Corinth is best known for the Corinth Canal. The canal links the Ionian and Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Peloponnese. But the historic town is also an important transport hub.
Corinth is located at the narrow strip of land connecting the whole Peloponnese to the rest of Greece. Its strategic importance has long been recognised: It was inhabited at least 6500 years before it featured in the bible!
Corinth can seem a bit underwhelming at first glance. A string of tatty shops and roadside tavernas don’t inspire the average sailor. But hidden in the back streets the ruins of ancient Corinth are easily accessible and compact enough to enjoy in a few hours.
There is an excellent museum on site and you can almost hear an echo of the rip-roaring tales Jason of the Argonauts must have told on his return to this, his home town; golden fleece clasped in one hand and probably a flagon of retsina in the other.
Obviously a glimpse of the Corinth Canal is also a major draw. A plethora of day-trippers lean out over the bridge railings in awe, while trip boats ply the waters for a close up view.
The town remains more of a station than a destination. It’s a main interchange for bus and train services. If you have crew that need to jump ship, Athens airport is a short train ride away from here and buses run in all directions.
The tyrant Periander first tried to put together a plan of action the 7th century BC. Failing in his endeavour, it wasn’t until 67AD that Emperor Nero famously dug out the first basket of soil. He then forced 6000 Jewish prisoners of war to try finish off what he had started. Working from both ends, they managed 700m before calling it a day.
Work to complete their gallant efforts finally began in earnest in 1881. The canal, with the help of the French, opened for business in 1883. It was largely cut with hand tools. The marks from these cab still be seen in places.
The Corinth Canal is 6.4km long, 21m wide and 8m deep. The wall height is up to 63m. There is a “tidal” current in the canal of around 2 ½ knots and direction usually changes every six hours. However, this can be affected adversely by major weather events, including prolonged gales from one direction.
Sadly, it almost immediately proved to be too small for most commercial vessels and is now more of a tourist attraction than anything else. That said, it is invaluable as a gateway between the stunning Saronic and the sleepy backwaters of the Gulf of Corinth and the Gulf of Patras. It is also an excellent shortcut to and from the popular sailing grounds of the Ionian Islands and other better-known cruising areas, such as the Sporades and Cyclades.
It’s not cheap to use, unless you are on a Corinth based yacht. (These get a significant discount). A 12.5m vessel costs over 150€ one way (2019).
The Corinth Canal runs from east to west. The eastern end of the canal houses the offices of the canal management company (AEDIK) and is the only place you can pay for your transit.
There is a long quay in front of the buildings on the south side and plenty of things to tie to. The quay is reasonably high so be prepared. Watch the wind and passing wash from other boats here as vessels have suffered damage from both as the quay is not that well sheltered.
Yachts must give way to and follow behind commercial vessels; this is not the place to try queue jump as it can lead to some fairly tense situations and destroy what should otherwise be a very enjoyable experience.
The Corinth Canal opens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week except Tuesdays between 0600-1800, when it is closed for maintenance. A one-way system operates. No stopping is allowed on route. A brisk pace must be maintained (6knts if possible).
AEDIK (the company that runs the canal) monitors VHF Channel 11 (or telephone +30 (0) 741 37700) and permission to transit can be given at very short notice and without warning so it pays to stay alert if you don’t want to miss your slot!
When transiting from east to west:
Once you have sorted out your paperwork and payments it is just a matter of waiting for the green light.
When transiting from west to east:
It pays to call ahead by phone to check the opening hours of the canal before making your way down the Gulf to the canal entrance. The western end of the canal can be a very uncomfortable place to wait (particularly with a cheeky afternoon breeze kicking up a chop). So try and time your run so you spend as little time waiting as possible.
Once you are making your final approach to the canal entrance call the Isthmia Control Tower (or they will sometimes respond to “Corinth Canal”) on VHF channel 11 for permission to enter. If you miss your opportunity to transit, you can be stuck here for two hours or more, so timing is everything.
There is a yacht basin for waiting in at the western end but do not berth alongside the inner quay as there are unmarked rocks and a tidal range of about 0.8m