chartering there. Every year more boats are seen cruising the islands and the facilities available to them are constantly improving.

For most boats the main destination on leaving the Canaries is the Caribbean. The time of departure from the Canaries is crucial, both for the conditions to be encountered en route and those expected on the other side of the ocean. The hurricane season in the Caribbean in theory lasts about six months, although the really dangerous period is August to October, with September the peak month for hurricanes. Most sailors plan to cruise the West Indian islands between December and April, which is not only the safest time of year but also has the pleasantest weather, with little rain, agreeable temperatures, and the trade winds blowing steadily throughout the winter months. Therefore a late November or early December departure from the Canaries suits most people's

Tango Route Canary Islands
AN50 Routes from the Canary Islands

plans and this is the time when the majority of boats leave the Canaries for their transatlantic passage. An earlier departure is not recommended, mainly because of the risk of a late hurricane, but also because the winter trades are seldom established before the second half of November. From the end of November until April the NE trade winds usually blow south of 20 "N, their average strength gradually increasing during February and March. Although winds continue tp be favourable, summer passages are not recommended for reasons of safety as the risk of hurricanes is too high. As most passages take place in late November or early December, the traditional practice has been to reach lower latitudes as quickly as possible thereby maximising the chances of finding the trade winds, Another good reason to make southing on leaving the Canaries is to be out of the influence of the Atlantic lows. Low pressure systems moving across the Atlantic in winter occasionally deviate from their usual NE

track and reach eastwards as far south as latitude 40°N and even lower. As a consequence, SW or W winds are generated as far south as latitude 20 °N, and occasionally even further south. For those unable to obtain up to date information on the weather systems of the North Atlantic the best tactic is to make most of their crossing on the latitude of their Caribbean destination, or even slighthly further north in the case of those bound for Antigua or the Virgin Islands.

Although the majority of boats leaving the Canaries are bound for the Caribbean, usually direct or less commonly via the Cape Verdes, there are some who first spend some time cruising West Africa before setting off across the Atlantic. The best time to sail south to either the Cape Verdes or West Africa is winter, when favourable winds will be found all the way to Senegal. The Canaries are also a useful springboard for those sailing to Brazil or other destinations in South America. Sailing from the Canaries to the Mediterranean or

Northern Europe is a more difficult undertaking on account of the prevailing northerlies that make passages in the opposite direction so easy. The best route for a return voyage to Northern Europe is via Madeira and possibly the Azores. A detour to Madeira ought be considered by those whose destination is Gibraltar or ports on the south coast of the Iberian peninsula. Although the prevailing winds are from NE, winds from SW are not uncommon at the end of spring or beginning of summer, when most boats bound for the Mediterranean make this passage. The suggested stop in Madeira or Porto Santo allows one to wait there for a favourable change of weather.

The prevailing winds in the Canaries are NE throughout the year, being strongest in July and August and lightest in October and November. The high volcanic islands cause some local variations in both wind direction and strength. As a rule there are different winds in the lee of the islands compared to the coasts exposed to the trade winds. When the NE trades are blowing strongly, an opposing wind usually blows on the other side of the island, varying in strength with the strength of the trade wind. A funnelling effect is also felt along the coasts of some of the mountainous islands and the trades can be accelerated by up to 15 knots in places.

The Atlantic lows rarely come as far south as the Canaries, although small lows do develop near the islands themselves and move northeast towards Gibraltar or east towards Africa. Gales are rare, although occasionally these local depressions bring strong S or SW winds. In summer months a strong easterly wind can blow hot from Africa, the air being laden with dust, which reduces visibility considerably.

Best time:

Mid-November to May

Tropical storms:

June to November


BA: 4012



BA: 1,71

US: 140, 143, 147

Cruising guides:

The Lesser Antilles, Sailor's Guide to the Windward Islands, Yachtsman's

Guide to the Windward Islands.





Destination Distance (M)

AN510 Las Palmas

AN511 CanariaS

28l07'N, 15'24'W

27'25'N, 15'30'W




AN516 St Lucia

Rodney Bay


15'00'N. 40'00'W

14'03'N, 60'50'W

14'04.5'N, 60'58.5'W

AN517 Martinique

Fort de France



14J36'N, 61'05'W

AN518 Barbados



13°02'N, 59'23'W

13'06'N, 59'38'W

AN519 Antigua SE

English Harbour


16'57'N, 61'45'W

17-00% 61'46'W

AN512 Los Cristianos AN513

28"02'N, 16"43'W

27J30'N, 18 OC-VV



AN516 St Lucia

Rodney Bay


AN517 Martinique

Fort de France


AN518 Barbados



AN519 Antigua SE

English Harbour


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