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Sailing Holidays & Island Hopping in the Canaries

The Canaries are like a magnet for ocean going sailing ships and yachts. For centuries sailors have stopped here to stock up on provisions, stretch their legs and prepare for onward ocean passages to the Cape of Good Hope, South America or the Caribbean. In more recent years they have also become the winter sailing ground of choice for many of Europe's tall ships. There is very little shipping to avoid, glorious blue seas, exciting acceleration zones with high winds off the mountains and flat calms below black or red coloured volcanic cliffs.

The Canaries are Spanish but the local people have more in common culturally with Brazil and South America, so if you look beyond the tourist resorts and the rather surreal bougainvillea covered marina villages you will find the real Canaries. 

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Why we love this sailing ground

Migrate south until the butter melts.

Apart from island hopping voyages on sailing vessels based in the Canaries, Classic Sailing always has sailing ships using the Canaries as a staging post or crew change. There are very pleasant mini ocean passages to the Canaries from Portugal and Spain.  You also might want to try the even better blue water passage between the Canaries and Cape Verde. This takes you from sailing where you might be in shorts and a windproof jacket to more tropical conditions where being a lookout in a bikini, or at least a vest t shirt and shorts is possible. Flying fish are guarenteed.

The Atlantic Islands of Canary Islands sit on the latitude where the butter melts and historically Trans-Atlantic sailors turned westwards with the trade winds. Staging posts for square rig sailors and yachtsmen through the centuries, these mountainous island landfalls with lush vegetation are a welcome reward on our 10-14 day ocean passages from places like Portugal or Northern Spain.

There is more to becoming a blue water sailor than swapping oilskins for shorts, but a winter suntan and some ocean miles in bare feet on wooden decks certainly helps get you in the ocean wandering mood. Ocean sailors happily adapt to a watch routine and the constant motion of the ship day and night. Experience all the ships moods from glassy calms to white capped swells launching flying fish from crest to crest.

Canaries sailing. Away from the tourists but plenty of sun

Warm Winter Sailing Destination with Cheap Flights

As a winter sailing destination there are many attractions to the whole Canaries Archipelago:- the sunshine with typical average temperatures of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) in January; good prevailing winds; and located on the migration trail for dolphins and whales. There are wind accelerations zones where the wind blasts between the mountainous islands, and quieter areas closer inshore.

Anyone who has been on a land based holiday in the Canaries will know that the Western Canaries beaches are often black sand, but some of the Eastern Islands like Fuerteventura have incredible white sands and great watersports. When you are based on a sailing ship you have the advantage of being able to swim off the ship in incredibly clear blue seas. The depths in sheltered gaps between the islands are staggering. Imagine swimming in 4000 metres.

Canaries dolphins off the bow of Europa

Awesome Astronomy for Star Gazers

Our tall ships and traditional boats sail at night without any deck lights. As you steer the ship the only light comes from the compass light glow as the ships port and starboard navigation lights point out to sea. Enjoy starry nights and perhaps learn about how to take a star sight at dawn or dusk. Half of Europe's astronomy telescopes are based on the summits of islands like La Palma because there is no significant light pollution.

Lord Nelson sailing off Tenerife, Mount Teide
Lord Nelson sailing off Tenerife, Mount Teide. Photo www.tallshipstock.com

Cetacean Hotspot for Whale & Dolphin Spotting

The South West of Tenerife,  Los Gigantes, region is internationally known as a permanent home and migratory temporary feeding ground for a big selection of whales and dolphins.

The species you are most likely to encounter are  the Bottle-nosed Dolphin and the Long Finned Pilot Whale. Please note it is never possible to 100% guarantee sighting of whales and dolphins as they are free to come and go as we would want them to. However when our ships have visited this area in the past they have never been disappointed.

Mountain Walking and Volcanic Landscapes

Walking in the Western Canaries has come a long way in recent years with clear access and good pathways. The surprisingly lush vegetation, pine trees and terraces of bananas and many crops and local fauna make for interesting walks ashore. You do need to make use of local buses or taxis or hire a car to get the most of the Canaries interior. 

Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma, Canaries.
Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma, Canaries.

 

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Which ship for my adventure?

Classic Sailing vessels visiting the Canaries fall into two categories:

Passing Thorough the Canaries

Ships on trade wind routes or an Atlantic Circuit using the islands as a convenient point to change crews. Typical islands are those with good international flight options like Tenerife or Gran Canaria.  On the voyage to the Canaries there might be time to visit another island or anchor for a beach BBQ on your last night. If you are joining the ship in the Canaries you might get an evening ashore and enjoy a nice view of Mount Teide as you sail away.

For Example Bark Europa tends to stop in Tenerife on the way to South America each Autumn. Blue Clipper and Oosterschelde both sail between a season in Northern Europe and hotter climes, often stopping in the Canaries on the way to Cape Verde or the Caribbean. 

Island Hopping in the Canaries

In the last few years Morgenster, Lord Nelson and Tenacious have all spent a few months based in the Canaries offering 7-10 day voyages in the winter for some pleasant warm sunshine sailing. Smaller wooden vessels offering a more intimate base for island hopping have included Grayhound and Irene. The ocean swell and concrete harbour walls are tough on wooden ships so they are not typically offering Canaries voyages every year.

The Ships in the Canaries next winter are described below:

Destination Vessels
North, South, East or West?

 The Western Canaries tend to be the more popular sailing grounds for vessels that base themselves here every winter. 

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Regions
Volcanic Islands of La Gomera, La Palma, Tenerife, El Hierro and clear night skies for star gazing

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