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Spain and the Canary Islands: Anchoring Restrictions

By Sue Richards — last modified Nov 09, 2012 03:30 PM
If planning to anchor in Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma & Hierro, yachts should ask for permission in advance at the Capitania of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is also recommended that yachts should seek approval before anchoring elsewhere in the Canaries. Yachts that anchor in remote places without authorisation should not be surprised if they are asked to move on.

Published: 2012-10-11 01:00:00
Topics: Cruising Information
Countries: Canary Islands , Spain

The following report was recently received from a cruiser who experienced problems anchoring in Tenerife:

We anchored without problems in Lanzarote and Fuertaventura for several days. On arrival to Tenerife however, we were contacted by Tenerife traffic control by name, who clearly were monitoring our AIS signal. and after telling them of our intention to anchor in a popular spot North of Santa Cruz, we were told that this was prohibited for non-Spanish vessels and that we had to stay at a marina or a commercial harbour. They said that anchoring for more than several hours was allowed only for Spanish vessels anywhere in the Canaries. It sounded ridiculous and we didn't believe it.

Then, after moving further south to a very pleasant and popular anchorage together with a French registered vessel, both our boat and the French one's documents were checked by a patrol boat of the Guardia Civil, after which we were promptly asked to leave and were told we could stay only in a marina, a commercial harbour, or an "approved anchorage for foreign yachts" further south, whatever that means - which we could use after contacting them.

All this is quite strange since there was nothing of the sort in mainland Spain, nor on Lanzarote or Fuertaventura, where while at anchor we were regularly passed by Guardia Civil patrol boats, who didn't take any interest in us whatsoever. To further complicate the situation we were told that this was the situation on all Canary islands, as well as in Spain... Only registered vessels are presently allowed to anchor overnight.


This report follows similar anchoring restrictions experienced by cruisers in the Balearics, however this is not new legislation. There is an EU law that prohibits anchoring too close to harbours or in non-designated areas for long periods. Designed for ships it has been enforced on yachts - which was never the intention – and there appears to be no hard and fast rule about how the law is enforced. Some port authorities enforce it, others do not.

It now appears that the current Port Captain of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is enforcing this law and not permitting any anchoring along the coast of Tenerife for foreign yacht (this includes La Gomera, La Palma & Hierro). Once he moves out of office, the situation may well change. The Port Captain in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has explained that as Las Palmas does not have a mechanism for vessels to request authorisation to anchor (in areas away from those controlled by the port) the Guardia Civil are not able to look to see who is or is not authorised and so the rule is not enforced. Cruisers anchoring in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (Playa Papagayo and Isla Lobos), have so far not experienced any problems and whilst La Gomera is under the jurisdiction of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, cruisers report that there is not the Guardia Civil presence there as there is in Tenerife, and have managed to anchor problem-free.

It’s not only local harbour authorities in Tenerife that are discriminating against non-Spanish boats and not permitting them to anchor.  This also has been reported in the Balearics and in Catalonia. EC law does not permit them to discriminate against EC boats registered in other member states, however it is difficult to argue with the local maritime police, whom it appears may have general maritime law on their side when it comes to anchoring.

Over recent years, other parts of Spain (in particular the Balearics) have become more and more “anchoring unfriendly”. Jim B, experienced Mediterranean cruiser ( explains; “The Spanish Maritime police have quoted in the past a general ban on mechanically propelled vessels anchoring within 500m of the coastline. It isn’t quite clear however as to whether this only applies to anchoring off swimming beaches, but where there are buoys separating swimming areas from anchoring areas yachts can it seems anchor closer than 500m. Similar default regulations seem to apply in Greece and Italy; default because they were inherited from legislation designed for large commercial vessels. It appears that little has been done to adapt the legislation for leisure traffic operating from beaches, apart from requiring local authorities to mark out traffic lanes if mechanically propelled vessels are to approach a "swimming area".”

Jim B concludes, “It does seem that people are being "moved on" from anchorages more and more often. A general trend in busy areas (such as Mallorca) is to grant concessions to local groups to lay fields of buoys, and dis-allow anchoring in the designated field (even if it is not fully occupied with buoys). Several Mallorca Calas no longer allow anchoring.”

To anchor in Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma & Hierro, yachts should ask for permission in advance at the Capitania of Santa Cruz. It is also recommended that yachts should seek approval before anchoring elsewhere in the Canaries. Yachts that anchor in remote places without authorisation should not be surprised if they are asked to move on.

The YBW forum has an interesting discussion thread on this topic

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