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Chagos Clearance and Cruising Information

By SV YOLO — last modified Dec 08, 2015 06:12 PM
The following clearance and cruising information is provided to help sailors visiting Chagos. This information is provided by SV YOLO, a 42 foot catamaran with two U.S.A. citizens on board.

Published: 2015-06-30 23:00:00
Countries: BIOT (Chagos)

Chagos Clearance and Cruising Information

"Chagos map" by Mohonu at en.wikipedia - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

ARRIVAL DAY/ DATE: Thursday, May 14, 2015

ARRIVAL PORT: Salomon Atoll

DEPARTURE DAY/DATE: Wednesday May 21, 2015

DEPARTURE PORT: Salomon Atoll

Consider the navigational information noted below as suggestions. You should consult other navigational sources and use your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.

GETTING A CHAGOS VESSEL MOORING PERMIT

You are REQUIRED to apply for and receive a Vessel Mooring Permit PRIOR to arrival in Chagos. A couple of yachts tried to anchor in Chagos without a permit and the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) patrol vessel had the boats leave the atoll IMMEDIATELY.

HINT: Start the permit process well in advance of your arrival. The steps for getting a permit are:

1. Go on-line to the BIOT website and complete the three page BIOT Visit Permit Request - Yachts application form. The link is: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/british-indian-ocean-territory

2. Go on-line to the BIOT website and complete the two page Declaration For Yachts In BIOT Waters form.

3. Print the completed set of forms (from Steps 1 and 2 above), then sign and date them.

4. Print a complete copy of your yacht's insurance.

5. Print a complete copy of your travel insurance for EVERY crew member.

6. Fax a copy of Items from Steps 1, 2, 4, and 5 to the Assistant Administrator of BIOT at +44 (0) 20 7008 1589 OR e-mail the four items to BIOTadmin@fco.gov.uk
Do NOT wire transfer the funds for the permit at this time.

7. In theory, within a week you should receive a reply e-mail giving you TENTATIVE approval for a Vessel Mooring Permit, or you will receive instructions requiring additional information.

8. Assuming at some point all the application requirements have been met and acknowledged by the Assistant Administrator of BIOT, it is now time to pre-pay for your permit. You must pre-pay 50 British pounds per week for visiting Chagos, with a maximum period of 4 weeks (28 days) allowed. Fractional weeks, for example 3 days, do not exist. The ONLY acceptable method of payment is completing a bank transfer to the BIOT Revenue Account. Contact your financial institution and complete the bank transfer of funds. The Bank Transfer Details are on the permit forms and as follows:

Account Name: BIOT Revenue Account

Account Number: 00717735

Sort Code: 16-00-38

IBAN: GB43RBOS16003800717735

BIC/Swift Code: RBOS GB 2L

Address: The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC, London Drummonds Branch, 49 Charing Cross, London, SW1 A 2DX

Reference: The name of your vessel

9. After your financial institution has withdrawn the funds from your account and completed the funds transfer, contact your bank for verification of the transaction. In many cases yacht owners go on line and make a screen print of the financial confirmation notice. It is also a good idea to secure the "SWIFT Message" and/or "MT103" codes related to the transaction, something your financial institution should be able to provide for you. Fax OR e-mail the wire transfer confirmation information to the Assistant Administrator of BIOT as stated in Step 6. The Assistant Administrator of BIOT will use this information to verify your permit payment.

10. Again in theory, within a week, you should received a reply e-mail from the Assistant Administrator with three attachments:

A. Your Vessel Mooring Permit, which you must print and retain prior to entering Chagos waters.

B. Fishing Returns Form: Yachts, which will be used to record the number and types of fish caught in Chagos waters.

C. Guidance For Visitors, which is a six page document noting the Chagos anchorage sites, rules, regulations, and fines. NOTE: The fines can be substantial, so it is in your best interest to adhere to the regulations of the Chagos nature preserve.

11. Review your Vessel Mooring/Cruising Permit to make sure that all the information on it is accurate. If corrections need to be made, contact the BIOT Assistant Administrator. Also review the other two documents and make sure you are prepared to comply with the nature preserve regulations. Hint: The guys on the BIOT patrol vessel in Chagos have heard ALL of the excuses in the world for non-compliance, which they will ignore while the fines are levied and potential other enforcement actions are taken.

