maybe you should choose somewhere else. In common with most marinas there are a few longer term residents who dislike change and seem to think the marina should be run the way they like it and not for the benefit of everyone – this is a minor issue and easy to ignore, after a couple of winters most wandering cruisers are well used to these sort of people.

One reason for the number of boats here is the situation in Turkey where the political situation, marina prices, residency permit and health insurance issues all combined mean that Turkey is not really seen as a wintering place at the moment, so a lot of boats have to find somewhere else. Another reason the marina is full is the very competitive pricing, even the proposed increases will still leave Ag Nik as one of the cheapest winter marinas in the Med.

There was some frustration at the beginning of the winter because berths were still occupied by boats that should have left or been lifted out, however the staff did their very best to resolve the problems as quickly as possible. We did not arrive until December and we were immediately put into our final berth so we were a bit luckier than some of the earlier arrivals.

The surge in the marina this winter could not be described as the worst ever, it is about the same as last winter in our opinion. Most longer term residents agree that winter 2014/15 was about the very worst for surge with the following two winters being much better in comparison. We would describe the few occasions that surge is a problem as “uncomfortable but not dangerous”. Properly securing your boat with adequately sized and tensioned lines seems to minimise the problems, although it must be said that some berths seem to suffer more movement than others, also we are a catamaran so maybe that makes it more comfortable and it means we can put more shore lines on to keep us fixed. The Marina are testing surge reduction devices, hopefully they will find a system that works so the surge is reduced to minimal levels.

The marineros are on duty and on patrol 24/7 and are constantly checking that all boats (and occasionally guests) are safe and secure. They are friendly, helpful and conscientious, a credit to the Marina.

There were issues with the hot water supply in the showers over Christmas but that seems to have been properly resolved, since then we have always had hot showers and never had to wait, choosing to shower outside the normal busy periods is fairly easy to manage for almost anyone so there is no reason to find the showers “overwhelmed”. Neither have we ever found a shortage of toilet paper or towels in the shower block, if there were any problems it was before we arrived.

It is completely unfair to suggest that any shortage of toilet paper caused fouling of the marina with black water – that is simply the action of one or more selfish and inconsiderate people. The Marina management take this very seriously and do all they can to identify and deal with the offenders. Some pontoons are further from the toilets than others but it is still not what would be considered a long way, nothing like the distances in Ragusa!!

The Marina social life is one of the many reasons we chose to return to Ag Nik. Most live aboard cruisers see the marina social life as an important part of the winter stopover and they will not be disappointed here. In common with most live-aboard marinas there are many activities organised by various people, including weekly BBQ, Yoga, Music Groups, Bridge, Happy Hour and Craft Meetings to name a few. Personally we are not aware of any complaints about any of these activities, no doubt the Management would be pretty quick to tell us of any problems. Most activities take place in the Yacht Club on site, some take place in local cafes and there are other events, such as quiz nights in the town at various bars. You can do as much or as little as you want, it is always your choice. One benefit of using the Yacht Club is that the small donations we all make whenever we attend an event mount up to a significant amount over the winter, this year the Yacht Club and the local children who use it will receive well in excess of €1000.00 from us live-aboards to purchase new equipment. It is great to see the children going out sailing in all weathers throughout the winter and wonderful to know that we are helping them in some small way.

The Marina WiFi is no better or worse than we have experienced in other places with “free” wifi, as ever the speed and quality depend on the time of day and your location in the marina, overnight downloads usually work fine. At most times the wifi is more than adequate for email and web browsing, YouTube and similar higher bandwith needs are more variable. If you want decent bandwidth and uninterrupted high speed internet then you will need to make other arrangements. The Marina are currently installing more equipment so hopefully it will be better in the future.

The Marina, the town of Agios Nikolaos, the local surroundings and the whole island of Crete offer more than enough to amuse and entertain even the most jaded of cruisers, we would recommend it as a fun place to spend the winter, after two years we are not wintering here again but only because it is time to move on. Of course if you don’t like the sound of it you can go somewhere a bit quieter.

Chris & Sue on Nimrod

Purrr
Purrr says:
Feb 13, 2017 09:39 PM

Loving Life at The Marina of Agios Nikolaos

I can’t agree with a number of things Mr & Ms Flint write about The Marina of Agios Nikolaos, or AG Nik as it is affectionately referred to. I would say the fact that this winter was sold out by last February speaks for itself, and to the fact that people are quite happy to be here. We broke our never winter in the same place twice rule to come back this winter because we enjoyed our stay so much last year.

Granted the facilities are not those of a 5-star resort, and might be a bit challenged for the number of people that have to use them, but considering the prices are among the lowest we've seen in the Med, the facilities are certainly acceptable. And any shortcomings in facilities, and the bit of chaos that had to be endured while all the boats were fit into a completely booked marina, was more than made up for by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff.

There is no question there is a pronounced surge when the winds are strong from the north, and no one likes it. We spent last year in what is considered to be one of the worst spots for the surge and were perfectly safe. It simply requires greater diligence keeping appropriately sized lines tight and properly secured. The silver lining to the surge is that the water inside the marina is always exceptionally clean compared to most other marinas, which means it is also much more environmentally friendly. For us, the many good things about Ag Nik completely outweigh the occasional discomfort of the surge.

The main reasons we returned to Ag Nik for a second year in a row are the: 1) “astounding in-marina social life”. It is impossible to participate in everything that is happening, and there is plenty variety for every taste and culture; 2) The beautiful town outside the marina, with it’s many bars and tavernas, and all the shops and service facilities anyone could need; 3) The Island of Crete, with it’s overall beauty and unique culture and friendly people; and most important, 4) all the super friendly residents and the diversity of their cultures that make Ag Nik their home for 4 or 5 or 6 months of the year.

In the two years that we have been here, and the countless marina social events that we have partaken in, we have not seen or heard of one single complaint about marina activities.

For me, the only real negative is one that can easily be ignored; the stick-in-the-mud attitude of several of the older, long time residents of the marina, especially toward newcomers and those that don’t do things or behave “the way they should!”. But that’s probably just my Canadian, openly tolerant, born to have fun nature.

I wouldn’t hesitate recommending Ag Nik to anyone.
Charlie & Sue Buehler
Catamaran PURRR

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