Santorini has always been on people's wish-lists for a place to visit if you happen to be charting in the Cyclades, but the local authorities have now made Ios a definite little bit of heaven to visit.
However, the pilot and nautical books do not do the place justice. When we sailed into Ios after a very bumpy, cold and wet crossing from Kos, it was a lovely surprise. In fact, so much so that our three-day stay has brought us back to Ios for our third summer.
Ios has a way of getting into people's hearts and brought a big increase in repeat visitors of the floating type. I suspect we see even more now that visa restrictions have been tightened for sailing in Turkey. So it's now a case of getting the word out that Ios is a safe, beautiful place to visit.
The town quay has been updated to include proper lazy lines (fixed mooring lines) to the shore so the need for anchoring on the main quay has now been removed – a good job as a massive heavy chain across the harbour was just the place to catch most anchors.
The quay now also has both power and water accessed via an electronic key system. The system is reliable, the water is drinkable and because the instructions on the meter are in multiple languages, they do take some working out – but stand around looking puzzled for long enough and a local with come and help.
The keys are available from all the local restaurants in the immediate port area – a very clever move as it means you can still pick up a key late at night, with a nice cold beer to go with it.
The only real negative is that the town quay suffers from a lot of water movement when the ferries come in and out. This can be up to nine times a day in peak season.
The water movement can be up to two metres and so you need to ensure planks are lifted and, where possible, to pull the boat far further off the quay than normal. If not, you risk hull damage. It's not dangerous – more of an inconvenience that catches people out.
Wireless Internet is also available for purchase locally. Simply see what wi-fi you can pick up, and then look around for the name of the business. But restaurants all have free wi-fi and are happy for the boat people to have the codes if you buy a coffee or something.
The town quay is clean and tidy with good rubbish collection and the water in the visitors' quay area is clean and well cared for . Early in the morning one of the local municipality staff is out with a net removing plastic bottles and cans . If you have a large bag of rubbish, there are two trash compactors for disposal – one behind the police station and the other just past the mini roundabout leading away from the harbour.
The fees for a night vary depending on time of year and the size of the boat. On arrival to Ios you must report to the marine police, remembering to take your boat documents and cruising logs.
As this is Ios, and the police are extremely friendly. In the past we have all been a little lazy on getting formalities done on the smaller Greek islands but our recent travels show the authorities checking up a little more.
My advice is get checked in and out of Ios – its easy and painless and keeps you on the right side of the law.
As with all town quays in Greece, emptying grey or black water tanks is illegal. If you did decide to empty your tanks you are likely to be reported and fined as any discharge hangs about. Anyway, with such clean water in the port that its nice to keep it this way.
There is a basic public toilet – an excellent place to empty portable black waste tanks. The toilet is opposite the health centre car park. To find it, head towards the ferry terminal, then head towards the nice-looking beach and you'll come across it.
Ios port also has a supermarket right on the quay so there is no need to carry the bottles of wine too far! The supermarket has an excellent fresh meat counter, a good selection of frozen fish and the bags of ice for your gin and tonics.
The port area also has a lovely little bakery that in the summer months is pretty much open 24 hours, so early morning fresh bread is easily accessible. As we found, Ios is great for provisioning.
For those who want to take a quick swim a lovely beach is in walking distance with some nice bars and restaurants. It's a great stretch of beach if you have kids on board to tire out before dinner. Sandy and clean, you can off-load the kids or guests for an hour while you sort out the boat or have a sneaky five-minute break.
Having settled into the port area, it's very easy to stay put. Indeed, after a hard days sailing a lot of visitors simply fall into a local restaurant and then enjoy an evening on the yachts. Even in the middle of summer with more than 20 visiting charters it never seems rowdy or noisy.
But to stay in the port is to miss out! Chora is a short, if steep, walk up the hill, or buses run all day and late into the nights and go everywhere. The the village has a reputation as the party place and clubbing kicks off at about 11pm and rarely stops before dawn.
But there is another grown up side of Chora. There are some lovely little bars, cafe and small restaurants that serve excellent food and drink, many of which welcome yachties.
In addition the narrow streets are crammed with little shops, so if you need gifts to take home this is a very good place to go. Some of the shops are open till 2am.
Over the hill from Chora is Mylopotas Beach. Now, Ios has lots of excellent beaches, but Mylopotas is my favourite. It is golden, beautiful and has great watersports, coffee shops and places to eat.
Mylopotas is also a great place to anchor the boats in all but windy meltemi conditions. Stay well away from the buoy lines and also be aware of frequent speedboats with skiers and tube rides going past.
You can comfortably anchor in five metres of water on sandy bottomed areas. There are some rocks but keeping a good lookout will avoid problems. The watersports companies provide transfers to shore if you want to do watersports or diving.
Finally moped, quad-bike and car hire is easy if you want to explore further. Ios is also an excellent place to leave your yacht and take a day trip to Santorini.
You can also arrange for fuel to be delivered to the quay, cooking gas is available in the port and there is a small yacht chandler/DIY shop in walking distance.
At least two laundry firms collect from the boats so soaking wet and salt-ridden clothes turned round in a matter of hours. A good sail repair guy works on the island over the summer months and the work is of an excellent standard. For major repairs, parts can be sent from Athens – normally taking two days to arrive.
The main thing about Ios is that everyone is very helpful. Simply ask for what you need and, if the person you ask does not know, they will normally phone or point you to someone who can help.
Finishing on a few points of safety: be aware the ferries come in and out through the entrance very quickly, and will not get out of the way of yachts, even those under sail.
The swell from the ferries can be very dramatic and can creep up on you. At the entrance there is a lighthouse to assist with night arrivals. Do not cut the corner when entering, or you may fall foul of shallow hazards.
It is illegal to anchor anywhere inside the approach to the port area and this is clearly marked on the charts. Inside the harbour, anchor with care if you want to avoid getting tangled up.
The harbour depth is 4.5 metres so, if bringing in a vessel over 20 metres its best to contact the port police who will advise you where you can moor. The port area is bumpy in strong south west winds and many of anchorages around the island become untenable in south winds.
If you decide to visit Ios please call by and say hello to us! We are on the old-fashioned, black hull, gaff-rigged ketch that can be seen in the harbour or moored off Mylopotas Beach – complete with the husky dog called Deifer and two very bossy cats called Dice and Biscuit – all rescue animals from our travels.
You will be most welcome aboard S/Y Crystal Stream and if we can help you fall in love with Ios, the way we have, please just ask. Fair winds and safe passage.