TYPICAL VESSEL MOORING PERMIT ISSUES

During the Vessel Mooring Permit application process you should expect a number of issues to arise. I don't think they have ever been identified in print, but I sure wish I knew then, what I know now!

1. When we were making our permit application, we unfortunately dealt with the previous Assistant Administrator (who has now moved on). He was the only person at BIOT who handled applications and was terrible at communicating (basically he never answered emails). In my case I started the cruising permit application process in late November and the painful process was NOT concluded until early March; it took over three months. A few yachts did receive timely approvals, in each case the correspondence was handled by a female. Thankfully, in June 2015, rthe Administrator we dealt with was replaced by Zoë Townsley, who is now the new Assistant Administrator.

2. All attachments sent to the BIOT Assistant Administrator must be 2.0 Mb or smaller. BIOTA stated that the British High Commission e-mail security system will NOT permit files great than this to be received. This data limit applies to each e-mail. So, if you have three-page images, you might have to send three separate e-mails with 2.0 Mb or less attachments.

3. E-mail attachments with "unusual formats" will be rejected by the Assistant Administrator e-mail system. I tried to get the High Commission to define "unusual formats" but my e-mails went unanswered. Formats such as pdf, doc, rtf, odt, or jpg should be used whenever possible, is my guess.

4. You must pay your Mooring Fee in FULL prior to final approval for your cruising permit.

5. After you complete a bank transfer for the Mooring Fee funds, you must contact your bank or go on-line and provide proof that the funds were sent. Keep in mind Issues 2 and 3 when sending BIOT your screen shot of the funds transfer or other proof of payment.

6. Make sure the name of your yacht is in the reference line of your bank transfer.

7. The Assistant Administrator claimed that he did NOT have direct access to the BIOT bank account transfer details. So, he would not even attempt to verify the transfer of funds unless you give him the "SWIFT Message" and/or "MT103" codes, which you need to secure from your bank. I.e., no codes...no confirmation that the funds were sent...no mooring permit.

8. Funds must be paid in British pounds. The funds can be removed from your account in other currencies but the converted and paid funds must be pounds.

9. Cruising permits are paid for and approved by the week (7 day periods), not by the day.

10. You must provide proof of yacht insurance during the application process. Send a copy of the entire policy which must clearly state that "wreck removal" coverage is part of the policy. This is non-negotiotable.

11. What is the required minimum amount of wreck removal insurance coverage? I asked this question several times and after the third attempt received the Jello reply, "Insurance must be sufficient to cover the costs of locating, marking and removing the wreck of the applicant."

12. Your yacht insurance coverage must clearly state that the Indian Ocean area is covered by the policy, and that Chagos is NOT excluded from the coverage. I.e., you might have to work with your insurance broker to make sure these specific points are documented for BIOT. I.e., making a broad claim that you have world wide coverage with no restrictions did NOT fly with BIOT for some yachts seeking a permit.

13. You must provide proof of travel insurance which includes "medical evacuation" insurance. $100,000 USD coverage or greater is required. Many cruisers have DAN insurance, Diver Alert Network. Often they have DAN family policies which cover the cruising couple. If this is the case you must send BIOT several things. 1. An image of the valid DAN membership card for EACH person on the yacht. 2. Go to the DAN website and take a screen shot of the page that states that their medical evacuation insurance covers the ENTIRE world. Why BIOT drags most DAN members through this second step over and over and over, is a true mystery to those outside the bureaucratic establishment.

14. Your e-mails or fax cover sheets must have your vessel name in the subject field.

15. Start the application process early. One yacht currently at anchor in Chagos started the process in August 2014 and they arrived in April 2015. You might have to send dozens of e-mails and place numerous phone calls to BIOT before you get your approved permit.

BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY ADMINISTRATION CONTACT INFORMATION

King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7008 2890 or +44 (0) 20 7008 2691

Fax: +44 (0) 7008 1589

BIOT E-Mail: BIOTadmin@fco.gov.uk

Assistant Administrator, Zoë Townsley
Senior Administrator, Tom Moody

Website: www.fco.gov.uk

BIOT Permit Link: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/british-indian-ocean-territory/entry-requirements

Complaints: Send an e-mail to the FOI and DPA Team at: foi-dpa.imd@fco.gov.uk

CROSSINGS

SAILING FROM GAN, MALDIVES TO SALOMON ISLANDS ATOLL, CHAGOS:

In late May and June the southeast trades start to control the weather and sailing conditions in this part of the world. This also means the southern swell will probably come from the southeast. Good news, being near the equator the effects of the wind, waves, and swells are often minor. When you leave the Gan, Maldives area via the southern Addoo Atoll pass you should expect confused seas in the channel. Once clear of the pass things will settle down and you will probably enjoy a current pushing you south and east all the way to Chagos. Your heading will be about 192 degrees. About 40 miles north of the Salomon Islands is the northern tip of Speakers Bank, which runs north to south and is about 25 miles long. If the wind is from the east or more likely southeast, leave Speakers Bank to port, since it will block the southeast swell and waves, making for smoother and faster sailing. If the wind and waves are from the west or southwest, leave Speakers Bank to starb'd. During the overall voyage winds are often light and from many points of the compass since you are in the ITCZ, which will often produce fronts, showers, and plenty of fore-deck action. Gan, Maldives to the Salomons, Chagos is approximately 300 nm.

Many yachts from points far east, approach the Salomon Island Atoll from the east. Make sure you stay clear of the large reef (Blenheim) about 15 miles northeast of the Salomons upon approaching the Chagos area.

CHAGOS - NIGHT TIME APPROACH:

I would not recommend entering the Chagos atolls at night, there are simply too many interior reefs and coral heads to avoid (charted and uncharted). My Navionics charts were pretty accurate and the Google Earth shots were a great help to get through the pass, but you need good light and eyeball navigation within the lagoon.

CRUISING CHAGOS AND PORTS OF CALL:

You don't really "cruise" Chagos. The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) authority is very restrictive on where your vessel can anchor. The Chagos archipelago has six atolls and a number of reefs. Diego Garcia is the largest atoll, is the location of a military base, and is strictly off limits to cruisers. Cruisers are permitted to anchor at only two atolls, and they typically drop their hooks at:

1. Salomon Islands Atoll

A. Enter the atoll via the northern pass. Most yachts enter near the eastern OR western end of this very wide pass. If you enter the lagoon via the western channel of the northern pass you have to zig and zag a little. I entered at the eastern side of the northern pass, given the strong winds and waves for the southeast which were blocked by the nearby island and reef. My outside way point was 05.18.225 N South and 072.14.400 East. My inside the lagoon way point was 05.18.620 South and 072.14.590 East. Minimum water depth in the pass was 6.5 meters.

B. West of Ile Takamaka Island. At the southwest corner of the island near the very shallow pass you can anchor at 05.20.0 South and 072.15.8 East, sand bottom, no coral heads, 5 meters deep. This is the closest anchorage site from the northern pass and has the fewest obstacles when traversing the atoll. Mantas often feed in the nearby waters, just look over the side of your boat and you will probably see them. In 2015 ten different mantas frequented the area. This location gives you great protection for the traditional southeastern swells, waves, and winds. Explore the nearby islands via your dinghy, or crawl through the 80-foot beached catamaran on Fouquet Island. The only negative on this anchorage is the infrequent swirling waters. For some unknown reasons the waters sometimes flow rapidly through the nearby channel and can rotate your yacht up to 90 degrees. Within several minutes everything returns to normal. It just seems strange to look at four or more yachts in the anchorage facing different directions for a minute or two while a rush of water travels east, west, or north.

C. West of Ile Fouquet Island. Anchor in 6 meters of water, sand bottom, at the northwest corner of the island, 05.20.7 South and 072.15.4 East. Again great protection from the southeast trades, with out the swirling waters. This location gives you easy access to Ile Fouquet Island.

