A Sailor’s Guide to the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are a great place to escape the winter.   Here you can enjoy amazing food and drink, volcanic scenery and wonderful warm weather. The Spanish Canary Islands, off the coast of West Africa, are an astonishingly well-kept sailing secret.  So here is our sailor’s guide to the Canary Islands.

Eternal Spring

Local temperatures in winter are an average of 22°C-plus with sunshine every day.   Winds here are perfect for sailing with Force 3-4.  Furthermore, the prevailing NE trade winds make for consistent conditions.

Backdrops on these islands are varied.  All of the seven main islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro – are within a day’s sail of each other.  What is unique is that each island has it’s distinctly unique character.  One can find excellent facilities in harbours and marinas here.

Atlantic Crossing

Many of the sailors one meets in the Canary Islands are preparing for an Atlantic crossing.  Many people wish they have more time to spend here exploring the natural beauty of the islands.

These Spanish islands pose no problem for sailors arriving from other EU countries. English is spoken widely and foreign yachts are welcomed.

So What’s the Catch?

Many may think these islands are hugely expensive but it’s not the case.  Berths are generally available also.  Many marinas were built in the last 15 years and there are plenty of berths for both long term moorings and for visitors alike.  And all at a reasonable cost.  The Canary Islands are a duty free zone so one can find additional savings.

Yards and big chandlers are used to working with blue water sailors here.  However, finding spare parts may be a more complex and lengthy process.  One must go through the Spanish system for all imports and then through Gran Canaria whenever you are in the islands.

Weather and Tide

Trade winds dominate the weather on the islands.  There is normally a 3-4 from the NE. Wind acceleration zones affect this, however.  Spring and summer are when the trade winds are most dominant, and strongest in July. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, only 60 miles from Africa, are also hit by the south-easterly Sirocco. These winds can create confused conditions but normally this doesn’t long.

Lanzarote and Fuerteventura hardly ever see rain.  These islands are quite influenced by North Africa in terms of climate.  The further west you go, the greener things become.  These temperate islands rarely rise above 29˚C in summer.  Sea water temperature even in January averages 18˚C. 

Tides in the Canary Islands are quite easy to cope with.  Tidal streams rarely go beyond 3 knots and tidal range is no more than 2.8m.

Best Mooring Sites in the Canaries

Playas de Papagayo, Lanzarote

Crystal-clear water and perfect sandy beaches.   On the south side, around the point one can find some of the famous black beaches.  Most of these are uncrowded and quite small.

Costa Calma, Fuerteventura

Take your pick of a number of bays on this well-named coast, sheltered from the winds but open to an ocean swell at times.

Playa Francesca, Isla de la Graciosa

A sandy bottom and crystal-clear waters can be found here.  However, it does get busy here in the summer season.   In Graciosa, just north of Lanzarote, there is a marine reserve and one can find the Canary Islands’ most unspoiled beaches here.

Playa de Lobos, Isla de Lobos

The islet of Lobos is a mile north of Fuerteventura. This natural cove is well protected from the north and north-east but subject to local winds. Lobos’s famous turquoise lagoons are a short walk away.

Bahia de Antequera, Tenerife

This area is part of a national park and protected from all but southerly winds.  You’ll find high cliffs and a sheltered bay just south of the island’s north-east tip

The Canary Islands are a great escape at any time of year but especially in winter.  There is a lot of natural beauty to discover.


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