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Galle: Updates from Cruisers

By Sue Richards last modified May 29, 2017 11:42 AM
This report began with the experiences of two cruisers who visited Galle in spring 2013. We have since had subsequent comments from cruisers visiting Galle (see bottom of page) and more recent submissions that appear at the top of the report.

Published: 2017-05-15 00:00:00
Countries: Sri Lanka

Galle: Updates from Cruisers

Galle Harbour ©priu.gov.lk

Posted 15 May, 2017
Galle and Mirissa

ARRIVING

If arriving at night, anchor under Watering Point. Easy – the Peace Pagoda is lit up at night.  Go past it and anchor in 10 metres in hard sand.  Please note that when talking to the Port Captain he will refer to this anchorage as Jungle Beach.

Anchor off the harbour entrance making contact with the Port Captain on CH16. There is a prominent rock towards the main town – about one third of the way from this towards the harbour entrance is a good place to anchor.

You are now waiting for the navy to come aboard (10 minutes to two hours). Use this time to readjust your mindset. Of 60 countries I have visited, this is by far the most bureaucratic. Have fenders ready. The navy will arrive in a large fibreglass launch. Two crew (will stay) on the launch, three navy people will come onto your boat. They will all wear black shoes with heavy black rubber soles. They will write details of vessel and passports in a ledger.

Please remember that the harbour is a secure area patrolled by armed navy personal and myriads of security guards in brown uniforms.

DOCKING

Entering the harbour there is a rusty port hand buoy beside some disused lego pontoons. Inside you have four choices. (Do not expect the navy to help).

The wall on your port hand (N) has a *scend (*the push or surge created by a wave) which can become untenable.

The wall directly ahead (E) is better, but you want to be in the corner off your starboard bow if there is space.

The wall immediately to starboard (W - facing the main harbour) has a scend and because it is higher your lines will chafe.

The remaining wall (S) with a Med moor is the best choice, however much you may dislike setting up a Med moor. You will be across the wind so make sure that you (and your neighbours) have plenty of chain out.

You agents representatives should be waiting for you to help with lines (notified of your arrival by the Port Captain). Hopefully the navy will now leave. Customs, health and immigration will take it in turns to come aboard. All four authorities will ask for “considerations”.

AGENTS

Everybody complained about their agent, except (about) Upali at Isle Shipping.

Isle Shipping - Upali
Upali's 'phone number:
+94 77 373 0461
E-mail: ops@isleship.com

He replied to e-mails quickly, seven days a week, and sourced all sorts of difficult to find help. One boat arrived to be told that their agent had been struck off. Upali has been recommended by many boats.

Remember that your agent organises everything. Water, fuel, permits for contractors to enter the harbour, electricity connection (the electrical boxes are locked - but expect to wait for two days for four people to arrive to put in your plug – one to put the plug in, one to photograph the meter, two to supervise). My radar people arrived with their permits and were kept waiting at the harbour gates for two hours.

But the good news is that once you get out of the harbour gates and away from the officials, you are going to meet some of the most friendly people in the world.

Whilst people have great difficulty getting in and out of Galle harbour, dogs do not.  There are lots of feral dogs.  Watch where you step and get used to barking and fighting through the night.

MIRISSA AND BEYOND

Upali had got me permission to go to Mirissa, which I did as soon as I had cleared in. Another boat arrived, also with permission to go to Mirissa. Customs said that the permission had been rescinded. No explanation given.

There are a few rickety pontoons in the outer harbour in Mirissa owned by a catamaran charter company called Sail Lanka. And they are rickety, but the catamaran crews are great people and very helpful. And they will look after your boat. But when I went on a land tour I put the boat into a cat’s cradle so it was facing into the wakes of the many passing boats. The fishing fleet (hundreds of them) goes out in the early evening returning around 0600. The whale watching boats start going out about 0800 (making the biggest wakes) returning in the late morning. Being beam onto these wakes is uncomfortable and requires good fendering.

There are very few anchorages around the coast apart from Watering point, which most people go back to when leaving to clean the bottom of their boat. (You cannot clean it in the harbour and diving anywhere in the harbour area is forbidden).

Not that the lack of anchorages is important as you are unlikely to get permission to go to any. If you do manage to get permission you cannot go ashore. If any officials see you with a dinghy over the side you will be arrested.

JOSEPH

Joseph is a very personable local “operator”. He has managed to get a pass to come into the harbour to canvas for trade – tuk tuk fares, land travel, long distance taxi fares, laundry. Only use him for laundry (he lives around the corner and his wife does it). When your laundry comes back you have to meet him outside the harbour gate as he is not allowed to bring it to your boat. Everything else he provided was either expensive or poorly organised.