D. East of Ile Bodham. This location has around a half dozen homemade moorings which need to be inspected closely if used. Some of the moorings are over 10 years old and they are close to the reefs and bommies. WARNING: I know of at least one yacht which broke off it's mooring and quickly washed up on the reef in 2015. The anchorage site is located east of the Ile Boddam, which gives you fantastic protection from west and southwest winds and waves. This is the direction from which unsettled weather often comes. Most yachts spent their entire Chagos visit at this location. Unfortunately, the anchorage is nearly 100% coral (dead and alive). If you anchor in this area it is a good idea to attach a few fisherman buoys or boat fenders to your chain so that it floats above the coral. If you don't float your chain, your chain will certainly wrap around numerous coral heads and reduce your scope within a few days. Don't be surprised if you hear your anchor chain grinding away all day and all night if there is a breeze or current. The nearby reef will give you some protection from the southeast trades, but expect some bouncing. Someone must be in the rigging or on the bow when traveling in this area because of the dozens of coral heads and small reefs lurking just below the surface of the water. Swim the nearby reefs or be an explorer and visit the nearby abandoned village. Fresh well water is available on Ile Baddam, some yachties drank it 2015. The "Yacht Club" is located to the south of the old stone pier. FYI fish are cleaned south of the pier and people swim in the water north of the pier. Burn your trash near the yacht club and recycle your tin cans and bottles at the same location. In theory, the BIOT patrol vessel removes the cans and bottles once per month, per the nearby sign and permit regulations, but IN 2015 they asked that yachts to no longer bring their rubbish or recyclables to shore as their removal is "no longer part of their job."

You will see dozens of reef sharks while visiting Chagos. They were circling YOLO prior to the hook touching the bottom! Turtles are in the area and you can see their tracks on the beach after they lay their eggs. Fishing in the lagoon for large delicious fish is common and easy. Fishing outside the pass may net you larger wahoo, mahi mahi or tuna. In 2015 marine biologists were studying the health of the reefs. In brief their conclusions were: "The reefs are rapidly dying because of the increased water temperature." I certainly observed thousands of bleached out corals, and felt the very warm waters, warmer than the waters of the Maldives. They also noted the low number of small reef fish, which they stated was a sign of a healthy reef...the large fish population is rather high in Chagos, and they are fat and happy...the way nature intended it to be without commercialized fishing in these waters.

2. Peros Banhos Atoll

A. This atoll is much bigger than the Salomon Islands and it has deep water channels into it on the north, east, south, and west sides. There are only a few interior reefs and bommies to avoid, yet the anchorages are very deep for the most part. The anchorages in this atoll are typically used as a departure point for passages further west. Few yachts visit this atoll, maybe 10% of those which visit Chagos.

B. North of I Fouquet and Mapou du Coin Islands.

C. Ile Du Coin and Anglais Islands are located in the southwestern corner of the atoll. Anchor north and east of the islands for good protection from the south, southwest, and west weather.

D. Ile Diamant Island is in the northwestern corner of Peros Banhos, is a deep anchorage and gives you relief from strong west, northwest, and north weather systems.

You will have to travel about 35+ nm when sailing from the most common Salomon Island anchorage to the Peros Banhos anchorages.

According to BIOT, "In cases of a true emergency due to weather, health, or mechanical reasons, you are permitted to anchor wherever necessary in these two atolls for your safety."

NOTE: Review the Guidance For Visitors document for a detailed description of the permitted anchoring locations in Chagos. You will receive this document with your approved Vessel Mooring Permit.

CRUISING TO A SCHEDULE:

Unfortunately, once your Mooring Permit has been issued you are now forced to cruise to a schedule, regardless of the weather, mechanical issues, health, etc. I.e., you are in a Catch-22, the clock is ticking and you have a specific location you have to be at during a specific time period. And, as all cruisers know, you can successfully pick the place for anchoring OR the date for anchoring, but seldom do both occur at the same time. Yet, BIOT expects you to anchor in Chagos ONLY during the period stated on your Mooring Permit. Since miracles seldom happen when sailing small yachts you have several options for resolving this dilemma.

