Secret Instruction for Navigation between Spain and the Isle of
The Casa de Contratacion was founded in 1503, to oversee the trade between Spain and South
America. Ships travelling to South America from Sevilla followed the trade winds down
to the Canaries, where they restocked, and then across the Atlantic to South America. On the
return journey the clockwise pattern of the prevailing winds in the Atlantic took ships via the Azores. The importance of the refuelling stop in the Canaries is illustrated by this extract from the 'Secret Instruction for Navigation between Spain and the Isle of Santo Domingo' written in 1526:
'... the course which is set for the said Isle of Haiti... once the ships have emerged from
San Lucar, where the River Guadalquivir empties into the Ocean Sea, they set sail
for the Islands of Canarias, called the Fortunate Islands... especially Gran Canaria or
La Gomera or La Palma, because they lie on the most direct route and they are fertile
and abound in the provisions and what is needful for them that make this long journey.
There the ships victual with water and wood, fresh bread, chickens, calves, kids, cows,
salt meat and cheeses, fish, salted chickens and other provisions...'