DUST AND DIRTY WATER

Most of the ships in Galle harbour are bringing in raw material for the cement factory which is close by. So whatever direction the wind is blowing you will be covered in dust.

The amount of rubbish floating in the harbour depends on wind direction. It can be none or filthy.

SHOPPING AND IN AND OUT OF THE HARBOUR

Out of the harbour entrance, turn left at the main road and ten minutes walk on your right is Aprico. Otherwise go to town in a tuk tuk for 200 SLRupees.

Expect your shopping to be inspected on your return. If you are bringing in too much, expect both security and customs to be “unhelpful”. So shop in small doses.

Your own pass (all four pages of it) will be examined minutely every time you go out or come in. Sometimes by several guards.

SUMMARY

The most important thing is to get the right agent.

Only your agent can deal with the multiple layers of officials, any one of whom can bring life to a standstill. Everyone was delighted with Upali at Isle Shipping.

Given that you cannot cruise in this country, is it not better to leave your boat somewhere civilised?

Anthony
sv Wild Fox
www.blog.mailasail.com/wildfox

 

Posted 24 March, 2017

Further to my previous post (below) about visiting Galle Port, the following might help you navigate your way through the "complexities" you will face. I have two recommendations for you. Choose your Agent carefully, be prepared to negotiate with them; they expect you to. The second thing you can do is find yourself a knowledgeable and honest Tuk-Tuk Driver. If you have a good Tuk-Tuk Driver your stay will be much more enjoyable, you will not get pushed to businesses that provide kickbacks to the driver at your expense and you will learn ways to make it easy to negotiate the daily hassles of provisioning, touring, local beaches, restaurants and much more.

Our Agent was Tango Shipping. At first they were a little more expensive than some of the others, but once we did our homework and established a reasonable value for services, we found them to be excellent, flexible, prepared to negotiate and very supportive.

One advantage of going with Tango is that they also operate the largest underwater Diving and Salvage/Repair Company in Sri Lanka. Even though we have anti-foul in good condition, we found that even though the hull of our yacht “SV Thinking of Dave” had been thoroughly cleaned in Phuket, that after two months in Galle Port we had a veritable reef growing on her undersides. We negotiated a very fair price with Tango to have her cleaned again and they provided us with before and after photos and later a full report in hard copy and PDF. In the process they found the anodes on our Gori Prop had been almost completely eaten away. It seems that they were ok in Phuket but had corroded rapidly in Galle, so be aware if you are spending any time in Galle Port.

Because of the issues we were having with our electricity bill (read previous report below), Tango gave us a very considerable discount in support. The work was done in the space of 24 hours and before and after photos were supplied in the report. It was a classic example of excellent service and customer support. They could easily have charged us full price as we were leaving the following day.

You can contact tango on tangochatura@gmail.com Ph: +94 (0) 91562586

Our Tuk-Tuk Driver was Ekka. He is a very knowledgeable and honest local who can help you with many of your needs. We met him in our second week and used him for the remainder of our two month stay in Galle. He is well known locally.

Ekka knows his way around and has many contacts. We know he managed to supply engine parts for another yacht that had not been able to get them through his agent. Ekka can help you organise Tours, Accommodation and just about anything you need. He will recommend restaurants and beach bars for you and will even tell you if he gets a free meal or drink for taking you there. More often than not he doesn’t get a kickback and you find yourself in excellent establishments with great food and wonderful ambience. You can ask for local or western style food at your preference or whim.

Our daughter became sick during our stay and Ekka took her and my wife to the hospital, waited with them to ensure there was no problems with being seen or translation issues, and then brought them back to the yacht. He only charged his usual fare into town and back for this service, even though we tried to pay him more. His everyday service was truly exemplary. His rates for your regular journeys are very competitive and on the few occasions where he was unavailable for us, we had trouble getting other drivers to match his rates.

You must be prepared to stand your ground and walk away if negotiating anything in Sri Lanka. If you want to contact Ekka his number is +94 72 337 1116.

One final tip; always take a large beach bag with towel with you when you leave the port precinct. You’ll work out why very quickly (smiley face). Galle is a wonderful stop in a wonderful country. I thoroughly recommend you visit. It is a pity however that the port facilities are so poor and that the Port Authorities make it difficult and complicated for visiting yachts.

Mark Emery
SV Thinking of Dave

Posted 15 March, 2017

We are currently about two-thirds of the way through our circumnavigation having started our adventure in St Maarten in 2014. We recently visited Galle in Sri Lanka (in fact we were the first yacht into Galle for 2017) and there are a number of issues you need to be aware of in choosing this port for your visit.