1. When you have a very firm idea when you will be arriving at Chagos, let's say within 3 to 5 business days, contact the BIOT Assistant Administrator asking that the dates on your Vessel Mooring Permit be revised. Make sure you retain a copy of your e-mail. Hopefully, he/she will reply with a revised Mooring Permit in a timely manner. You must make this request PRIOR to the arrival date stated on your approved Mooring Permit.

2. If you need to stay beyond the end of your permit date, you must request an extension via email BEFORE your permit runs out. Several yachts were given a week's extension to wait for a weather window. You must still be able to wire transfer the funds for the additional time or pay the BIOT patrol boat if it is there. They will require proof that you have requested an extension, even it it is not yet granted.

3. When requesting a Mooring Permit, it may be wise to purchase a four week period which would give you greater flexibility for arrival and departure dates.

CLEARING-IN PROCEDURE:

Unlike the permit process, the clearing-in procedure is very simple and quick. The BIOT Patrol Vessel will enter the atoll, anchor near the pass, and place a 20-foot black inflatable in the water. About half a dozen men will get into the high speed inflatable and visit EVERY yacht in the atoll.

1. The rib will pull along side your yacht and two men will board your boat, a Customs official and the Visit Vessel Control Officer (VVCO). The rib will not tie off to your vessel, but expect black boot marks. Hand the Customs official your passports and a printed copy of your Chagos Vessel Mooring Permit, and related exception e-mails (if any).

3. After reviewing the documents to make sure they are valid for the time period of your visit, Customs will stamp the passports and the permit with a BIOT Customs Arrival stamp.

4. Within a minute, the 2 BIOT officials are off you boat and heading to the next yacht. Don't you just love it, clearing into a country in less than 3 minutes? And, there is NO clearing-out procedure, unless the BIOT boat just happens to be there on the day you depart.

FYI, they don't provide a clearance document for your next port. And, they do NOT request to see your last port of clearance document.

The clearance process can take place any day of the week, typically during daylight hours. In April the yachts were cleared at 0700 and in May it occurred just prior to sunset in the pouring rain. The Chagos BIOT officers were friendly and professional.

RULES AND REGULATIONS:

The BIOT Assistant Administrator will send you a long list of the Chagos rules and regulations, when you receive your permit. The document covers all of the common sense stuff related to a nature preserve, and the list includes the related 22 fines for violators.

How important are the pre-approved arrival and departure dates on your Vessel Mooring Permit?

In brief, VERY IMPORTANT. The BIOT Custom officer has near zero tolerance for vessels moored or anchored in Chagos outside of their approved dates, or without a permit. In 2015 one vessel anchored at the Salomon Island Atoll WITHOUT a permit and was told by the BIOT enforcement team to leave the atoll IMMEDIATELY or face a stiff fine of 1,000 British pounds. Another yacht which arrived two days early was also told to leave the atoll immediately and return in two days or pay a fine. Note: There are NO safe locations to anchor outside the atolls. In May 2015 one yacht which over-stayed it's permit period by several days was told to immediately leave the mooring and leave the atoll, or face a 1,000 pound fine. In all three cases the weather was very challenging for leaving the atoll safely, the owner's did not speak or understand English very well, and they failed to ask for a one day extension based on safety concerns. In ONE case, the BIOT enforcement officer did give the cruiser a 12 hour window to exit the atoll safely while the BIOT Pacific Marlin patrol vessel observed their departure the next morning at first light. The enforcement team will NOT leave the area until violators leave the atoll. "Immediate" is defined as "now," not as in an hour from now.

Is BIOT totally heartless when it comes to arrival and departure dates?

Not really, if you follow the intent of their rules and regulations most yachts can work within the guidelines. To start with the Customs officer on the Pacific Marlin patrol boat receives from London BIOT a list of the yachts approved with Vessel Mooring Permits. As everyone knows this list is not 100% accurate at any time, especially given the fact that the London BIOT Assistant Administrator was not responsive to yachts, he did not work on weekends and holidays, and the enforcement team is not at their home base gathering the latest approval list. If you are going to arrive early or depart late, contact the BIOT Assistant Administrator via a phone call (satellite phone) or e-mail (via SSB, Wi-Fi at your prior port, or over your satellite phone). Explain the situation and ask that your arrival and departure dates be amended to reflect your new travel dates. You MUST get the Assistant Administrator to issue you a REVISED Vessel Mooring Permit AND send it to you via e-mail. Print the revised permit and/or their reply e-mail that they are taking your request "under advisement." If required, present the revised permit or e-mail to the Customs officer and he will probably allow you stay at anchor.

