How Long Does It Take to Sail from the UK to the Canary Islands?

1,077 views  |   June 12th, 2023 

If you are interested in sailing from the UK to the Canaries, please do make sure that you take a look at our current sailing holiday offer which has two legs. But before you do that, let us answer the question you came here for, which is wanting to know how long it takes to sail from the UK to the Canary Islands.

Well, it depends on several factors, one of which is where you leave from in the UK. But as a rule of thumb, you could be looking at it taking 10 to 20 days to sail from the UK to the Canary Islands.

Let’s say you left from Plymouth.  It’s roughly 1440nm or so from Plymouth.  If conditions were perfect and say you averaged 6 knots then that would take 10 days.

The reality is conditions are never perfect!  An area to avoid with a strong north westerly to south westerly wind is the continental shelf which extends about 60 miles south west from Britanny at the northern part of the Bay of Biscay.  Here the seabed shelves from 4,000m to about 200m in the space of around 30nm, so long oceanic swells quickly pile up into steep waves.  It can get very lumpy there and really quite dangerous in a gale.  It is what makes the Bay of Biscay so notorious.

sailing to the Canary Islands from the uk

So you may prefer to give yourself a bit more room by heading west to Falmouth or even to the Isles of Scilly. From there you have a better angle south to give the continental shelf a wider berth.

You may also want to stop in Northern Spain in somewhere like La Coruna, Vigo or Bayona.  All are lovely stopovers with lovely food and a warm Spanish welcome.  They offer a chance to fill up with fuel and water and sight seeing before the next stage.

Heading south you can either hop alone the Portuguese coast until you feel ready to peel off towards the Canaries or you go straight for them.  The weather may affect your decision.  As part of your advance planning you would be wise to consult a routing chart for the month you are going to see what the likely wind direction will be like.  Obviously when you are setting off there are plenty of forecast sources available.

Our sailing holiday breaks the trip to the Canaries down into 1 10 day trip from Plymouth to Cascais and a 12 day trip from there to the Canary Islands.  The first leg leaves from Plymouth and heads across the Bay of Biscay. This part of the trip covers 780 nautical miles with various stops along the way. The second leg leaves Cascais for the Canary Islands and takes 12 days… making a total of 22 days to sail from the UK to the Canaries, but we have factored in a stop over or two as you can imagine!

The distance from UK to Canary Islands

As we mentioned, how long it takes to sail between the UK and Canary Islands will depend on your starting point in the UK and the final destination in the Canaries. For example, the distance from Southampton to Las Palmas is around 1,800 nautical miles.

Factors affecting sailing time

  • Weather: Strong winds and rough seas can slow down the boat, while calm weather can speed up the journey.
  • Boat and crew: Consider how the vessel and crew can impact your progress.
  • Route taken: Stops over will obviously add more time. The tide will also have an impact around UK water.  Once you get to the Portuguese coast there is usually a bit of favourable current .

Overall, the sailing time from the UK to the Canary Islands is typically around 10 to 14 days if you do the direct journey.  If on a holiday such as the First Class Sailing legs, it will be more as we focus on the experience and various stops along the way.

Posted by: Heighway

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