We had originally planned to have our yacht there for six months whilst we travelled Sri Lanka, India and Nepal, but after two months we had to move on to protect the yacht and we’re currently cruising the Maldives. Sri Lanka is a fantastic place to visit and Galle and the people of Galle and surrounding districts are wonderful, friendly, generous people and it is with reluctance that I post this report.

The inner harbour where yachts are instructed to moor up stern to, is a filthy, polluted place where sewage and other refuse regularly contaminates the water and where concrete dust from the nearby wharf and Cement Plant constantly shrouds your vessel. There is no water available to wash your yacht down.

The Harbour Authorities view you as an inconvenience and their charges are very expensive. On departure we were hit with a power bill of Rs 19,761 (or roughly $170AUD, $130USD or 122Euros). The bill was charged firstly at commercial rates and then a 100% surcharge was added as we are classified as a pleasure craft. It is a lot of money considering it was for running a couple of 12-volt fridges and a few LED lights during our stay (no A/C was used during our stay).

Our Agents, Tango Shipping, to their credit tried to argue the toss with the port authorities in my presence. We were pushed from one department to another before they were told that if I didn’t want to pay the bill the Agent should. Tango generously offered to cover the bill for us because it was excessive, but we didn’t accept. They certainly made it up to us with other assistance and help for which they did not charge us.

Other issues in Galle Port:

You cannot get supplies delivered to the yacht and must carry provisions yourself from the Port Entrance. There are no trolleys available. Your shopping is often inspected and you will have a “Customs charge” levied for alcohol, electrical and other products you buy in order to take them to your yacht.

There is no water available on site in the port itself. Water is delivered only by tanker. The minimum quantity is 1 ton (about 1050 litres). You get charged for this much whether you take it all or not and it is expensive.

Fuel is similarly a problem, but you can get a single Jerry can through depending on who is on the gate at a given time. Multiple trips become a challenge. A good Tuk-Tuk driver, such as we had, can help you through some of these issues, but the Agents are given the same attitude as Yacht owners are shown and have little room to manoeuvre.

We maintained a cordial and friendly approach to all the Port Staff during our visit as we always do anywhere that we visit, and we were not the only yacht by any means that visited during our stay that had the same or similar issues.

Galle could be a wonderful yachting destination but the Port Authorities need to review their approach to visiting yachts and crews.

Mark Emery
SV Thinking of Dave

Posted 4th August 2013

This cruisers' report is to update the information on Galle which was given by SV Mary (see bottom).

Mooring
At the beginning of April there were 2 pontoons made of interlocking plastic cubes to which yachts Med moored. One was just on the starboard side inside the entrance and was subject to considerable surge. Many of the mooring points were broken and it is reported that it was no longer usable at the beginning of May. The second one was at the head of the harbour and is also subject to surge and whilst we were moored there part of the moorings broke away and rotated so we were lying alongside it and the rusty reo mooring eyes damaged our hull. Anchoring is not permitted and whilst lying alongside the harbour walls is permitted, the swell has damaged a number of yachts. The current situation would need to be checked with an agent. Unless the situation improves I would not wish to leave the boat to travel inland. No water or electricity is available on the pontoons.

Visas and Agents
It is legally required to use an agent and we used Tango Shipping and were charged US$325 Other yachts used Windsor Reef, successors to Don Windsor, and were charged US$225. We had no problems with authorities and no requests for extra payments or “gifts” of cigarettes or alcohol. We had obtained electronic visas in advance as per official advice at a cost of US$30 each for 1 month but other yachts got visas on arrival, apparently much cheaper. The current situation is worth checking with the agent.

Touring the Island
On arrival outside the harbour we were met by Ekka, an tuk tuk driver, who was very helpful in taking us around and finding places we needed. He also organised freezer storage for our frozen food whilst we travelled. However we arranged a tour of the island and he supplied a van, driver and guide. The guide was useless – we knew more than he did - and at US$150 per day for 2 people including .accommodation and meals plus admission fees etc we felt we could have got better value travelling independently, particularly with regard to hotels and meals.

Tourism in Sri Lanka can be expensive as nearly all tourist attractions charge foreigners many times the local fee – in the case of famous places such as Sigiriya, up to 75 times what the locals pay.  It is still a fascinating place to visit with a huge variety of history and Galle and Colombo are both interesting towns.

LPG and Fuel
We obtained cooking gas from Mike’s Yachting Services and it cost  4000Rp for a 9kg bottle (actually the bottle was dangerously overfilled with over 10kg) This was about the most expensive gas we have ever bought.

Diesel can be bought using jerricans and going to a filling station by tuk tuk then carried into the port. There was no objection from port security. Agents can supply larger quantities at a price.

Final Comment

The situation in the harbour has deteriorated since I first visited 30 years ago. The Sri Lanka authorities do not appear to be making any effort to attract yachts which is a great shame.