How are HONEST delayed departure exceptions handled?

If you have a TRUE medical emergency, bad weather, lack of wind, mechanical issues, etc. which will require you to exceed the Departure Date on your Permit, you MUST contact the BIOT Assistant Administrator PRIOR TO THE DEPARTURE DATE STATED ON YOUR PERMIT (a minimum of three business days in advance is suggested). State the reason for your delay, ask for an extension, and the Administrator MIGHT give you an extension which you must receive via e-mail and print. Extensions up to two weeks are sometimes granted, but handled on a case-by-case basis.

In 2015 one cruiser was give a one week extension, told to leave by the revised departure date, or "choose a new next port of call." Given that there was zero wind, selecting a new port-of-call made no sense to the yachtie. You must pay cash (British pounds or the equivalent in Euros or USD) for the EXTENDED period of time to the Chagos BIOT Customs Officer when he boards your yacht. Proactive, honest, open communication with the BIOT Assistant Administrator is the key to all exceptions.

Unfortunately, the administrator at the time routinely proved to be non-responsive putting yachts at risk with the enforcement officials in Chagos. Make sure you retain a copy of any e-mail you send the Assistant Administrator asking for exceptions, revisions, or extensions. Use the copy of your correspondence as proof that you attempted to be legally approved to be in Chagos waters during a specific time period.

BIOT PATROL VESSEL AND EMERGENCIES:

The BIOT patrol vessel, the Pacific Marlin, is a large orange hull and white bridge motor vessel, over 35 meters long. It is based in Diego Garcia and travels the Chagos waters enforcing the rules and regulations of the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is about the size of England. The Pacific Marlin has over a dozen crew members which include several marine biologists, a fishery enforcement officer, a Customs officer, etc. The primary responsibility of the vessel is to keep illegal fishing boats away from Chagos. To accomplish this the Pacific Marlin often turns off it's AIS, runs at night WITHOUT lights, and is sometimes assisted with aircraft. Illegal fishing boats are boarded by the Marlin crew, all the fish on board are thrown over the side into the sea, the fishing vessel is then impounded at the Diego Garcia atoll, and heavy fines assessed the crew members, captain, and boat owner. If you see a fishing boat within the atoll waters you should hail the Pacific Marlin of VHF channel 16 and report the location of the boat.

The patrol vessel typically visits each atoll for clearing yachts at least ONCE per month; however, they can show up at any time. The procedure of reviewing passports and permits is conducted on every boat, even if your boat was boarded in the past. The enforcement crew typically travel in the large black inflatable. The BIOT scientists travel in the large orange rib.

The officers and crew on the Pacific Marlin are rotated on and off the vessel several times each year, so the clearance and enforcement actions might be different during your visit to Chagos.

If you have an emergency that you consider life threatening, you should declare it as a maritime emergency in accordance with the International Maritime Regulations. Contact the BIOT authorities at the Diego Garcia Atoll via VHF Channel 16 if withing range OR hail BIOT on 2.182MHz HF SSB radio.

VESSEL REVIEW OR SEARCH:

It would truly be an exception if your yacht is reviewed or searched. The clearance procedure is typically completed in the cockpit, weather permitting. Over a dozen vessels went through the clearance procedure in May 2015 and not a single vessel was reviewed or searched by BIOT.

CLEARANCE AGENT:

You do NOT need an agent to visit Chagos.

VISAS:

You do NOT have to secure a visa in advance of landfall. Visitors get a maximum of a 28 days visitation period. The original permit periods MIGHT be extended by the BIOT Assistant Administrator on a case-by-case basis, if requested prior to your permitted departure date on your original permit.

CLEARANCE COSTS:

The weekly mooring permit fee for visiting Chagos is 50 British pounds. You can visit Chagos for a maximum of four weeks, 28 days. If you want to stay less than a full week, you must pay for the entire week (a 7 day period). All initial mooring permit funds must be paid in advance via a wire transfer, and refunds are never issued.

