Cruising the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands have been an important departure point for vessels crossing the Atlantic since Columbus first did it. But besides this the canaries have become a popular cruising ground as it is possible to sail all year round with the islands favourable climate, in fact many yacht charter firms now prefer the Canaries to the Mediterranean and marinas providing chartering is becoming more common . The average temperature is 25˚C and seldom varies more than 5˚ either side. Water temperatures range from 19˚ to 23˚C.
There are seven major islands spread over a distance of 240 miles in an east - west line. It is generally possible to sail from one island to the next in daylight.
Barometric Pressure and winds
The North East Trade winds predominate throughout the Canary Islands and are associated with the high pressure area over the Azores. Care must be taken though as there are numerous wind acceleration zones which can strengthen the wind by 20 knots over just a few hundred metres. These zones are shown on the chart below. Little warning of gusts means that crews should be well prepared to reduce sail quickly.
In winter months Atlantic lows can pass close to the north of the islands and produce winds from the south. If a fall of 10mb or more is observed from the normal 1025mb then a southerly gale can be expected. As most marinas are built to provide shelter from the nearly constant northerly's vessels may be advised to seek different shelter. Local opinion suggests that the occurrence of southerly gales has increased, and to support this theory in 2005 the first recorded cyclone struck the islands with devastating southerly winds.
A rise of the barometer to 1030 or more indicates high pressure over the Sahara and a strong easterly can be expected making seas steep and uncomfortable, and a sirocco should be anticipated. This can also reduce visibility to below half a mile as sand is blown (a calima) from the coast of Africa towards the archipelago. Visibility otherwise is usually good apart from occasional haze caused by the heat.
The canaries are covered by WEATHERFAX transmissions from several sources, NAVTEX from Las Palmas, Grand Canaria. The Canaries fall under area NAVAREA 11. There are also a number of excellent web sites some of which are listed below.
www.franksingleton.clara.net this site is probably the only met site constructed by a yachtsman and former senior forecaster with the UK met office for other yachtsmen.
If within VHF range of Tenerife a 4 hourly weather bulletin is broadcast on channel 74 in Spanish and English. Nearly all marinas display daily weather forecasts on notice boards, but these are usually in Spanish. Click here for Spanish/English Translations
Consult local charts but in 2004 the average variation across the islands was 7˚W and was decreasing by about 7'E annually. Charts 1869 &1870 mention Magnetic anomalies close to La Palma and between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
Tides, Tidal Streams and Currents
Volume 2 of the Admiralty Tide Tables; The Atlantic and Indian Oceans cover the canaries with Casablanca being the standard port. The Uk's Hydrographic office provide an easy tide programme at www.ukho.gov.uk which gives daily tidal data for all the major harbours on the islands, tidal differences between the marinas are small.
Maximum spring range is about 2m, and high water can be roughly calculated as occurring 2.5 hrs after high water Dover. Tidal stream are slight and can be generally ignored.
The Canary current is associated with northeast trades and sets through the islands at around 0.5 knots in a southery direction. This can increase up to 2 knots at times in the summer. A srong southerly gale can cancel or even reverse this current.