For comments on hotels, restaurants, etc see my entries on Trip Advisor under “Oceanwanderer”

Roger Morgan and Sue Lister
Yacht “Wapiti”
June 2013

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Posted 16th April 2013

What we wish we'd known before Arrival!

It is ten times cheaper to get a visa on arrival, and there is a big price difference between the different agents.

We just spent three weeks in Galle, Sri Lanka. The harbour might not be very nice – it is dusty, noicy and quite dirty. However, the old town is beautiful, the fruit and the curry taste great, people are lovely and the country is interesting in so many ways. We loved our stay in Galle, but here is some information we wish we had known before we got there.

Clearance procedure:
You should preferably have established contact with an agent before arrival so they can arrange for your permission to enter the harbour. You can arrive any hour or day, no overtime charges apply, according to our agent. Upon arrival you call port control on VHF16 approx 1,5 NM outside the inner harbour. They will ask you to anchor outside the pier, to wait for Navy who will look at your passports and escort you to a place where you can moor and meet up with your agent to finalize the paperwork. After clearance procedure is finished you can move the boat to another position in the harbour as long as harbour master approves.

Agent:
You must use an agent to clear into Sri Lanka, for what reason we do not understand. We had to do all the paper work ourselves and every official came on board anyway to ask for cigarettes and liquor.  There seem to be many agents to choose from. We ended up using Windsor Reef (windsorreef@wow.lk), who appears to be the cheapest option at the moment. They charged us USD 225.00, which includes everything (agent fees, harbour fees, custom fees etc) but the visa. While Tango Shipping charged other boats USD 100 more for the same service.

Visa:
No matter what information you find on the internet, you do NOT need to apply for a visa in advance at this moment (April 2013). But please check this with your agent to get the latest information. We used the online service and ended up paying almost ten times more than we would have if we had waited until arrival. But the price also seems to differ upon arrival, depending on which agent you use.  Windsor Reef only charged USD 10 for each crew, while we have heard other yachties who have paid USD 30 to other agents.

Facilities and services:
There are two old pontoons for yachts in the harbour. The inner one is closest to the gate and the shower, but has no shore connection. None of them have electricity or water. Tap water is potable, and available from taps ashore. Your agent can also organize someone to deliver water to the jetty.  Diesel is delivered the same way. North Sails has a repair loft 45 min east of Galle, the manager is very helpful. There are no chandleries, but most repairs can be done. Just ask the tuk-tuk drivers who are waiting at the gate. One of them, a young man called Ekka (www.ekkatours.com), speaks excellent English and has specialized in helping yachties with anything from organizing laundry and repairs to guided tours.

Enjoy your stay!

Linda, Ludvig, Lovis and Otto on S/Y Mary
www.symary.com

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Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 08, 2014 08:11 PM

Posted on behalf of Maurice Wainright:
1. At last a marina is under construction in Galle. It is located immediately south of the New Pier behind the floating pontoon. The concrete piers are being built and eventually the entrance will be excavated into the harbour. It is scheduled to open in April, 2015. Whether this happens remains to be seen, but at least a start has been made!

2. At the risk of promoting one agent over another, I would recommend yachts to use Windsor Reef. Firstly they are probably the most organised and knowledgeable and secondly their offices are not more than 100 metres from the harbour entrance. The other agents tend to be in town which can be a long hike in the heat and humidity of the island. Windsor is no more expensive than the others. Yachts should be wary of agents' boats coming out to sea to meet them to sell their services. Windsor can be reached on VHF Ch 69.

Danie Botes
Danie Botes says:
May 08, 2014 08:01 PM

I agree with most of the comments above regarding the state of the harbour and the necessity of using an agent, but my experience with Tango Shipping (April 2014) was very different. First off the price is standard, $225, but Chatura went way beyond just handling our formalities. There appears to be much more available to cruisers in Galle than people are aware of, and without Chatura we would not have been able to carry out some critical repairs. He drove us to a facility building sailing catamarans close to Galle, which also has a loft producing North sails and does sail repairs. They also build RIBs, and the friendly people of the facility helped us with supplies to fix our Hypalon RIB. Chatura also helped us with an underwater hull repair (at no cost) and taught me a trick or two from his salvaging experience that changed my approach to underwater hull repair forever. From our experience, the intentional bad press dished out to Tango Shipping is unwarranted.
Galle is a lovely town, worthy of a visit, and there is talk of a marina being built. In the meantime, there may be a possibility to use the harbour at Merissa, which should be a better experience than Galle Harbour. Do contact Chanaka the boatyard manager on 0773667969 to enquire about this option if you plan to stay in Sri Lanka for longer than just a short stop.

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