The ONLY method of payment for your initial Mooring Permit is advanced wire transfer. However, if you are already legally in Chagos and are granted an exception/extension by BIOT London, you will be required to pay the Customs Officer in cash (British Pounds, Euros, or USD) for the weekly period of your extension.

Via the Freedom of Information Act I discovered the following: During the last four calendar years an average of 37 yachts have visited Chagos. Since 2010 the number of permits issued have declined significantly from a peak of almost 100. In 2004 only two cruising permits were issued. During the last four years about $5,000 British pounds per year has been generated by permit fees. Yachts on average pay for a three week permit.

CURRENCY, GOODS, AND SERVICES:

Chagos is literally at the end-of-the-world. There are no locals, banks, electricity, Wi-Fi, stores, diesel mechanics, sail lofts, cafes, stores, or health clinics. When you visit Chagos you should plan on being 100% self-sufficient. Net, net, that's why cruisers love Chagos. The tropical jungle has truly taken over most of the islands and the former fruit trees have been crowded out and most are dead.

Be gone...plane and traffic noise, burning garbage, light pollution, heavy handed government rules, tourist traps, consumerism ripoffs, etc. Just you and few like minded cruisers, enjoying one of the few places left on earth where Mother Nature nurtures the sea and land the way God intended it to be.

DEPARTING CHAGOS:

When your prepaid time period is up according to the departure date on your permit, pull up the anchor and head out the pass. There are no clear-out procedures for Chagos. Ah, life is wonderful! Some yachts head off to Rodriguez after visiting Chagos, and the passage is about 1,200 nm. Most sailboats struggle to get south during this passage, because of the typical winds from the southeast or south. To get in southing many yachts leave the Solomons when the winds are NOT from the southeast or south, and sail/motor southeast leaving the Great Chagos Bank and the Diego Garcia Atoll to starb'd. Make sure you stay at least 7 nm away from the Diego Garcia Atoll, or military monitors will be contacting your vessel. Some yachts reported seeing drones over their yachts in the evenings near Diego Garcia, so they are watching.

AIS TRACKING:

The BIOT patrol vessel the Pacific Marlin monitors all AIS transmissions. So if you have AIS and it is transmitting, they know that you are in Chagos waters, hopefully during your approved visitation period.

TIDES:

They typically run less than a meter.

CLOCKS:

The same as the MVT (Maldives Time Zone) which has a UTC offset of +05:00 hours. However, the BIOT patrol vessel and the Diego Garcia military base set their clock back one hour to an UTC offset of +06:00 hours.

SUMMARY

1. Securing a Chagos Cruising Permit was difficult, time consuming, and unnecessarily frustrating. However, with the appointment of Zoe as the new assistant administrator hopefully things will change.

2. Timing your precise arrival and departure date is nearly impossible, yet one of the unrealistic conditions of the BIOT organization.

3. Visiting Chagos is truly a jewel in a cruising career, one that you will cherish forever. Curse numbers 1 and 2, and focus on the golden ring, number 3. I truly wish there were more Chagos type locations in the world.

Submitted by: Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO (You Only Live Once, life is not a rehearsal)

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corlfoot
corlfoot says:
Dec 08, 2015 03:47 PM

I sent the required funds to BIOT using Charles Schwab for the International Wire Transfer. All info provided by BIOT, in the instructions, was used for the transfer. I asked Charles Schwab Bank about getting a SWIFT CODE/MT103 for confirmation. They do not use this format but sent me a simple confirmation number beginning with PET---------. This confirmation number was sent to BIOT and accepted. This leads me to believe that different banking institutions are using different confirmation codes. The important thing is to have a "proof/receipt" that can be emailed to the BIOT ADMINISTRATER. This is the info that they use to confirm that the monies have been received.

S/Y Solstice

corlfoot
corlfoot says:
Nov 10, 2015 10:14 PM

On November 7, 2015, I sent a 7.5Mb PDF file to BIOT and it was accepted. Perhaps they have expanded the 2.0Mb capacity.

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